A group of Haverhill freerunners is calling for facilities in town which, they say, could help get young people off the streets.
Dawid Kierkowski and Harrison Fernandez of Haverhill-based parkour group, SVB Parkour, said there needs to be better understanding of their sport if young people are to be encouraged to take part without risking their safety.
They said that, because of the stigma surrounding free running, with its being associated with trespassing, young people are being forced to put themselves at risk without adequate support.
“We are trying to make a good name for free running,” said Dawid. “It’s about freedom of movement, not breaking the law. We get blamed for things that other people have done. We’ve never done any damage.”
Dawid was responding to warnings from the police to freerunners, urging them to stay off the town’s rooftops.
“You don’t need to put yourself at risk,” said Harrison. “There are gym sessions for free running at the leisure centre. They’re on between 3pm and 4pm on Saturday.
“There are older free runners there who can support new people. We’re more than happy to help young people.
“They say it’s dangerous, but it’s only dangerous if you take a silly risk.
“If you are working in the gym and you know what you can and can’t do, you’re less likely to make a mistake.”
The pair called for a designated parkour park in Haverhill, citing the sport’s increasing popularity in the town, as well as the success of similar ventures in King’s Lynn and Stevenge as reasons to invest in the project.
Parkour and freerunning incorporate a number of different disciplines, all characterised by using gymnastic moves and urban features to take the quickest route from A to B, using the landscape of cities and towns as obstacles.
Practitioners run, climb and vault over different features to achieve this.
Parkour is more straight forward, while free running puts an extra emphasis on tricks and gymnastic prowess.
“It’s a spiritual thing,” said Dawid. “It’s about freedom, not just freedom of movement.
“When I came to the country, I couldn’t speak much English.
“I saw a group doing freerunning and I went up to them and did a back flip.
“They accepted me straight away and it gave me a great sense of belonging to a community.
“Freerunners always help and support eachother.”