Sixteen Years of Independent Retail with Yorkshire’s Oldest Skateboard Store

Wayne Miller outside Division Twenty Four photo Brendan Harrap

The Old Vicarage is home to Division 24 – Wakefield’s only skateboard shop, the longest standing store of its kind in Yorkshire and, after 16 years of trading, one of the city’s oldest independent businesses.

Owner Wayne Miller began skateboarding in 1987, his first skateboard was “a cheap Chinese copy” as no retailer catered to the niche market in Wakefield; shops in Doncaster and Manchester were the closest point of call. It was only after Wayne’s brother, Dave, got a job at Argos Sports that proper skateboarding equipment became available in Wakefield due to his persistence.

Wayne Miller Division 24 Skate Store Wakefield owner Photo Brendan HarrapWhilst on holiday in February 2001 the Miller brothers discussed opening a skateboard store. Dave would own the business but continue to work in the music industry while Wayne, happy to leave the motor trade, would run the day-to-day. Within two weeks the brothers opened shop under the original title of ‘Boardriders’ at 24 Zetland Street.

Serendipitously, skateboarding experienced a boom in the early 2000s. After Tony Hawk achieved mainstream sports super stardom a successful video game series followed and skateboards became an essential item for teenagers worldwide. “Usually on your first year of business you pretty much fail or break even. It’s very rare that you’ll make money and get lucky but that’s what happened. Skating kicked off and we turned out £120,000 in the first year,” says Wayne adding that the shop hasn’t seen that amount of turnover since.

Four years later Wakefield’s skateboarding community had thinned. With Dave wishing to move on, Wayne took over full ownership and rebranded the shop as ‘Division 24’: “I’d got that used to doing the job for almost five years and loved it” he says. “It wouldn’t have happened for me without him and it wouldn’t have happened for him without me.”

Division 24 wings logo

Wayne prioritised securing a skateboarding facility in Wakefield to improve sales and nurture the skateboarding community for years to come. With Jed Capper, of the Westmoreland Centre, and likeminded figures a skatepark committee was founded. For three years Wayne attended every council meeting.

Thornes Park shortly after completion. Photos: Gravity Skateparks.

On May 31st 2009, Wakefield’s £330, 000 skatepark opened next to Thornes Park Athletic Stadium. “If there was still no skatepark to this day, I would have shut down years ago because the scene was that bleak in the 2003-5 era,” says Wayne. He assures the facility has positive effects almost ten years later, keeping kids out of trouble and breeding skateboarding talent within the city.

Shop rider Paul ‘Wapo’ Watson at Thornes Park.

Jim O Malley Wayne Miller Ben Powell Division 24 10th Anniversary

James O’Malley, Wayne Miller & Ben Powell at Thornes Park, summer 2015.

Ben Powell, a Wakefield resident, editor of Sidewalk Magazine and skateboarder of 30 years who was a fellow member of the skatepark committee commends Wayne: “His deep involvement in the local scene benefits everyone in the area,” and explains running a skateboard shop is an act of love and cultural necessity not motivated by financial gain.

Division 24’s loyal clientele understands this: “They’re there for you as much as you’re there for them and care about people on a personal level,” explains George Lindley, a 23 year-old science technician. “Owning one local skate shop isn’t going to make you millions. I’ve got the utmost respect for anyone who gives all their time and money to keeping a shop running which keeps my local scene alive. It makes absolutely no sense to not return that loyalty by denying them business and buying from a larger online company.”

Jamie Hayward and John Wilson Division 24 t-shirts photo Brendan Harrap

Jamie Hayward and Jon Wilson – Division 24 customers since day one.

As a magazine editor, Mr Powell observes the repercussions of the online shift for both skate media and stores like Division 24. “Buying online might save the consumer money but this saving comes at the cost of being detached from a larger community. This is a global phenomenon and exists in all subcultures, not just skateboarding.”

“The farther away the individual participants of any particular subculture feel from a larger community the more isolated they become. Subcultures thrive on inclusion and proactivity – this is impossible if people’s connection to a larger world is primarily via a URL.”

