Meet Charlotte Thomas, the Mastermind Behind “Concrete Girls”

The completely independently funded, curated, photographed and produced project is a celebration of badass skater girls all over the UK.

Charlotte Thomas is the creator and mastermind behind the amazing Concrete Girls project, which celebrates badass skater girls all across the UK. She has started a movement that lifts up female skateboarders (despite their occasional tumbles) and creates a community around people with similar passion and values. Skateboarding is not just a cool activity, it’s not just a particular sense of swag; it’s a lifestyle. On the website it says: “SKATEBOARDING IS THE UNITY AND LOVE OF ALL PEOPLE, ITS FREEDOM TO EXPRESS YOURSELF AND BE CREATIVE AMONGST KIND AND CREATIVE PEOPLE. YOU CAN LET GO OF ALL THE CRAP THAT HAPPENED IN YOUR DAY AND JUST GO HANG WITH YOUR FRIENDS.”

We had a chat with the queen herself about the process of publishing her wanderings into a tangible book, female skateboarding culture, and what it means to her to be a part of the community. Buy your copy of the book here.

Charlotte! What led you to publish a book about female skateboarders?

I’ve been a skateboarder since I was 16. A spinal injury at 29 meant I had to take a backseat. Not skating anymore left a huge hole in my life and I still wanted to be part of the scene even if I wasn’t skateboarding. So I decided to pick up a camera and start photographing my friends.

Initially, I didn’t know that many girl skaters. Until social media, you would literally only hear of another female skaters through word of mouth, through “the guys” or sometimes I’d see Lucy Adams or Lois Pendlebury in Sidewalk. When I saw these girls I was like wow!

The idea of the book came from my first photograph experience producing some work for Sidewalk, the UK skateboard mag. They asked me to photograph and interview pro-skater Stef Nurding. Spending the weekend with her and creating the images inspired the project.

This project was a chance for me to make new friends and give something back to the one thing that had given me so much freedom and self confidence throughout my life: skateboarding!

How did you initially get involved in the scene?

The skateboarding scene as a whole, I got into when I was at University in Leeds. I made most of my friends here. The girls scene was gradual; the first girl skaters I properly became friends with back in the mid 2000’s were Maria Falbo, Danielle Mellor, Lois Pendlebury and a girl called Jess (I’ve forgotten her surname, she would turn up at Hyde Park, Leeds in the summer). I finally met a crew of girls from all over the country when we went on the Mega Mission Tour with Jenna Selby in 2008.

In your eyes, why is skateboarding important?

Skateboarding isn’t cool or important as you put it, it’s the people who make skateboarding. Everyone I’ve ever met who skates holds these values in common: community, friendship, expression, commitment, talent, creativity, support, love.

Skateboarding! Its f**king great!

Paint a picture for us of your ideal session.

Sunny day but not too hot! With a cool breeze. Barcelona. Nice smooth spot where security guards let us skate with great buildings or features surrounding it. I love to compose a story in my shots — it’s not to everyone’s taste but I love the bigger picture when shooting a skater. Beers or sparkling water for me. Nice people pulling out great tricks. They don’t have to be big or bold but have a nice chilled, relaxed style; their own style. Pleasure to photograph!

After skate session go to the beach for a surf or chill, pizza or pasta with cocktails in the evenings with friends — this usually ends up being street beers but a girl can dream!

How did you go about curating the photography? Is it all your work?

This project is an independent project solely funded, photographed, created and produced by me. All photography is by me and the book was published by Girl Is Not A 4 Letter Word Publishing House, LA.

What do you hope to achieve with your book? How will it live on after its release?

I hope this book will proudly sit on many people’s shelves and will encourage a new generation of women or men to start skateboarding. It’s the first of its kind to document the UK female skateboarding scene and I’m very proud of it.

What’s been the easiest and hardest part of the process around getting the book to the printing press?

To be honest, it took me 5 years to find a publisher and it’s very expensive. Once you have these two things it’s actually really easy.

However, I had my books made in South Korea, which was frustrating as I couldn’t physically be there to watch over the finer details — that was all done by email. My publisher, Cindy Whitehead, was an absolute babe, very thorough and we managed to have great communication. Oh and getting 1,000 books through UK customs took months, that was frustrating!

Any thoughts on the huge increase in women in skateboarding these past few years?

I think its amazing. I wish when I was skating I had all these girls and social media around for inspiration and encouragement. The community now is massive and it seems to be growing week by week, which is really exciting.

Where do you see it all going?

To be honest, I’m not sure. I think it will continue to grow. I think the not knowing makes it exciting, let’s just see.

So what’s next in the more immediate future?

Once this book is released and I’ve had my gallery launch, I will be working on Concrete Girls Volume 2. This new book was made over a 5 year period — I didn’t know certain girls or even heard of them. Also, some girls didn’t want to be part of it (fair enough) and some had hangovers a lot, so I’m gutted I couldn’t include the entire country. However, I’m hoping Volume 1 will excite anyone I missed to get involved with part 2. Eventually I’d like 3 Volumes to add to Skateboarding History.

Any advice to girls out there who want to get into skateboarding?

What’s so nice is I have girls asking me for advice on how to get into it all the time. Confidence is the biggest obstacle for many of them, and I think a lot of girl skaters will say you just have to go out, try, be patient and have fun. It takes time, but the process is wonderful, plus you make loads of friends. Get out there!