Not yet 20 years old, Jago Stock has known travel his whole life.
His two older siblings were born in India, a country that he’s visited often, and he never travels without a deck – or his camera. In June 2021, his twin passions came together in the most intense trip of his life: a six week volunteer placement in Jamaica. Arriving at Kingston’s new Freedom Skatepark (a Concrete Jungle Foundation project which THE SKATEROOM funded back in 2020), Jago started teaching photography, skating and set about filming for what would become the sensational Freedom To Flourish documentary.
Had he imagined what community he would find growing in the midst of a global pandemic? We wanted to find out.
Watch Jago’s film at the end of the interview.
Jago, tell us – how did you get involved with Concrete Jungle Foundation in Jamaica?
During lockdown in the UK, some kids close to me lost their dad due to COVID-19. Their mum got in contact with me, and I ended up teaching them skateboarding. That was the first time charity work and the impact of skateboarding on young children hit me. I wanted to do more of that, so I started researching. I found CJF, and reached out to TIm, and we got on really well. We wanted to make something happen. Originally, my plan was to volunteer and teach photography and film workshops at the Freedom Skatepark. There was no intention to make this film as such.
So this is mid lockdown. Must’ve been tough to figure out?
Yeah, it was super hard. I think it was January when I was first meant to go. But it got pushed back to June. But I finally managed to get out there, and straight off the bat it was clear that even through the turbulence of the pandemic this community had grown and flourished around Freedom Skatepark. That was when talk of a film began.
This was a year on from the build of Freedom Skatepark in Bull Bay, just outside Kingston. Didn’t a film already exist?
Yeah, so we had The Wave, a beautiful film by Julian Sonntag, which covers the birth of Freedom Skatepark, but I wanted to show the impact of the park now it was complete and a community had formed around it. Everyone had their own unique role in how to nourish the scene.
Yeah, you can see how some of the kids in The Wave have grown to become role models in Freedom To Flourish.
Yeah, the role models thing is so crucial for Freedom Skatepark – led by the older guys like Shama, Balla, Ivah and Frogboss…
“Even through the turbulence of the pandemic this community had grown and flourished around Freedom Skatepark.”
I’d never really come across people that inspiring. They’re ridiculous surfers, and they take those skills onto the skatepark. They’re so aware of their stance in the community and use that in such a powerful way. They inspire the children.
You were there for just over six weeks. Was that enough time to do it justice?
I thought I didn’t have enough time. But in retrospect it was so intense. We were filming pretty much every hour that I wasn’t teaching, it was relentless. We had to get all these interviews done while Tim was there, and on his last day I saw that I had to do three key interviews in a day. I was so stressed, but just like that everything came together. A blessing.
What was an average day like for you?
I was staying at Bay View with two other volunteers. So I’d wake up, organize the footage from the day before until 1pm. I would try and squeeze in a nice long walk if I had time. The food was unreal so that was a big part of my routine. Then I’d roll to the skatepark, teach or skate or film, and then at about 8pm, head to the beach or back to Bay View and work on the footage some more.
“We were filming pretty much every hour that I wasn’t teaching, it was relentless.”
But it was different everyday – there were new volunteers all the time doing different sorts of workshops, or the music sessions would be on…
Yeah! Jamrock – what’s that all about?
Krystyna, one of the other volunteers out there, was running these music sessions. And the “Energetic Nomads” – the next generation of kids in the area – were working with her, like, twice a week and then at the end went into the recording studio. They have so much raw talent. To see that come to life was huge.
The film really makes you want to be there and stay with that community. Is that the feeling you’re left with too, after those intense but beautiful weeks in Bull Bay?
That community was incredibly welcoming to us. I had quite a unique insight because I was skating with the kids. And I think in a broader sense it made me appreciate the power of skateboarding and how disarming it can be. Having that global culture of skateboarding, means you’re able to join them and be a part of the scene. I was invited to people’s gardens to share a mango, and talk about what was going on at the park. I don’t know how it would have been without that. It made me even more grateful to skateboarding, but it also made me grateful to live within this incredible community.
It’s a huge project for somebody who is still studying, no?
Yeah, but I was blessed. You know, I’m only 19, but thanks goes to Tim at CJF for putting faith in me and letting me do this project. Everything CJF does is incredible, and I align with it so deeply. To see that first hand was a beautiful experience, and doing this taught me so much.
Is this the first of many Jago Stock projects?
I want to continue to push this as far as I possibly can – it’s skateboarding and film colliding, which ticks so many boxes for me. I’m getting my head down at the moment for my studies, but I’m definitely going to work on more projects in the future.
What’s the message you want people to take away from your film?
I want people to see the scene in Jamaica, what is going on there within skateboarding is ridiculous – especially in such a short space of time. Keep your eyes peeled for shredders coming from there.
“Having that global culture of skateboarding, means you’re able to join them and be a part of the scene. I was invited to people’s gardens to share a mango, and talk about what was going on at the park.”
And I also just want to share skateboarding. People try to keep it exclusive, but the positive impact of sharing it and including people is huge. Getting more kids on skateboards… It teaches individuality, and that can be applied to the rest of your life. We need to share that.
Thanks for sharing your vision, Jago. It’s been real.
Photography by Jago Stock