Calvin Ligono interview

04.07.2022 Exclusive, Interviews

Portrait: Kembery 
Interview: Kingsford

I read in your No Comply Network interview that you were a Pulaski Park local at the age of 11. Tell us more about that.
I lived in DC for a little bit. One summer my friend who was a bit older than me was just like: “You wanna come down? It’s Go Skate Day,” and I was like: “Of course.” I wasn’t meant to go there but I went for the day and it was banging. I spent the whole summer going there.

Without telling your parents?
Nah, they couldn’t know.

So what do you remember from skating and hanging out there?
It was hot and you had to be on point because the police… There’s a certain police called Park Police. They just  work for the parks. They have a blue stripe and badge in the middle of the car. If you see them, you just run because they are on point. I’ve seen people getting fucked up. Other police don’t really care.

Did you hear about the plans to demolish and replace the plaza?
Yeah, it sucks because I want to go skate there again. I’ve not been since I was 15.

Why are places like Pulaski important?
It’s like a hub. Everyone knows to meet up there. You start the day there, everyone goes on little missions, then you end the day there. That’s sick. Maybe London’s kind of missing that. Obviously you have Mile (End) and Southbank, but everybody kind of goes on their own little missions – which is cool – but it’s nice to have that central hub. I remember going when I was 11 and seeing all these skaters hyped, all in one place – that energy is crazy. That stood out as opposed to seeing a crew of like two or three people at some random little side alley.

5-0, Old Kent Road, West

Who were the locals back when you were skating there? When was that?
Summer 2008. Darren Harper, he was there. I’m pretty sure he taught me to kickflip. He showed me something, a front board or a kickflip. I remember one day I did it and he was just gassed and I was like: “Whoa, this is sick.” Darren Harper was there all the time, Bobby Worrest, Jack Curtin came back for Christmas that year, Zach Lyons… Who else? Gilbert Crockett, I saw him a couple of times.

What did you learn hanging out there at a young age?
Etiquette, like skate etiquette for sure. What to do, what not to do, what to say… just what’s acceptable. I feel like skaters from those cultures have a good bullshit filter, you know what I mean? You can spot bullshit a mile away.

Can you think of a favourite trick or line done at the plaza?
I’ve just got that switch front tail Darren Harper did on the big white ledge replaying in my head every time I think of it. It’s sick, so sick.

Moving on a bit, you moved from Washington DC to Rotherham around the age of 12. What prompted that move?
So I moved to London first. I moved to Harrow for like 10 months. Basically long story short, my parents kind of separated but they got back together and my dad was here, so my mum was like: “Let’s just link up in England.” It was kind of spontaneous and I guess it was kind of expensive (in London), kind of tough or whatever, so she got a job up in Rotherham and we just moved there. It was easier for her to support us up there.

Varial heelflip, Fleet Street, Wojnowski

What were your first impressions of Rotherham?
Everybody sounds crazy. The accent was fucking crazy. People’s perception of… obviously skating wasn’t really accepted here (London) but especially up north skating was just some barbaric shit. People were just like: “What are you doing?” It made no sense to them.

What about the skate scene?
I was lucky because Rotherham just had a park built as soon as I got there – literally two months before I got there – so I skated there after school for five or six years.

Did you find it easy to meet other skaters?
Yeah I guess so. I mean I had a crazy American accent and people were just like: “What the hell? Who’s this random kid?”

When did you start skating in Sheffield?
I didn’t skate Sheffield until I was 16 or 17. This guy called Joe Marks – he used to skate for adidas – he lived down the street from me and when I got to 16 or 17 he started driving me to Sheffield and I met all the Sheffield heads. We used to skate there a lot. 

Who was in your crew in Sheffield?
When I started skating there I used to skate with some of the younger heads. They used to come to Rotherham. Then when I got a bit older I started skating with Shaun Currie, this guy called Faro (Phiri), (Martin) Kennelly – I used to film with him all the time – Louis (Slater), this kid called Denver (Adams), a bunch of heads.

Nollie flip, South Quay, Kingsford

How did you end up riding for Ravenous?
Kennelly must have come to Rotherham when I was 12 or 13 and he was like: “Who’s this guy?” Then a few years later he was like: “Yeah, if you want boards, you can have boards.”

