Parkour’s Road to Recognition
Today sees one of the most significant, if not the most significant, announcements in the short history of our discipline of parkour. For today parkour becomes the first new sport to be recognised formally for something like 30 years in the UK! Parkour UK is now recognised by all the Sport Councils of the UK as the National Governing Body for Parkour / Freerunning.
This is an amazing step, and can’t be overstated. It’s the first time ANY country in the world has recognised parkour in a formal capacity, and it means the activity now has the same status as sports like football, gymnastics, rugby and tennis. It means parkour can be brought into any school’s sporting curriculum or Phys-Ed classes, and that the discipline will now be able to receive proper funding to boost engagement and delivery across the country. In short, it’s huge.
Parkour UK has its origins some 10 years back, when Parkour Generations founders Dan, Forrest and Stephane collaborated with the City of Westminster’s Sports Unit and the visionary Eugene Minogue there to create a body which would be able to protect the interests of parkour and the community amidst the many pressures of modern society. What isn’t known is just how much work went in behind the scenes for the first few years, entirely voluntarily, by Eugene, Dan, Forrest and Stephane to lay the foundations. Dealing with enormous amounts of red tape and bureaucracy encountered every step of the way, including initial resistance from established organisations like British Gymnastics, the founders of Parkour UK had to work tirelessly to educate and inform a highly misinformed world about the reality of the transformative practice that is parkour.
It was long, hard work, with no reward and even opposition from elements of the parkour community that did not fully understand the implications of not taking these steps and taking them carefully and well. Had the founders not pushed so hard and so long to achieve recognition in spite of this opposition, parkour would now be governed by the gymnastics organisations and inevitably would have been mismanaged and eventually swallowed up by a sport that is actually diametrically different to the concept of parkour. These elements all now fully support the NGB, most have become member organisations and some even went on to sit on the Board.
The now-global ADAPT Parkour Coaching Qualifications were a central pillar of the growing credibility of parkour in the UK, as the seamless high quality delivery of these certification courses by tutors like Dan and Forrest, and later by veteran practitioners like Chris ‘Blane’ Rowat and Chris Keighley, made the sports coaching world sit up and take notice. Indeed, Sport England once relayed that parkour had the most robust and complete set of coaching qualifications amongst any sport in the UK! The Parkour UK ADAPT Qualifications went on to become accredited via 1st4Sport Qualifications, the major accrediting body for sport coaching in the UK, and from there ADAPT went on to be adopted around the world.
This quality delivery of certifications, workshops, events, courses and classes by our founding members combined with the incredible persistence and problem-solving skills of one Eugene Minogue at Westminster to overcome every obstacle thrown in the path of Parkour UK. Emulating the core principle of parkour – to adapt to any obstacle and find a way to surpass it – the founders of Parkour UK refused to give up, even when faced with literally years of, sometimes understandable, delays from the governmental sporting authorities. It took more than 9 years of constant work and consistent delivery of parkour, jumping through every hoop and passing every test, for recognition to occur. Nine years.
And it took more than just skill at parkour and at coaching and a wizard of the sporting institution in Mr. Minogue. The team at PKGen built the original websites for Parkour UK, developed the social media, even designed the very logo that is now the official brand of the NGB, using silhouettes of PKGen founder Stephane Vigroux in action! Little known fact: we also came up with the name for London’s LEAP Parkour Park – the London Experience of Art du deplacement and Parkour! This amazing structure was the largest parkour facility anywhere in the world for many years, the first major facility in the UK, and was entirely designed by Parkour Generations and installed by one of our manufacturing partners Freemove. We still use it today for classes and events, and it’s very fitting that LEAP hosted the official announcement event today with the Parkour UK Board meeting Minister for Sport Tracey Crouch for press calls and photo shoots.
The contributions of individuals like film-maker Julie Angel and photographer Andy ‘Kiell’ Day also deserve mention, as it was their coverage of those early years that put the work of Parkour Generations and Parkour UK in the public eye to such great effect. Julie’s Jump Westminster documentary about the City of Westminster / Parkour Generations social inclusion project in the inner city raised eyebrows at many levels of the sport authorities, and Andy’s photography appeared in just about every newspiece and magazine article on parkour for years. We’d also like to tip the hat to the legendary Mike Christie, maker of the seminal Jump London and Jump Britain documentaries which quite literally put parkour on the map. Little known fact #2: Mike actually came up with the name Parkour Generations!
Veteran practitioners like Chris ‘Blane’ Rowat, Chris Keighley and Johann Vigroux also stepped up to take seats on the Board when needed, devoting their time, knowledge and experience on an entirely voluntary basis, again. Eventually Independent Directors were brought on board to help guide the ship through the complicated waters of corporate formation and governance, including Joy Tottman, Steve Mitchell and Dominic Edginton, who generously donated their time and energy to help take this unprecedented step, and Bridget Kight who operated as Company Secretary for a spell. More recently Catherine Baker and Mark Abberley were brought in as Independent Directors to contribute in the final run-up towards recognition. And through it all, the steadfast tenacity of Eugene Minogue was simply awesome.
It truly was a team effort by a very few highly dedicated individuals, and for that we and the entire parkour community owe a huge debt of thanks.
PRINCIPLES AND PHILOSOPHY
It’s important amongst the current fanfare to remember why Parkour UK was founded in the first place: that being to protect, preserve, promote and disseminate the philosophy and practice of parkour to any and all who want to learn, and to support the parkour community in its activities and growth. It’s important that we as a community don’t lose sight of that, when faced with the new set of pressures that come with being a fully recognised discipline in its own right. The Olympics is sponsored by Coca Cola and McDonalds, and it’s difficult to think of two less health-oriented brands! The founders of Parkour UK enshrined in its very foundations the tenet that it would never work with brands, products or organisations that are counter to the holistic, life-affirming healthy living principles of parkour. To this date Parkour UK, much like Parkour Generations, has never broken that code, something we are all very proud of. Integrity is found in actions, not words. Going forwards it’s our sincere belief that the future Boards of Parkour UK will keep to these principles, and that the Governors will keep a watchful eye on the philosophy being central to everything the NGB does.
Two of the founders, Stephane Vigroux and Francois ‘Forrest’ Mahop, have since stepped back from their guiding roles at Parkour UK and become Governors, while Eugene Minogue remains Chief Executive and Dan Edwardes is still an Elected Director until mid-2017. The current Board has been expanded and represents the now-diverse and broad UK parkour community, with members such as Dan Timms of Jump PK, Craig Robinson of Fluidity Freerun in Wales and Gordon Tsang of Access Parkour in Scotland bringing great enthusiasm and energy to their roles, and a true passion for parkour. Our own mighty Shirley Darlington-Rowat is a #ThisGirlCan #SheCanTrace Ambassador for Parkour UK, meeting and introducing parkour to DCMS Sports Minister Tracey Crouch only last year. We think parkour is in good hands.
This is a truly monumental achievement, something the founders and early builders of Parkour UK envisaged a decade ago and worked steadfastly towards. We think the efforts of those individuals should be acknowledged properly for the epic accomplishment they have brought about and we’d like to offer a sincere and profound THANK YOU to everyone who contributed to the creation, development and success of Parkour UK. You’ve done the community and the discipline proud and this achievement belongs to all of you.
Here’s to the future!