Queer Parkour – Creating Safe Spaces within Our Community

Queer Parkour is a community-focused group, fronted by 4 members of the parkour, art du deplacement, and freerunning community who identify as LGBTQIA+.

Their four leads are dotted across the UK (and the world!), and they’re working to build a community, give a voice, and improve accessibility and experience for the LGBTQIA+ community in Parkour, Art du Deplacement, and Freerunning.

The four individuals who started Queer Parkour are Jia Wei @officialjiawei (he/she/they, Cardiff and team TOFU Parkour, Malaysia), Louiseanne @louiseannewong (she/they, team Esprit Concrete, London), Amy @dallex_ (she/her, Manchester) and Kel @kelglaister (she/her, Melbourne in Motion, Australia).

I arranged a call with the Queer Parkour group to learn a little bit more about their goals and ambitions.

The call was super insightful, I learned a lot from it, and seeing a proactive group of individuals want to make a change is super inspiring.

You can read more about Queer Parkour, and the conversation I had with them below!

Callun: What is this project, and how did the 4 of you come together to make this happen?

Louiseanne: I met Jia Wei online first actually, at Esprit Concrete’s Zoom Yamak Style Training during lockdown. Shahman from the Singapore parkour community linked us and we started chatting. We realised we both identified as part of the LGTBQIA+ community, and talked about how a lot of people in the world pronounce our names wrong, and it is indeed basics like names and pronouns that help people feel seen. So Jia Wei approached me with an idea – how about a community group that’s a centralised hub for queer people who do parkour, art du deplacement (ADD), and freerunning?

There are small chat rooms and groups on Facebook and Instagram (like ‘parqueer’ and ‘trans & nb pk pride🏳️‍🌈’), as social media can be a hub for people to chat, but there doesn’t seem to be a bigger hub for people to go to within our community with national policies and whatnot. So we thought, why can’t we do something about that?

We know some LGBTQIA+ people who do PK/ADD/FR around the world, and some seem ‘singular’. Why don’t we form something together to support these singular people which ultimately means the queer community? If we felt alone in our various pasts, then other queer people might feel alone too.

Jia Wei: It felt like there was a load of small, mini-groups, without substantial structure like a union. There doesn’t seem to be a unified community in which we could support each other, like the other way round to organisations recognising Pride campaigns, trans visibility days, etc. So with our Queer Parkour group, we are slowly building an agenda that creates support, for example, LGBTQIA+ awareness training and EDI policy specific to PK/ADD/FR, partnerships with LGBTQIA+ charities, etc.

Kel: It’s starting as a small community group, with the idea of expanding into regions and worldwide. I moderate the Women’s channel of Parkour Earth, and Mish (NZ) moderates the LGBTQ+ channel there. We’ve started building connections with the Australian Parkour Association and Aotearoa New Zealand, and knowing the United States Parkour Association (USPK) has already started making a change with their recent Trans Inclusion Policy for Parkour competitions (click here), we are keen to collaborate as we grow.

We want to start the hub in the UK, but we want to eventually empower communities worldwide. Parkour, Art du Deplacement, and Freerunning are all-inclusive disciplines, and nobody is alone in this. We come together, we train together, and start and finish together like how the Yamakasi founders began.

Louiseanne: We started combining our knowledge and lived experience on what hasn’t worked well so far in the Queer community for us 4, what we’ve heard from fellow friends in the community, and these motivated us to shape our values. For instance, Amy has a lot of insight in terms of the competition side of things and her experience, and we would love to translate this into an inclusion policy recognised in the UK, seeking support from governing bodies like Parkour UK and USPK. Basically putting lessons learned from our lived experience onto a legit bit of paper and making a change that way.

Callun: Am I right in thinking you have something going on with Fluidity Freerun at the moment?

Jia Wei: I run the Cardiff community group (Queer Parkour Instagram), we just started back in April, but interest has really been picking up. We’ve been collaborating with Fluidity and now we have a bespoke membership with them!

