Ollie Lock interview

01.02.2021 Exclusive, Interviews

Interview & photography: Kingsford

What finally made you move from Bristol to London last year?
Mainly to move in with my girlfriend. We’d been talking about if for a few years and I was just building up the courage to make the move. It took me a while because I was quite comfortable in Bristol living at home and having a job I enjoyed.

So were you still living with your parents up until you moved to London?
Yes. We lived quite close to the centre so it worked for me to stay there.

And now it’s just you and Katie and your dog Norma?
Yes, we got our own place in February and went into lockdown about a month after. We live in Stepney Green, about a five-minute skate from Mile End skatepark. We moved just in time because I think lockdown was a bit more bearable just us three. With flatmates I think it might have been a bit much.

So you missed out on the whole skate house thing?
I’ve never done the skate house. I don’t know if I’m the kind of person that would enjoy something like that. I think the way I happen to do things wouldn’t go too well with how I’ve heard a lot of skate houses operate.

In what sense?
I’m not saying that all skaters are messy but I think having stuff clean and put away in certain places… I’ve definitely got some sort of OCD that isn’t helped by living with my girlfriend who likes having things put in the same place also. I think just having us two there and no one else rearranging our stuff has meant that we’ve probably increased our levels a little bit. I’ve been to skate houses and I can see myself not really being able to spend long periods of time in places like that.

Gap to lipside, Pimlico

And I guess you’ve had a taste of that on skate trips.
Yes, Airbnbs on skate trips. But everyone lives differently. It’s quite interesting, like a little social experiment – who operates in what way

Generally speaking, how have you found living in London?
It’s been good. It definitely took me a few months to sort of get used to it. I always felt a bit intimidated by the size of London. Although I’ve been here loads of times before skating and seeing Katie – for weeks on end – when I actually moved here it kind of sunk in that I had to force myself to go skating when a lot of the time I just wanted to stay in my local area and not travel too far.

What do you miss about Bristol?
Lloyds. I never really thought about this until I’d left and I think this is what most people say about London, but it’s just how less busy Bristol is. The ability to live comfortably in the centre of a city and not really have too many people around is nice. Not that I really did much of this but you can very easily and quickly get to the countryside or the woods for a nice walk.

You and Katie got a dog earlier this year. Was Norma a lockdown dog?
No. That was also one of the reasons I moved to London – we’d always wanted to get a dog, but I wasn’t able to if I lived at home and she wouldn’t have been able to in a shared flat. So we knew that as soon as we got our own place together, and it was pet friendly, we could finally get the ball rolling on this. I used to look every day on Battersea and Dogs Trust adoption sites and I think a week after we found our new flat, Norma came up. We ended up getting her a week before the first lockdown. A week later and we wouldn’t have been able to get her for months.

A dog is a huge commitment, especially for someone your age (24) and in a big city like London. Did the responsibility take you and Katie by surprise at all?
In the first few weeks I definitely did think: “What have we got ourselves into?” She was a stray so she had to learn a lot. I wasn’t really sleeping that much because I was worried if she was OK all the time and we had to get up really early to make sure that she could go to the loo in the morning. Plus every time I went to sit down on the sofa, she would jump up and start aggressively licking me and clawing at my face – she didn’t really know how to relax on a sofa so I didn’t really get to sit down or sleep for about a month. But we eventually got into a routine and it seemed fine.

Kickflip 50-50, Kensington

You mentioned that you can take her to work at the Palace shop.
Yes, I have a couple of times. She just sits on the sofa or she lies down out the back. After a good half-hour run around she can sleep for 18 hours a day.  

How did you cope personally with the spring lockdown?
Having Norma really helped, just being able to go outside and go on a long walk every day, which is something I wouldn’t have done without her. Also it was just me and Katie in the flat and we don’t really annoy each other too much. We found quite a good routine early on. She didn’t get furloughed so she was working from home. I did all the stuff around the house so she didn’t have any stress other than work and I kept myself busy.

