Thoughts on the January Board Meeting – Richard M Marshall

Richard M Marshall

RichardMarshallI joined the Parkour UK board in 2020 as the Elected Director for Scotland. While I have only been training Parkour for three years, I have held various directorships for over two decades. Yes, I am at the older end of Parkour practitioners. You can follow my exploits on Instagram.

It is very gratifying to see the evolution in Parkour UK even in the short time I have been on the board. These last months have been reenergised and marked by renewed engagement with the community. I knew that our new CEO, Dan Newton, had been touring the country to meet and train with as many practitioners as possible. I knew that Chris and Omar had been clearing down backlogs of communication and putting in place the processes necessary for growth. However, I hadn’t realised quite the scale of activity and delivery of the exec team and the workforce subcommittee.

Parkour is all about us opening up to challenges and moving from our comfort zones, but the work of the development associates has taken this to a new level. Parkour is also about making movement accessible with a minimum of both skills and equipment making it an ideal subject for education. I was, therefore, delighted to hear about one group of associates that have been learning new skills and finding opportunities by working on building toolkits for schools. This has ranged from risk assessments to tools to enable schools to adopt Parkour to keep even the most reluctant kids and those with special needs moving. This is an area of great personal importance as I know that I would have loved Parkour at school instead of being put off all forms of sports for decades.

The next group of associates have been working on something else where I have a personal interest, university groups. This is personal as my daughter Sonia founded the Edinburgh University Parkour Club. The development associates have been discovering all the university clubs in the UK, surveying them to learn of their experiences and building tools to enable the founding of more and more clubs. These range for suggestion lists through to the inevitable risk assessments.

The last two groups of this brilliant cohort of associates are addressing our business sector that has, of course, been singularly badly hit during the pandemic. Two associates have put together a pack that contains an astounding thirty documents on how get started with a Parkour business. I was a tech entrepreneur for many years and fully recognise the value of these guides and templates to help people overcome the obstacles to starting and running a business, just as we overcome physical obstacles while training.

Another two associates have built a funding directory for both those looking to start new businesses and those struggling to survive through lockdown. From my experience in tech startups I know how this kind of support is essential to building a thriving Parkour ecosystem.

Such an ecosystem is key to both the mental and physical health of our countries and if ever there was a need for it, it is now. Sport England has just launched a strategy that is so closely aligned to that of Parkour UK they might have just copied it. Let me be clear: this is a good thing, a fantastic thing, as it focusses on the importance of movement for everyone from small children through to people older even than me. Lifelong activity is how we can all address the combined threats of obesity and loneliness.

richardmarshallReturning to Parkour UK business we were delighted that our Senior Independent Director Tracy Crouch was well enough to join the meeting. We are also starting to recruit a new Independent Chair in rotation from the long-service Stephen Mitchell. Supporting the school educational engagement mentioned above, we are working with Edinburgh-based Access Parkour on schools packages, benefiting from Access’s long-term engagement with schools throughout Scotland. The exec team have also been able to help London Sport drive funding into our community and bringing Parkour to a wider audience.

Last but absolutely not least, we covered the amazing work that Parkour UK has been doing in diversity and inclusion. I am very proud of the range of communities that Omar, Dan and Chris managed have brought together around Parkour, ensuring a welcome for everyone into our sport.