History of Crawley Parkour

Crawley Borough Council’s Arts Development team received funding from The Arts Council of England in 2004 for a Parkour and dance project to engage boys with dance and physical activity.

In 2006, Crawley Borough Council (CBC) began working with The Urban Playground (UPG) team, a Brighton-based company which has provided a range of Parkour workshop programmes at K2 Crawley and in community settings around Crawley.

UPG were commissioned to design the Parkour Training Area (PKTA) in the Pocket Park on Breezehurst Drive, Bewbush. The PKTA, which opened in 2009, was one of the first Parkour training parks in the country at the time and has proven to be a hit with young people in and around Crawley.

Young Crawley residents, Drew Ratcliff and Josh Lee, were on the first UPG workshop programme in early 2006. Aged just 11 at the time, they were practising Parkour, having seen it on the internet and were “hanging around” the streets, but by their own admission they were not practising safe Parkour.

Drew and Josh have moved on since then, leading many Parkour training workshops at K2 Crawley and Bewbush PKTA since 2013, having attained level 2 and level 1 official coaching accreditation respectively, with the national governing body for the activity, Parkour UK. Drew and Josh have been continuously supported by Freedom Leisure and CBC to deliver workshops in Crawley and to set up a local Parkour committee in 2015, in order to sustain long-term development of the activity.

Drew received a £175 award, for being one of the best coaches in the County for a Sportivate project (a Sport England funding initiative administered by County Sports Partnerships, which aims to engage with “non-sporty” young people aged 11-25 years). This enabled him to subsidise the cost of attending a strength and conditioning course, which helped him to personally develop his coaching and fitness levels further.

With funding from Active Sussex via its Sportivate scheme, a series of taster sessions and six-week Parkour programmes were organised from September 2013-March 2014.

The first course took place outdoors (held at Crawley Borough Council’s purpose-built Parkour training area) on various Monday evenings and Saturday mornings during September. 10 young people aged 12-25 years attended all the sessions, during which they received an introduction to the safe practice of Parkour activity and basics of Parkour, developing specific techniques safely and improving spatial awareness, self confidence and esteem. These sessions were run in partnership with the Brighton-based UPG.

Two more courses then took place indoors (held in the gymnastics hall at K2 Crawley) on various Friday evenings between October 2013 and March 2014. We were overwhelmed with enquiries and as a result, had to create two separate age group sessions to accommodate the level of demand for the first course. 37 young people took part in the taster sessions, 34 of which then went on to take part in the course. The post-Christmas course engaged with a further 11 young people at the taster session, with 14 actually attending the course. This meant that the project engaged with 51 young people, during which they received an introduction to the safe practice of Parkour activity and basics of Parkour, developing specific techniques safely and improving spatial awareness, self confidence and esteem.

A pleasing point to note was that there was good representation from older teenagers, with a significant percentage of participants being aged between 14-16 years, often a hard age group to attract. Another very positive aspect was the huge improvement in confidence and self-esteem of the group.

A Sportsleader UK Parkour leadership award was held at the outdoor training facility at Bewbush in May 2014. This was run by a tutor from the activity’s national governing body – Parkour UK. Due to the financially “deprived” nature of the local area, the normal course price of £55 was heavily subsidized to just £10, thanks to partnership funding from Sportsleaders UK, FL and CBC. 6 young people attended, which has since encouraged some of them to become young coaches, aiding sustainability further.

The tremendous impact that Parkour has had on young people, received high profile acknowledgment and recognition in 2014, winning “Best Sportivate Project” at the Sussex Sports Awards:

In 2015, FL and CBC were shortlisted for a national UK Active Flame Award, in the category of “Shaping Young Lives” – this is further significant and widespread recognition of the success and impact of Parkour in and around Crawley.

In 2015, a constituted Parkour committee was established (overseen by CBC/FL), allowing young people to take ownership and decisions about the future of Parkour in Crawley. It enabled us to apply for funding to put on regular and all-year round sessions and events. A facebook page for Crawley Parkour was also set up, to provide a higher profile and wider means of communication for participants interested in the activity. This now has approaching 700 followers: www.facebook.com/crawleyparkour

In 2016, Freedom Leisure introduced after-school Parkour sessions to year 5 and 6 students at local Primary schools. This offer was taken up by 4 schools, with sessions running at most of them throughout the school year. This has engaged with up to 15 different children at each school, some of which have then progressed on to our community sessions.

The school sessions have made particular impact amongst students with autism, as seen in the testimonial from a teacher (see our testimonials page).

2016 also saw further expansion of Parkour, by creating a “Doorstep Club1” club – a weekly session aimed at young people aged 14 years+ (to engage with an age group which traditionally has a high drop-off rate in sport and physical activity). This was possible, thanks to £1k funding from StreetGames UK.

The number of participants grew so much that in 2016, it was needed to introduce a wider range of sessions. This now includes 5-8 years beginner, 9-13 years beginner, intermediate, 14 years+ and even an adult class! Up to 90 participants take part each week.

In 2016, three talented participants were identified as future leaders/coaches, with two of them being sent on a Parkour leadership award session in London and the other being sent to complete a four-day Level 1 accredited coach course. This has allowed local young people to lead more sessions, responding to the increased demand for Parkour.

In late 2016, it became clear that there was sufficient demand to start up a full-time operation in Crawley. To do this, however, a lot of work was needed to enable a self-sustaining operation to take place. So the existing committee then spent a year paying for local young people to become officially accredited as Parkour UK coaches (1 level 2 coach, 2 male level 1 coaches, 1 female level 1 coach), investigating warehouses, costs and funding options. In January 2017, Sport England recognised Parkour as an official sport, which was fantastic recognition for the activity and all the hard work that had gone in around the country to make it so. This added further momentum and validation for a larger-scale operation in Crawley.

In June 2017, the organisation became a Community Interest Company – Crawley Parkour CIC, so that it could become an independent business entity (whilst of course continuing to work closely with CBC and FL), whilst promoting all the values and objectives required to benefit the local community positively. 3 Directors were appointed (see our “meet the team” section for more details) and in February 2018, our business launched at a warehouse in Ifield (owned by CBC) to become the only purpose-built indoor operation of its kind in the whole County – proof yet again of Crawley leading the way with sport and leisure provision.