Wayne says the online marketplace is complicated as advertising to compete with larger stores is expensive and feels unnecessary anyway due to his smaller stock levels. Change within Wakefield has also presented difficulties and the development of Trinity Walk “almost killed us. It killed some shops in The Old Vicarage because it got so bad,”  because the site sat derelict for years. Although uptake did improve after its completion, he reports a member of the council’s rates department  informed him there are over 300 empty shops in town. “As a kid you didn’t see one empty shop and if you did there was a waiting list to get it and someone in it within a week.”

Wayne believes that skateboarding is at another peak in popularity – pointing out that mainstream clothing retailers frequently rip off skateboarding designs and fashions while established sports brands like Nike have skateboarding sub-brands. Although these sports brands generate the majority of revenue for many shops Wayne has never entered into business with them due to a notoriety for imposing large orders: “I’m not into that. I want to choose what I want to pick, not what they want me to have. That dictatorship has done a lot of shops in.”

Another controversial subject is skateboarding’s inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games as participants regard skateboarding as a subculture rather than sport. Although uninterested in competitive aspects he considers the Olympics could help shops as increased funding for facilities would produce more skateboarders – reiterating the outcome of Thornes Skatepark’s construction. While there is an underlying concern that regular sports retailers may want a slice of the pie, Wayne feels: “We’re the only industry I know of that protect what we have,” adding: “I’ve had years of people trying to open skate shops in Wakefield but distributors [who import products from the USA and Europe] usually have a rule where they won’t supply another shop within a ten-mile radius unless you’re in a major city.”

Division 24 Fat Tony original

Image courtesy of Division 24. Below right: Wayne and his son, Toby.

Wayne and Toby Division 24 10 AnniversaryUnfortunately, 2017 has been the shop’s toughest year with a drop in turnover feeling foreign after experiencing annual growth since 2005. Work also impacts on family life: “It’s really hard because I work six days a week, I don’t earn a great deal of money and I’d love to spend more time with my boy,” but Wayne is elated at his son’s interest in skateboarding. “Maybe its only a matter of time. If he sticks with it he can be a part of it – if he wants to be.”

He talks about a small team of shop representatives with a similar fatherly pride: “I’ve seen these kids grow up from having snotty noses to getting photographs in magazines,” whereas, long-time customers are an extension of this family mentality who sit and chat for hours in the same manner which a nephew would to his favourite uncle.

Modestly, he wonders how Division 24 has earned this level of respect: “People say ‘It wouldn’t have happened without you,’ and it would have – I’m just a shop. I didn’t come up to you with a skateboard and say ‘Start skating mate!’” He describes Division 24’s tenth anniversary, in 2015, as a heart-warming celebration which saw masses of skateboarders gather at Thornes Park.

Tenth anniversary celebrations.

Whatever the future holds, Wayne maintains a love for skateboarding and his shop: “I could earn a hell of a lot more money if I got a ‘proper job’ but I just love it. I never ever get up and think, ‘Oh, I’ve got work today.’ Not once in sixteen years of doing it.”

Wayne Miller outside Division Twenty Four photo Brendan Harrap 2


WWW.DIVISION24.CO.UK

Words by Farran Golding. Black and white photography by Brendan Harrap and colour photography by George Reid. Logos and graphics provided by Division 24. All other images are property of their respective owners as credited.

Keep up to date with Division 24 on Facebook by clicking here or on Instagram at @division24skatestore. For any inquiries call  01924 381300. Visit the shop at: 

The Old Vicarage, 24 Zetland Street, Wakefield, WF1 1QT

Ridings Shopping Centre to Receive £5million Investment

The Ridings Wakefield from Cathedral

It has been announced that The Ridings will receive a £5 million investment following new ownership from NewRiver REIT.

The group purchased the centre for £108 million in December of 2016 and have outlined year-long refurbishment plans to incorporate an indoor market alongside a food and drink area named Ridings Kitchen.

Originally opening in 1983, The Ridings was designed by Wakefield’s chief planning officer Peter Spawforth and was named ‘European Shopping Centre of the Year’ in 1984. It boasts 318,900 square feet of retail floorspace, an attached 1,070 bay car park and  annual footfall is reported to reach 10 million.

Longstanding retailers including Morrisons, Primark, TK Maxx and M&S however out of over 100 retail spaces, 30 are estimated to be vacant and in need of new tenants.

