Pin It
ICA_The_Palace_4_© Alasdair McLellan
Blondey McCoy and Lucien Clarke© Alasdair McLellan

Alasdair McLellan and Palace team up for a photo exhibition

The photographer previews photos from a new show that focuses on the British skate scene and Palace founder Lev Tanju’s skate family, PWBC

From a shit hole in Waterloo to an internationally recognised skate and fashion brand worn by the likes of Kanye West, Jay Z and Rihanna – just six years after its launch – Palace feels inescapable. 

Beneath the hype and lines around the block for collection drops, the history of the brand is humble, local and based on community. Founded by Lev Tanju as a reaction to witnessing the English skate community around him feeling second best to their US counterparts, the seedlings of Palace lie within Tanju’s extended family and skate gang, The Palace Wayward Boys Choir (PWBC).

Tanju began producing skate videos of his friends, turning his back on HD and instead opting for a now-signature grainy, DIY feel that took the form of satirical news reports. The videos quickly gained notoriety and the Palace brand launched in 2009.

Around the same time, photographer Alasdair McLellan began taking photos of the skate scene, notably that of Southbank – a series of which will go on display at London’s ICA next month in an homage to “friendship, nonconformity and a do-it-yourself attitude” that sits at the heart of the British skateboarding community.

“They all looked really good, and it was very British, and they all dressed more like they were going to a football match than skating in Waterloo” – Alasdair McLellan

“When I think about skateboarding pictures I always used to think about America, and then I met Lev and PWBC and they all looked really good, and it was very British, and they all dressed more like they were going to a football match than skating in Waterloo”, explains the photographer. "The fact that they were aged 15 to 30, and it looked like they could be in Fagin’s gang; it was like something out of a Dickens novel. I liked that the names they all had sounded like they’re out Brighton Rock too; Nugget, Blondey, Edson, Snowy. Most brands don’t have a history like theirs, born out of hanging out on the Southbank."

Tanju – who will create a bespoke video installation to be exhibited alongside the images – adds, “I hope people see this as a nice little story documenting everything that was going on with Southbank, the skaters, Palace, PWBC. Alasdair was always interested in all opt the crew, and also everything that went on outside of the actual skating. It’s a really personal thing and great memories of a time that was wicked for all of us.”

Alasdair McLellan & Lev Tanju: The Palace will be on show from 8 – 24 July and is part of the ICA’s Young ICA – a programme that focuses on young creatives that will take place over July. A full survey of McLellan’s work with Palace and the PWBC will be published by IDEA Books this summer

Find out more about the roots of PWBC with our interviews with James Edson, Daniel 'Snowy' Kinloch and Lucien Clark here and here