Sport

Film director's skateboarding passion

Published 0852 GMT (1652 HKT) December 10, 2015
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Ben Gregor & boardsBen Gregor & boards
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A painful breakup inspired film and TV director Ben Gregor to "sponsor" his loved ones and heroes -- skateboarding speak for giving them a board with their name on it. "They've sponsored me in my life, so I'm sponsoring them back," says Gregor. Courtesy Herrick Gallery
But it's about more than Gregor's broken heart -- 10% of the boards' sales will go to Skateistan, a charity that uses skateboarding as a tool to help children in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa. Courtesy Skateistan
Gregor laser etched 68 maple wood boards with the names of the celebrities, friends and cultural icons who have supported him. "These are the people you need in your life to go, 'You know what, this is actually going to be fine.'" Courtesy Herrick Gallery
Skateistan focuses on Afghan girls, giving them skateboarding training and an education program. "Under Sharia law (the Islamic legal system), girls aren't allowed to ride bikes or do much at all," says Gregor. "But through a loophole, they're allowed to skateboard because it's seen as a toy." JESSICA F-D
The names on Gregor's boards range from the world-famous to the niche. There's Nobel Prize-winning Japanese author Kawabata Yasunari, of whom Gregor is a fan; Cara Delevingne, who he worked on a film with; and comic artist Carol Ezquerra, whose Judge Dredd drawings he pored over as a boy. Courtesy Herrick Gallery
The charity works with boys too, especially those working on the streets. It reaches 400 children a week from its purpose-built skate parks in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif. Courtesy Skateistan
"There's nothing more intense, amazing and accessible than skateboarding," says Gregor. "You're taking advantage of modern architecture; looking at the city in a slightly hungry way. Skateboarding is my refuge -- it's what I've always done whenever I've had a crisis of any kind." Courtesy Skateistan
The charity recently began building a skate park in Johannesburg, South Africa. "We've got great teachers and youth leaders for students to look up to," says Skatiestan's director Oliver Perkovitch. "Skateboarding itself teaches important life skills, like creativity and problem solving and about never giving up." Courtesy Rudi Jeggle
In 2012 Skateistan opened its facility in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It now works with 150-200 young people each week. "Skateboarding is a resourceful culture," says Gregor. "You're making your world out of just a plank of wood with a couple of wheels on it."
Courtesy Skateistan
"Humble & Epic" will be in London until December 19, with plans to tour to Seoul and Tokyo next year. "To anybody going through loss or rejection -- they're not alone," says Gregor. "There are people that love them; it's going to be okay." Courtesy Herrick Gallery