The Ridings remained the predominant shopping destination in Wakefield until the completion of Trinity Walk in 2011. “Our goal is to bring the personality back to the shopping centre. It has faded over time, especially after Trinity Walk came to Wakefield,” said NewRiver’s marketing director, Lucy Mitchell to the Pontefract and Castleford Express.

No exact date has been given for when renovation will begin but it has been expressed that the centre’s signage will be updated alongside refurbishment focusing on improving existing retail space and filling vacant units.

Wayne Miller, owner of Division 24 Skateboard Store told us of his surprise at the vast amount of vacant retail spaces in Wakefield, stating: “As a kid you didn’t see one empty shop and if you did there was a waiting list to get it and someone in it within a week,” during our interview with him.

For more on retail in Wakefield read our backgrounder with Wayne by clicking here.


Keep up to date with developments at The Ridings via their website: www.ridingscentre.com and on Facebook by clicking here. Follow The Ridings on Twitter at @ridingscentre and on Instagram at @ridingscentre.

John Cooper Clarke Returns to Wakefield

Dr John Cooper Clarke Wakefield Unity Works Banner

Image: Unity Works

Dr John Cooper Clarke returns to Wakefield’s Unity Works on May 5th for evening of poetry and comedy.

Clarke previously performed to a sold-out audience at the Westgate venue in November 2014. Prior to his show at the remodelled Unity Hall in 2014, Clarke had also attended Wakefield Lit Fest in September 2013.

This year’s visit to promises “a mix of classic verse, extraordinary new material, hilarious ponderings on modern life, good honest gags, riffs and chat” and is just one night of his twenty-plus location tour spanning throughout April to November.

Who is John Cooper Clarke?

Born 25th January 1949 in Salford, Clarke emerged out of the punk scene of the 1970s and became known as the country’s first ‘people’s poet’.

He has performed alongside an array of seminal punk and post-punk artists including

Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Sex Pistols alongside fellow Lancashire natives The Fall and Joy Division

In 2007, Clarke portrayed himself in ‘Control’ by Anton Corbyn, a biopic about the life of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis – reciting his poem ‘Evidently Chickentown’ in a scene recreating a stint supporting the band in 1977.

In the same year, Clarke’s poem ‘Out of Control Fairground’ was printed inside the CD cover of Artic Monkey’s single ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ and also inspired the song’s music video.

Images: Domino Records

Clarke’s influence on popular culture and music has endured the years. Despite his only entrance to the UK Top 40 being “Gimmix! (Play Loud) in 1979, Clarke has been an instrumental part of two tracks featured on number one global selling albums over the last five years.

In 2012, Clarke appeared in the film ‘Ill Manors’ directed by rapper Ben Drew (better known by his stage name, Plan B). Clarke is seen reciting the poem Pity The Plight of Young Fellows which was later incorporated into the song ‘Pity The Plight’ on the film’s titular album.

Then in 2013, a cover of Clarke’s 1982 poem ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ was featured as the closing track on Arctic Monkey’s fifth studio album, ‘AM’.

Frontman Alex Turner, originally from Sheffield, is a proud fan of Clarke’s work. ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ is a key text for GCSE English and it is this very classroom scenario which first exposed Turner to Bard of Salford.

“I was your typical teenager, trying to be cool and not interested and the teacher proceeded to read ‘I Wanna Be Yours’, doing an impression of Johnny. It made my ears prick up in the classroom because it was nothing like anything I’d heard, especially on this syllabus. Had I not seen him do his thing, I wouldn’t have started writing like that,” Turner has previously stated.

Clarke was delighted at Turner’s inclusion of ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ on ‘AM’ calling him a fantastic lyricist and commending updating the song for a more modern audience in an interview with the NME.

Location & Ticket Information

Tickets ranging from £15 to £22.50 are available from the Unity Works website and box office alongside Crash and Jumbo Records in Leeds,.

Doors open at 7:30pm and attendees must be over 16 years old – ID may be required on the door.

Unity Works, Westgate, Wakefield, WF1 1EP


UNITYWORKS.CO.UK

Follow Unity Works on Facebook by clicking here, Twitter at @Unity_Works and on Instagram at @unityworkswakefield. For phone enquires contact 01924 831114.