For those of you who may not be aware, Horsham Council has moved to "Ban" Parkour in Horsham based on accusations of trespass, damage and disrespect to its public spaces, namely low roofing in the area. Below are a few articles to read around this news. (Please note news sources often describe Parkour inaccurately, so take things with a pinch of salt)
I just wanted to comment on a few aspects of this issue, sharing my views of 12 years of personal practice, coaching and community building and guiding within the Parkour scene in the UK.
This blog post goes out to Traceur and non-practitioner alike to help shed some perspective and hopefully help us collectively come to some middle ground and mutual understanding.
1. Respect for the environment:
Parkour is a practice to help individuals overcome obstacles with movement, developing skills and understanding to improve oneself. - Obstacles and environments are an integral part of our discipline, without them we do not grow, develop, learn, engage, make choices etc. The UK community (as the vast majority) has always sung from the same sheet in that we look after the spaces we use. Damage can and may occur, even in respectful practice, but we do all we can to "leave no trace" and where possible make the space cleaner to be enjoyed not ruined.
I'll call it outright here, if you aren't working with the spaces you are using, treating them with respect (ultimately they are helping YOU improve, learn and grow) but sorry, that's not Parkour. You wouldn't slap someone in the face for doing you a kind thing or teaching you something, don't do it to the spaces you are in.
To me, accessing roofing to "train" or move across is an unnecessary height risk, trespass which obviously brings negative links to whatever you are doing - Parkour or not (Unless you own the space you are on). From a common sense aspect... roofing is generally not built for humans to be jumping and landing on, putting yourself at further risk of damage to self and property.
It's quite clear what practitioners should and shouldn't be doing, non-Parkour organisations need to take care not to tar everyone with the same brush. Parkour groups, organisations and individuals on the other hand, do need to consider their actions and the messages they propagate. Parkour can be very effectively practiced low, at ground level... those with social reach and a wide audience, need to remember that they are looked up to and set the example that others may follow. We can all indirectly, negatively impact other's understanding by what, where and how we do what we do.
You can't control how people perceive your actions but you can do small things to help them not get the wrong end of the stick. If you take steps to reduce the chance that people could take your message badly, you've at least done something and this is something we try to do with our content and coaching. We try to ensure that people understand what they're doing, not just encouraging/engaging an interest with little or no further guidance.
2. Parkour is PRO-SOCIAL.
The Horsham "ban" has been procured under a Public Space Protection Order, on grounds of antisocial behaviour.... Really...?
The above link documents photos of our, first-hand experience of communities from across the UK and Europe coming together, regardless of gender, race, age or background; sharing their own experiences for the greatest collective good.
This, ultimately has lead to an NGB establishment, coaching qualifications, formal recognition as a practice in it's own right (or very soon at least) and THOUSANDS of lives improved and brought together by movement.
We learn together, support each other and has been the ethos of Parkour's inception, be strong to be useful; having skills and using them for the benefit of others.
3. Criminalising physical activity.
Get Active, Change 4 Life, This Girl Can, Sportivate and Get Britain Standing are just a few national campaigns to encourage people to be more physical. This part of the "ban" is by far one of the most ridiculous aspects of using the PSPO in my opinion.
I understand the need to do something, I personally agree that IF people are damaging property and this can be adequately evidenced that certain individuals or groups are in fact responsible, then I'm all for the council doing SOMETHING and short time, this may make a positive impact in terms of protecting property and spaces. This is one of the main criticisms from the local Horsham Parkour community, is that it isn't practitioners but others who access places in a disrespectful manner.
Physical inactivity is a growing epidemic, costing the Council, NHS, Government and us all billions in taxes. Anything we can do to make people more active, more self sufficient and in ways that cost very little money (Parkour is a cheap practice), we should be bending over backwards to accommodate and develop, over ban and isolate..
As much as the news has quoted another person who has quoted £36,000 worth of damage, to what extent is this price tag other potential factors which damage property, heavy rain, extreme heat or cold, high winds and time. Older properties with older materials require updating with time and this does come with a price tag.
To put a blanket ban on Parkour in an area has happened before in places across the UK, this isn't the first, but this is the first (from my research and awareness) that a PSPO has been used specifically targeting Parkour. Parkour benefits in terms of social development, individual improvement (physical, mental and emotional), economic (as Parkour coaching and organisations find their place in a business context) and philosophically. As Dr Julie Angel shared via her interview with the BBC, we need to have the discussion about how we interact with our spaces, how they are designed.... and this is where the problem seems to lay in my opinion.
Rather than educating, communicating with communities (a pro-social activity) a Council has made a possibly rash decision from a narrow viewpoint and avoiding something to try and make it a solution.
Instead of understanding the many benefits Parkour and Parkour communities can offer the WIDER community, criminalising a mostly caring, considerate and respectful group of people who believe in sharing and supporting others through positive and self-developing activities.
I'm aware that Parkour UK are working to create this dialogue and ensure a greater level of understanding from all sides of the "issue" and come to a positive solution for all.