Weekly, we get about 10 people, there are regulars and there are new members. Our latest session had 5 new people come in, and there are regular inquiries coming in. Cardiff has a really proactive community, there are Queer skate communities and Queer football clubs, and now the LGBT+ Sports Network Wales has also invited us to join as well, so things are picking up in the Cardiff area.

Fluidity said that once we have enough people, we will be able to run bespoke LGBT+ sessions, and we are liaising with a traceur named Jake Hurley, who has done some outdoor sessions together with us. We always train in Fluidity, and it is nice to offer our members opportunities to train outside to utilise skills learned in the gym!

You can see the community feel in our photos on Instagram @queerparkourcardiff, all the smiling faces, some who are incredibly new to Parkour. We’re all coming together to learn a new thing. It’s a baby which came out of the four of us’ discussion, that will slowly branch out to different areas.

Queer Parkour Cardiff jam at Fluidity Freerun, April. Photo by Jia Wei Lee.

Callun: What Does The Membership with Fluidity Freerun Entail?

Jia Wei: I sought out opinions from the Queer community first, and then I found out that we actually had a substantial amount of people interested in starting a Queer Parkour community in Cardiff. So I started liaising with Otis Larkins, the Operations Manager of Fluidity Freerun Academy. Because a lot of our members are asylum seekers and refugees, and we’re very intersectional (trans, neurodivergent, disabled, etc.), lots really wanted to learn and try parkour – we reached out to Otis to see if we could have a bespoke parkour membership, that can give these people a chance to try parkour at an affordable rate.

Otis then curated this membership for us that includes 8 hours of either open sessions, “Funky Fridays” which is a creative movement class, and soon – bespoke LGBT+ sessions specialised for the group. You can choose to join any session you want, and it’s affordable for all members. It’s an inclusive way for those who might want to join Parkour, but it might be too expensive for them, so it allows them to come and experience parkour and find community there. It’s worked for us really well so far.

It’s early stages, but you can really see the community and the friendships growing. I live to see this, where people of kindred spirits come together, train, and strive together.

Callun: Is this something you can see other gyms adapting? As it develops, would you work with other gyms to create a similar sort of thing?

Jia Wei: That’s one of the things that Queer Parkour wants to do. As well as being a community hub, we want to have resources that are able to inform teams and gyms to help them be more inclusive. We don’t want to just be there to exist as something that just runs events once or twice a year. We want to be able to support the community to its fullest. That’s why we are taking it slow and steady, to make sure we are able to know exactly what documents we want to draft, what infrastructures already exist and what is lacking, and which organisations share similar visions so we collaborate with them and make this something that can be as sustainable and drive itself for the long run.

Amy: I want to take this to a place where it serves a purpose. An infrastructure that allows different avenues for diverse members to have a safe space, including policy routes and a hub that the community can go to when faced with discrimination. At the moment, it seems that no one is held accountable when discrimination happens at events and there is no support for either party, it sucks. I do feel like there needs to be somewhere you can go to, and that they have your back in that sense. Having small community groups isn’t enough. What happens if you’re excluded, or challenged away from these groups? Where do you go from there? It will be cool to have some involvement with that. I’d also love to branch out, like finding funding to help people afford trainers/shoes for parkour. It will enable them to participate in the sport that way.

Having an infrastructure can support many other avenues too like Parkour-related jobs, such as an athlete. What if you’re discriminated against on set? What support do you have? Having something like this in place would be great.

Louiseanne: I echo that. We want to take the time to do our field research. How many of these small communities are there, and can we chat with them? It might be a tall order but it’s essential for inclusion no? Find out what this region’s community saying, what is that community saying, etc. When things go big, they tend to go general which has pros and cons, especially when being a queer person your lived experience is so personal. We want to minimise people feeling left out, so we want to engage with individual communities.

Amy: Some things that we want to implement may not necessarily be right, and some people may not agree with it. Their input is important, as they could potentially bring something greater to this that we previously overlooked. I think it would be wrong to jump straight into it, without speaking to the people/community it affects. 

