Thanks to the opportunities offered by a member-owned Manchester skatepark, teenager Louis Carroll has already converted his passion into his job.
Projekts MCR is a not-for-profit skatepark nestled beneath a busy Manchester flyover. It’s also a Community Benefit Society, owned by its members and benefitting the local skateboarding community. It provides them with a vital space to practise, play, hone their skills and connect with likeminded people.
One young member of that community – 17-year-old Louis Carroll – has benefitted from Projekts MCR in more ways than he could have imagined. A keen skateboarder since his early teens, he started out as a regular user of the skatepark.
“It’s got everything you need and it’s a great place for learning,” he says. “Because it’s covered by the flyover, it’s ideal in winter. When everything else is wet, it’s dry here. It’s also just a fun place to go.
“Without it, I’d have skated in car parks. I wouldn’t have skated as much during the rainy months and I’d have kept getting kicked out of car parks by security.”
When volunteering opportunities came up at Projekts MCR, Louis was encouraged by his mum to step forward. “I wasn’t the most confident person and she pushed me to do it. At first I was a bit hesitant. I felt doubtful about what I could do,” he recalls.
Through volunteering, Louis discovered he had a natural talent for helping people. And with his passion for and knowledge of skateboarding, he was soon asked to teach private lessons. “People were like, ‘You’re pretty good at coaching’ and I realised I could get paid for it – and that was great.”
In time, Louis also began working for the Projekts MCR, coaching on Saturdays and then eventually going out and teaching in schools. He loves what he does.
“The best bit is when someone is terrified of doing something. And somehow, you get them to do it. Or they land something for the first time and you see them get dead happy. You know you’ve done your job and you’re happy about it. That’s the joy of it,” he says.
“A lot of what you do in skateboarding is mental – hesitating or overthinking can get you hurt. It’s great when you get a kid into the mindset of not hesitating and they go for it. And you see them getting joy out of it – and getting better and better.”
While Louis finds it rewarding to help other people’s confidence grow, he’s grateful for how being part of Projekts MCR has increased his own confidence too.
“I’ve had lots of opportunity to skate here – and that makes me happier because I’ve got better and better. And the better I get, the more fun I have. And feeling like you’re getting good at something boosts your confidence.
Louis’ confidence hasn’t just increased on the skateboard. “I feel I can talk to people a lot easier,” he says. “I don’t overthink things as much as I used to. The way I see it, if I can stand up in front of 30 kids and teach them, then I’m pretty sure I can have a conversation with anyone. I have the confidence to speak to people now, whereas I didn’t before.”
He’s also happy to be surrounded by a supportive team doing important work at Projekts MCR. “I know people working in different places and I hear them saying someone at work does their head in. Or that they hate work and they only do it for the money. In that sense, I’m very lucky to be here and everyone is lovely.
“And look at how many good things this place does for the community – all the classes they do, all the schools they go to, how many kids they get into skating. And how many kids go on to be good skaters. I’m proud to be a part of that.
“I know how lucky I am. That’s why I don’t moan and just get on with stuff. I know I’m very fortunate. This place has brough me a lot of happiness and new friends too. I’ve met a lot of people and that’s what I’m most happy about.”