Did you have your job at the Palace shop set up before you moved here?
No, I originally thought I had enough savings to last me a good few months but London was more expensive than I thought. Around the time I was going to start looking for a job, I went for a pint with Matlok (Bennett-Jones, who works at the Palace shop) and the next day I got a text from him saying: “I was talking to Tom (Tanner) and Nick (Stansfield, managers at the Palace shop) and they wondered if you needed a job.” So that was a big help. I think I did a trial shift the day after he texted me, so it all moved quite quickly.

Before moving to London you worked at Fifty Fifty for a long time.
Yes, eight years. I did my work experience there when I was 15 years old I think and from there I got asked to cover a few Saturday shifts. Then, once I left education, I started working weekdays and eventually full-time.

How does the Palace shop compare?
It’s definitely busier so the whole process is a lot different to what I was used to at Fifty Fifty. Having people queuing up outside for things, having to have security and seven members of staff in a day… It’s different to sometimes having just one person in at Fifty Fifty and maybe one or two of you just watching skate videos if it’s a rainy day.

Do you still ride for Fifty Fifty?
Yes, it’s definitely still my local shop even though I don’t live in the city any more.  

Frontside 180, Westminster

You and your Palace colleagues seem to hang out together a lot out of work. I’ve seen you all out skating together a few times.
Yes, when you spend eight or so hours a day together you talk about skating and where you’re going to go skating on your days off. If you have the same day off as someone you work with, you end up making plans and everyone goes out the next day. It’s just nice to see the people you work with on your day off rather than only
at work.

You often hear the opposite. Tell us about Matlok’s joke on your first day.
Really? (laughs). That’s a bit gnarly. I was doing my trial shift and this was the first time I’d met a lot of the people I now work with. I was on the shop floor at the end of the day and I heard Matlok and three or four other people in the back. I very quietly heard Matlok say: “Do you know Ollie’s a Tory?” If I hadn’t heard that I don’t think he would have corrected himself and told people it was a joke. So luckily I heard it and went out back and said: “I’m not by the way.” I don’t know if anyone believed him before I told him to shut up but I hope so.

That’s heavy!
Everyone gives each other shit at work but I didn’t expect that on the first day.

Slappy backside tailslide gap out, Southbank

Talk us through the move from Polar flow to Skateboard Cafe a couple of years back.
Through Mike (Halls) at Keen, I got Polar stuff for a few years, which was super helpful to me. He was always down to hook me up, which was really nice. Eventually I was skating with Rich (Smith, Skateboard Cafe) more and more, filming with him, and the idea of being on a more local company with people I knew personally… as I got a bit older it felt like the thing I wanted to do. When I told Mike he understood, which was good. Me and Rich had already filmed a bunch anyway, so it made sense to carry on. We’d go filming after work together. Mike (Arnold) and Korahn (Gayle) still lived in Bristol, Josh (Arnott)… so we all skated together anyway.

Is it fair to say you’ve never been too bothered about earning a living from skating? You’ve always worked and I get the impression you’re not the sort of person who would try to wing it and get by in a city like London like a lot of skaters do.
I’ve definitely thought about making money from skating – I think everyone does at some point – but I also prefer having a plan and being a lot more comfortable knowing I can be in a good position and then think about skating after. It’s obviously nice making a bit of   money from doing something you enjoy, but if that doesn’t work out I can still live in a place that I love because I have a job. With less pressure I enjoy skating more. When I was younger I worried about being sponsored and trying to make money. I put a lot more pressure on myself to be good at skating and compared myself to other people. I find it a lot easier now.

Tell us about Alcohol Blanket. What inspired you to start a company?
Working in a shop for many years made me quite interested in the process of making clothes and stuff. I also started designing some of Fifty’s clothing and I got really interested in embroidery. I ended up buying a home embroidery machine before I had any idea of starting anything. I used it to embroider on old bits of my clothing at first, then realised if I could think of
a name or logo, I’d have a reason to embroider on things. I had some ideas that I thought only I would find interesting, but I put them on T-shirts anyway and decided to see if people wanted to buy them. I made a website and hit up a few shops. I still worked at Fifty so I could just put stuff on the shelf without really asking. A few people ended up liking it and it went from there.