Louiseanne: Yeah, speaking to the people, for the people. As much as it is about empowering people to integrate into a group, it is also about encouraging the group to provide a more inclusive environment. I vouch for the values Esprit Concrete stands for. Take their annual event (pre-covid) Les Dames du Mouvement for example. Their aim is to open up a safe space for everybody regardless of their background, experience, gender, identity, age, faith, etc, encouraging all to come together. Representation matters, true integration takes time and effort but is not impossible.

Esprit Concrete Les dames du Mouvement event 2019 photo by Joanna Markiewicz

Amy: It’s the perfect way to go. In Manchester, we have the Proud Trust. I don’t know if they branch out elsewhere, but they’re a big LGBT+ group in Manchester. I’ve always wanted to offer parkour sessions with people like that, but this is why it’s such a big thing to take it at a steady pace and not rush things for Queer Parkour. This is important, especially when it comes to the legality side of things. There’s big stuff planned, but it wouldn’t be fair to jump straight into that.

Louiseanne: Starting from finding out what’s already happening, asking people who attend jams/ events/ city takeover / structured classes / open gym sessions/competitions, like the upcoming Manchester Women’s and Enby jam run by Amy, about what they would like to see in the future, how are they currently being supported as a queer person, and what’s missing for them.

Manchester Women’s and NB Jam 2023 design by Amy Harcourt.

Following the call with the Queer Parkour group, we discussed the next steps, and what Parkour UK can do to help.

Parkour UK is working with Queer Parkour to get some information and guidance on our website with useful resources, links, and helplines for the queer parkour community. This can be expected to go live on the website soon.

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Movement Park in Glasgow Job Roles

Movement Park in Glasgow currently has two roles advertised which incorporate Parkour into their wider development – Community Officer and Pathways Officer.

These roles may be suited to a person who has experience of Parkour, but also of working in youth or community development.

You can see the Ads and Role Descriptions Below:

  • Community Officer Ad
  • Community Officer Role Description
  • Pathways Officer Ad
  • Pathways Officer Role Description
  • For more information visit movementpark.org.uk

    Welcome Tracy

    At our September board meeting we welcomed Tracy Rea to Parkour UK, replacing Steve Mitchell as the independent chair of Parkour UK.

    Tracy was appointed through open recruitment and voted on by our members. The specialist skills that the appointment was based on are leadership, governance, understanding of the sports landscape in the UK and people & workforce. Parkour UK worked with Sam Coppack and his ‘Parkour Coach Companion’ podcast to produce an interview with Tracy which covers many angles.

    • Who are you what is your background?
    • What is the appeal of parkour and Parkour UK for you?
    • What Parkour have you seen / what do you understand?
    • What do you think are the immediate priorities?
    • With your understanding of the sports sector, what are the opportunities for Parkour UK?
    • How are you considering the importance of the community….how do you want to see this evolve?

    The interview can be heard in full on YouTube here and on Spotify here. Please note that it was recorded in August 2021.

    Colleagues on the board and the executive team are pleased to welcome Tracy to Parkour UK and are excited about the future.  

    Recruitment: Senior Independent Director

    Parkour UK are delighted to open recruitment for a new role within our Board.

    We are looking for a new independent director to
    enhance the leadership, governance and
    understanding of the sports landscape in the UK.

    In addition applicants with skills and experience in at
    least one of the following areas:
    • Finance
    • Legal
    • Risk
    • Income Generation

    If you are interested please download the recruitment pack here. 

    Job Description:

    Reporting to: Chair – Parkour UK

    Duration: An initial four year term, with the possibility of a second four year term

    Remuneration: Voluntary position (reasonable travel and accommodation expenses paid)

    Location: Parkour UK do not have any offices. Board meetings have been held virtually during the pandemic, a return to physical meetings will be considered by the new board and will likely centre on London. 

    Frequency: The full board meet 4 times per year and sub-committees / working groups meet 2-4 times per year.

    Role purpose: To support the chair to provide inclusive and inspirational leadership and guidance, stepping in when the chair is not available and supporting the executive team with sub-committee agendas.

    Parkour UK Return to Move Guidance

    We understand this is an incredibly tough and confusing time for our members, coaches and gym owners around the UK. In 2021 as gyms re-opened there were frequent changes to lockdown conditions – nationally and locally. 
    Updated February 2022

    The majority of the UK has moved to minimal restrictions or the removal of restrictions in 2022. 

