Words and Photos by Tyrone Kelly
I recently wrote an article titled ‘The Slovenian Scene Report’ on BMX UNION. Reading that before this may just help you to gain more of an insight and help provide a little more context for this article, however I will try to be thorough enough for you and I to be on the same page.
On a previous trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia I fell in love with the BMX scene there, the utter dedication to their sport is unrivaled. When it comes to DIY spots, Skatepark ROG is most certainly the best one ever built. Not only is the park incredible, it is built in a place of historical importance for Ljubljana. The skatepark is built in a building that was once an old bicycle factory, the brand was called ROG – fortunately for us though, the company went bankrupt and the building was abandoned.
Shortly after, it became inhabited by some young creative souls that found a place they could call their own, something to be proud of and something to build upon. On my previous trip there I was rather inquisitive as to how they had never been evicted, as essentially the 100 inhabitants of the building are technically squatting. Rok Simsíc informed me that every year they say they will be building something new and that they need to leave but nothing has ever happened, at least not until now.
Unfortunately, ROG is currently under duress. I am no politician and my sources are that of the members of the community and some Google translated articles about what the political sphere is currently like in Ljubljana.
As it seems, a large amount of money has come Ljubljana’s way compliments of the EU. Sounds great, but the target for investing these funds is into building a creative center ‘as an experiment’ to see how a center could benefit the youth. It makes no sense to me at all, especially since ROG has already done that, the community there is not only built around a skatepark.
It is an all-encompassing center of creativity, community and learning. Various people, artists, musicians, studios and living spaces inhabit ROG. They provide free lessons to educate the youth within the area; they support refugees as well as the rest of the community by providing not only education but food too.
The night before we arrived at ROG to get our shred on, an attack by a group of mindless skinheads occurred. They don’t seem to like the fact that refugees inhabit this space, thankfully there was a limited amount of damage and all was well the next day.
The building was once quite open and easy enough to get into, but following attacks, failed demolition attempts and a touch of animosity, a barricade has been built around the entire facility, metal sheets, tires etc now form a safety net for ROG. At night people stand atop the structure and guard the place to ensure its safety. To help the community, take a second to find out more information and sign the petition – Support For ROG Factory
Now, BMX is certainly not all politics and to say everyone had a good time, would be an understatement. For me personally it was one of the best weekends of riding I have had in years.
Burn Head fakie wallride.
Burn Head barspin.
Kyle Courtney Wallride to Table
The Salzburg crew (SBG Unit) and I arrived at ROG at around 1pm and the session never ended. The crew was pretty international, in that we had South Africans, Austrians, Slovenians and a Romanian all shredding together so it’s safe to say that everyone was throwing down. That evening after a short break from living our lives to the fullest we returned to ROG for the evenings festivities.
When the door to the club opened at 11pm (The door is next to the skatepark entrance, how convenient?) minds were blown. People packed right in to the venue complete with a stage, functioning bar and Slovenia’s top hip hop acts. A day filled with the indoor park sweats didn’t allow for much energy to party but witnessing the vibe and getting to know the riders better was a complete treat!
The next day Rok took us on a street mission and sweet lord does Slovenia have spots! How people haven’t started making tons of trips there instead of constantly bleeding Barcelona dry, completely blows my mind.
Ja Kob double tire ride.
Tyrone Kelly no foot can can.
Kyle Courtney table top.
If you’re reading this, go and support ROG, let Rok educate you with his skills on a bike and then go tear apart the streets. If you don’t have a great time in the historically beautiful, meets graffiti riddled city, then you’re part of the problem. Also, if you have a similar story/scene and would like people to know about it, let me know – I would love to come hang.
Words and Photos by Tyrone Kelly