After they wound Ravenous down, you rode for Wayward, another company with a Sheffield connection (James Edson). Tell us about your time with Wayward.
I had no intention to move to London at one point. I don’t know, I had some crazy idea about it like it was too expensive or hectic or whatever. But through Wayward I started coming to London more and it was sick. I’d come down here and my boy Faro was on them, my boy Jake (Royal) was on them, I got to meet Jérôme (Sossou)… Lukas (Oheix), Snowy (Daniel Kinloch) and Edson are banging. They are so safe, so it was a sick time. I enjoyed it.

What made you move to London in 2019?
So I was in Manchester at the time and I’d just split up with one of my exes. I was kind of getting involved in some shit I shouldn’t have been getting involved with and I had a little wake-up call. I was like: “Fuck this, I just want to skate.” Snowy and Edson were down here and I was like: ‘Fuck it, I’m just gonna come down, no plans and just see what happens.” I had no money – £40 in my pocket – and I was like: “I’m going to make it work.” I was on Edson’s sofa for a few months then a bunch of people’s sofas.

Then you got a job at the bowl in Selfridges.
When I was floating around staying on sofas I met Dan (Fisher-Eustance) skating at Vicky Park and he was like: “Yeah, I work in a bowl…. I just skate.” It sounded unreal, like: “What you just stand about and look like skaters in Selfridges?” I waited for a bit and eventually I applied and I got the job.

360 flip, Aldgate, Wojnowski

You work at the Brixton’s Baddest shop there too right, as well as the bowl?
Brixton’s Baddest is cool. I prefer doing that more than the bowl because that’s more what I’m about. Val (Katz) and Daphne (Greca)… I wouldn’t be in London if it wasn’t for them because they made sure I got enough shifts, hooked me up, always made sure I had boards, clothes to skate in, whatever. So big shout out to them because I would not be here still if it wasn’t for them.

Who are you favourites to watch in London?
Obviously Kyle (Wilson), Adam (Delarue), Dougie (George) is insane, Korahn (Gayle)… Korahn’s still killing it, Billy Trick; he’s crazy.

What about some younger, up-and-coming skaters?
Isaac Gale. A little kid called Nile (Emmanuel). He’s probably 10 years old. I remember I taught him how to skate at Selfridges with a couple of other friends. He’s going to be sick.

Tell us about your brand, Roxo. First of all, can you explain the name?
It’s called Roxo because it means purple in Portuguese and purple represents ambition and royalty, luxury… It’s not just me doing it. I had the idea to start it, but I’ve also got a friend Josh (Sosa) involved and then the twins Zach and Adam (Delarue). Adam’s got experience in doing video work and Zach’s got experience graphic designing. But yeah basically we’re all young ambitious black men. We had an image of what we thought the scene was missing and we just wanted to portray that through videos and clothes or whatever. So that’s how it started.

What do you make?
Right now we’re just making clothes and videos. We’ve got a couple of video projects in the works. For now that’s the plan.

Do you have a team?
Nah, no team right now. I feel like it’s more organic that way. And it’s not limiting.

Heelflip, Haggerston, Griffiths

What are your plans for Roxo longer-term?
I don’t want to say too much now. All I’m going to say is that there’s a lot that we think is missing or under-represented in the scene, or maybe represented by people from an outside-in perspective and we want to show stuff from the inside out.

You left New Balance recently. Are you getting shoes from anyone else?
Yeah Kyle hooks me up. I’m the same size as Kyle.

It seems like you’re more focused on building Roxo than riding for other people’s brands at the moment.
I guess when I was younger I was like: “Ah yeah, I’m going to have a board sponsor, shoe sponsor…” but there was a point a year and a half ago I kind of fell out of love with it. I realised I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I was just kind of over it to some extent. Then I started skating just to show… to do what felt right to me and skating became fun again. I’m open to it, a shoe sponsor or whatever, a board sponsor, but as of now, I’m just having too much fun doing this and working on other shit.

I saw you have been boxing lately. Tell us about that.
Before you even throw a single punch, you’re drenched in sweat. You’re knackered because you’ve done so much cardio. You’re never going to experience that skating. As soon as I started doing it, skating just felt so easy – I was never tired, I was never sore the next day. You can just go on. Boxing is banging. Nothing compares to it. It’s banging for your mental health too, just feeling solid, physically and mentally.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Keep filming, keep having fun, skating, stacking, trying to make sick clothes that we want to wear, make videos… That’s it really.

And longer-term?
I’m not too sure yet. I’m just open to whatever happens. I definitely want to build up Roxo and just keep having fun and inspire people to skate and start their own shit.