    Our overall advice at this stage would be to learn from previous restrictions and make decisions based on the safety of your coaches and customers with which you are comfortable. As a business owner or coach you have the right to put measures in place that you think are right for your business, and have the right to deny participation to those who will not adhere to your guidance and measures.

    We have now removed the regularly update guidance for each of the 4 nations. If you need specific advice please contact us with questions. 

    Our COVID toolkit with in depth advice around coaching, classes and venues will remain available. 

    It is important to remember that the COVID virus is still prevalent across the country and Parkour UK will fully support any measures that any organisations decide to keep in place. 

    Here in our Return to Move page we are supporting members in a number of ways:

    • A Parkour & COVID toolkit – this is a downloadable file of examples of best practice from a number of our members of risk assessments, coaches guidance and other examples. These are free to use and adapt for your own gym.
    • Regular updates of general guidance from Parkour UK.
    • Links to the UK and devolved nation’s live guidance, and that of the corresponding sports bodies

    Please note that these are general recommendations and you should refer to guidance regarding any local lockdowns in your area which may have further restrictions. 

    Current live guidance from governments and sports bodies: 

    The UK government and each of the devolved Nations have the latest and frequently updated guidelines available, and we would encourage individuals and organisations to look at the relevant local guidelines in the first instance for implementation.   

    Feel free to contact us directly if you have a specific question or need. 

    Farewell Mitch

    The AGM on Thursday will signal the end of the Steve Mitchell’s time as independent chairman of Parkour UK. Mitch has led the board through the early years of development, from February 2013 – July 2021 within which time recognition of governing body status in the UK and funds to employ an executive team were achieved.

    Parkour UK have worked with Sam Coppack and his ‘Parkour Coach Companion’ podcast to produce a interview with Mitch which covers many angles.

    • What was / has been the appeal of parkour and Parkour UK for you?
    • What have been the key moments of the 9 years that you have been Chair of Parkour UK?
    • What have you learnt personally from parkour and lifestyle sport?
    • Are any of those insights transferable to other parts of the sport sector?
    • Knowing what you know now, are there any situations that you would have managed differently?
    • What do you think the future looks like for Parkour UK?
    • What is the future for you?

    The interview can be heard in full on YouTube here and on Spotify here. Some highlights are:

    Parkour & lifestyle sports vs traditional sport (29:17 – 30:04)

    “It has made me look at traditional sport in a different way. We don’t always get it right in this country or globally. Does a modern sport offer in a local community truly represent the society its trying to engage? I am not sure it does. And that is where the informal, the fun, the social, the pop up when you can, play when you can, move when you can, and you don’t need to ask permission, you don’t need to join a group and you don’t have to attend a session. That is society reflective. You guys, your generation and the generations pre and post you in terms of the parkour community have grown up trying to shape a different narrative.”

    Practitioner Opportunity (58:21 – 58:38)

    “If there is one thing that the parkour community have taught me from day one, you are prepared to be resilient, be determined, overcome barriers and challenges. So apply the parkour mindset to jobs, career, life and societal contributions.”

    Recognition – Biggest Achievement (21:40 – 22:23)

    “The single biggest thing that we have achieved as a community and that I have been hugely proud to be part of is receiving recognition. The recognition journey was brutal. People will never truly understand what went on behind the scenes to get there. I think that the staging post globally of parkour to be recognised and legitimised as a sport, activity, discipline, movement and Parkour UK to be the first recognised national governing body is something that everybody should be inherently proud of.”

    Impact on me personally (30:14 – 30:57)

    “The connections that I have been able to make behind the scenes, that have allowed conversations to happen, absolutely are based on the learning of meeting and greeting, seeing the power and action of what the community can do. Its not always been unequivocally in the right direction and alongside my value set, but the majority of time and with the majority of people it has been a brilliant personal experience. Has definitely shaped how I will be a father, how ultimately I will try and apply what I have learnt in everything I do moving forward.”

    Parkour UK would like to thank Mitch for his commitment over the years and wish him well for the future.