How’s it going?
It’s good. My flat is currently filled with boxes of clothes waiting to send out, so at times it can be a bit much, having to walk through the front door into 12 massive boxes. But it’s a nice and comfortable amount of stuff to do when I’ve got days off or time after work. It’s nothing too stressful, which is how I intended it to be. I don’t have to worry about getting things done too quickly, which is nice.

What are your plans for Alcohol Blanket?
I think just keeping it slowly growing is nice. Nothing too fast, so I don’t have to worry about not skating as much or taking time off work because I’ve got too much to do. I definitely need more space in my flat to work on it, places to put boxes of clothes so I can sit down in front of my TV.

How has the pandemic affected your business?
I actually didn’t do that much during the pandemic. At the start I turned off my website just to try to make people go to the more independent skate shops because at first I think a lot of people weren’t sure whether they were going to survive when they had to close. So I turned my website off and put up a list of stockists hoping that people would do that and then buy other stuff too. When I turned the website back on after a few months after finding out the skate shops were doing quite well with people wanting to start skating during the pandemic, I donated all of the funds to a domestic abuse charity, because obviously people being locked at home perhaps with abusive partners definitely increased during lockdown. And then I broke my laptop right in the middle of lockdown, so I couldn’t actually work on anything. It took me a while to get it fixed, so I ended up having new bits made right at the end of lockdown. That got delayed again and again. Those bits should be out soon. So it was a slow process for me. I was kind of enjoying not doing much and just hanging out with the dog.

Pop shove-it tailgrab nosegrind, Brixton

I was in Bristol in the summer and the scene seemed to be really thriving. Rich (Smith, Skateboard Cafe and Fifty Fifty) said so many people are skating, it’s hard to keep up with demand. Did you notice a change when you went back after lockdown?
I went skating a few days with my friends and I didn’t really see much of a difference in the amount of people skating, but if we’d go and meet up in the shop (Fifty Fifty) in the morning before going skating, just in the 20 or 30 minutes we’d be there, there definitely were so many more customers than usual coming in to buy completes and they were customers that I had never seen when I worked there just a year before. There were big groups of people going in, all wanting to buy their own complete and a lot of people not really caring about the price. It also seemed like there was a big variety of people: more girls and people who seemed like maybe they’d be playing team sports, a lot of older people… I think lockdown just gave a lot of people time to think about doing other things than what you’d usually do on weekends or on your days off. When you’re not allowed to do certain things, I guess you start to research other ways to have fun.

How have you been coping with skate trips being cancelled? Do you enjoy filming / shooting in London?
I’ve actually found it okay. I know a lot of people enjoy trips and feel really productive on trips. I find the trip dynamic quite stressful sometimes. If you find yourself two or three days into a trip and you haven’t filmed anything the only thing I can think is: “I need to do something, I need to do something…” It plays on my mind quite a lot and often ends up pushing me in the opposite direction and I get quite bummed. So just being able to produce something in the place you live at your own pace, I find that a lot nicer.

Also I guess London is still relatively new to you
Yes, almost every day I go skating somewhere I haven’t been before.

Who is your skate crew in London?
Usually I skate with Matlok, Will Miles, Korahn if he actually comes out. It’s also really fun meeting up with Tom Gibbs, who I used to skate with in Bristol a lot before we both moved here.

Who are you favourites to watch?
I love going out with Zach (Riley), it’s always really fun and he is just enjoyable to watch on a skateboard. I’ve been lucky enough to go on a couple of trips with Ibu (Sanyang). It’s amazing to watch him skate, he’s seriously on another level. Sometimes at Mile End when Jamie (Platt) or Kyle (Wilson) is there, it’s just nice to sit down and watch them do laps and never fall off. The same goes for if I ever go to Southbank and Casper (Brooker) is there.

It’s a hard question to answer at the moment, but what are your plans for the future?
Just to stay on roughly the same sort of plans that I’ve had the past year or so. I’m in a very comfortable place right now where I feel quite relaxed and not too stressed, which is quite a nice feeling, especially when you live somewhere like London. I’m enjoying skating, work, where I live… I wouldn’t really change that much. I mean we are going into winter now so there will obviously be less skating and I might have to pick up another hobby.