180: Neil Macdonald/Science Versus Life

Neil, April 2022. Photo: self portrait

To say that Neil Mcdonald is interested in skate history is a little like saying Capability Brown liked to dabble in the odd bit of gardening.

Neil is a journalist, author, curator and archivist who is obsessed, to an awe-inspiring degree, with the tales and intricacies of skate history.

It’s a fascination he explores through his essential Science Versus Life Instagram account, and which he is developing on the grandest possible scale with his forthcoming history of UK skateboarding. For me, Neil’s reverent take on the power and importance of skate history makes him more akin to a legitimate cultural curator. It’s why I kept using the word archivist during our conversation, and why I think his work is so important and much more than the mere ‘scanning of old skateboard magazines’, to paraphrase his Insta bio.

Why? Because this stuff matters. It’s important, like any history is important. It’s how we define ourselves as a culture, and how we safeguard the uniqueness of these activities many of us have based our entire lives around.

With Science Versus Life and his forthcoming book, Neil is doing nothing less than trying to preserve and present the entire pre-digital history of British skateboarding and, by extension, youth culture in this country. As you might imagine if you’ve listened to the show for a while, this mission is right up my boulevard, and I enjoyed our chat very much indeed. Hope you do too.

Listen to the episode now:

Connect with Neil

Show Notes

  • Breaking the fourth wall 
  • Podcasting and conversation 
  • Spoken word to page
  • Unchallenged controversial views
  • The book project 
  • Into the mainstream
  • The parallel in snowboarding with We Ride
  • Pre-2002
  • Nostalgia and the formative years
  • The power of identity 
  • Where to begin 
  • The absence of a portal 
  • Archivist and curator 
  • Retrospect 
  • Carl Shipman
  • The work of Gavin Hills 
  • The lesser known stories
  • Working chronologically 
  • Getting the interviews 
  • A summary of the work 
  • Documenting the change over time 
  • Shoes and clothes
  • Adidas Gazelles 
  • A change in the public eye
  • ‘..all the best stuff comes from skateboarding..’
  • Neil’s era 
  • The archive 
  • ‘’s gonna take as long as it takes to be perfect..’
  • The instagram account 
  • Forgotten photos 
  • Full steam ahead 

Names Mentioned

  • Jeremy Paxman
  • Ben Powell 
  • Pete Hellicar  
  • George Martin 
  • Fina Charleson 
  • Matthew Wilder 
  • Gavin Hills
  • Sheryl Garratt 
  • Simon Evans 
  • Vernon Adams 
  • Jamie Blair 
  • Jamie Boyce 
  • Carl Shipman 
  • Katrina Shipman 
  • Neil Erwin 
  • Miranda Sawyer 
  • Stuart Maconie 
  • Steve Lamacq
  • Tim Leighton-Boyce 
  • Jeff Rowley 
  • Mark ‘Gonz’ Gonzales
  • Andrew Horsley 
  • Peter Tarry
  • Curtis McCann
  • Femi Bukanola
  • Matt Hensley  
  • Madonna 
  • Noel Gallagher 
  • Pepe Martinez 
  • Kareem Campbell 
  • Gino Perez
  • Gino Iannucci 
  • Keenan Milton 
  • Sam Ashley 
  • Stanley Kubrick 
  • Jamie Scott 
  • Dan Adams
  • Miki Vucovich
  • Tony Hawk 

Places Mentioned

  • Palestine 
  • United States 
  • Southbank 
  • Ancient Sumeria
  • Bosnia 
  • Llandudno 
  • Liverpool 
  • Northern Ireland 
  • Los Angeles 
  • San Francisco 
  • Wakefield 
  • Embarcadero 
  • Manchester 
  • Scotland 
  • Kennington 
  • Radlands

Companies, Brands and Organisations Mentioned

  • Whitelines 
  • Snickers 
  • Sega 
  • Transworld 
  • The Olympics 
  • Palace Skateboards 
  • Myspace 
  • Instagram 
  • The Face 
  • Tumblr 
  • Read and Destroy 
  • Slam City Skates 
  • Transworld 
  • The Observer 
  • Amnesty International 
  • Sidewalk Mag 
  • Ghetto Wear 
  • Underworld Element 
  • Fila 
  • Adidas Gazelle 
  • Nike 
  • Zoom 
  • Thrasher
  • King Pin 
  • Palomino Publishing 
  • Native 

Music, Books and Films Mentioned