Calling all riders: Temple Town’s first skate park, Siem Reap Sk8 Park, on Thmor Meas Hotel road off High School Road, opens on March 29. The grand opening will feature workshops with teachers from NGO Skateistan, street art workshops and demonstrations by skaters from the skate shop Phnom Penh.
The launch is being spearheaded by Tori Green through her Hand in Heart Project, which supports and mentors young artists. She says the venue will be Cambodia’s first dedicated daily skate park and street arts centre, and plans for the future include wall mural workshops and mentored skateboard sessions.
The park has actually been there for some years, but up until now was under private ownership. When new owner Hun Tang took over, he approached artist-photographer and former NGO manager Green to paint some murals. Within a week, she says, the duo plus manager Sina Yean had cooked up the idea of creating “a daily skate facility for all street sports and arts.”
At the same time the idea was hatched to open up the venue to the public.
“This is an amazing opportunity,” says Green. “Not just for Cambodian skateboarders but for many different types of street artists and young people who can learn and develop new skills whilst growing in confidence, knowledge and opening up new work opportunities for the future.”
Siem Reap Sk8 Park will also welcome inline skaters (roller bladers) and scooters, and will have special skateboard only days. Upstairs will become Hand in Heart’s office and workshop and youth club area, The Hub.
“The Hub will provide timetabled hours for young street arts and sports people to take part in education supporting activities such as sign-writing, photography, film, sound engineering and DJing plus mentored skateboarding, scooter and inline skate sessions,” she says. “The project will also run classes in hip hop and body-bopping dance styles, plus a new youth band, Bang That Drum, are looking forward to making a home there too.”
Over the course of the weekend-long launch, from March 29-30, an eight-person crew from Phnom Penh NGO Skateistan will hold skateboarding workshops, while French Phnom Penh-based street artist Chifumi will paint murals.
“The weekend will be full of skateboard inspiration to ignite the passions of Siem Reap teenagers – sharing skills and identifying talented young people who will become part of the skate movement in Siem Reap,” Green says. “There will also be a skills and talent show featuring the inline and bokator star Seven, visiting mural artists helping to give the park a stunning paint makeover, and music and dance workshops.”
Sam Jam and Sally Douglas, owners of the skateshop Phnom Penh, will also be bringing riders to wow spectators with tricks and flips on the day.
“We’re bringing our team up and they’re going to skate and perform,” says Jam. “We’re bringing an artist as well, Kimchean Koy, who will paint a piece, which will pretty much be his first mural. He’s really good – he does a lot of stencils.”
Both feel that the growing popularity of skateboarding is an exciting development for Cambodian youth.
“The scene here is a lot smaller than Phnom Penh obviously, but it’s definitely growing,” says Jam. “There are expat kids who are interested in skateboarding, but now that there’s actually a space, that’s key, so more people will start skating now.”
Douglas adds that the park is in a good location. “It’s not so far away, and it’s near the schools. For me, I think skateboarding is really community-based and supportive, but it’s also really individual – you rely on yourself. It’s all up to you and so that breeds that self-determination, belief and persistence.”
The launch will start at 10am on March 29. Saturday’s demonstrations and performances will take place from 2-7pm, while Sunday’s activities are from 10-4pm.
The park’s official opening hours from March 31 will be 7am-11am, and 2-6pm. Inline skate hire is from 2000 riel and skateboards will soon be available to hire and buy.
Potential volunteers, sponsors and Khmer artists interested in performing at the launch can contact Tori Green via: https://www.facebook.com/TheHandInHeartProject.