COMMUNITY FEATURE: Unique plan to use parkour to tackle youth nuisance in south Sheffield

Shops at The Terminus Initiative.
Shops at The Terminus Initiative.

'There is nothing for us to do around here.'

It is an age old claim often made by youths as a way of explaining away why they have done something that they probably shouldn't have.

Coun Bob Pullin with Lorian Biet and Pawel van der Steen at Greenhill Park. Picture: Glenn Ashley.

Coun Bob Pullin with Lorian Biet and Pawel van der Steen at Greenhill Park. Picture: Glenn Ashley.

And nobody has heard it more than councillor Bob Pullin.

For more than 20 years he sat as a youth magistrate in Sheffield and has presided over hundreds upon hundreds of cases involving the city's disaffected youth.

But in coun Pullin, these rebellious youngsters now have an unlikely ally.

For 18 months ago he decided he had heard enough excuses about teenage boredom and decided to do something about it.

The Michael Church.

The Michael Church.

He was elected as a Liberal Democrat councillor for Beauchief and Greenhill last May. And now he is on a personal mission to make sure that the young people in his constituency - covering areas including Jordanthorpe, Batemoor, Lowedges, Beauchief and Greenhill - always have something safe and fun to do, so there can be no excuse for nuisance behaviour.

He said: “Not many people get into politics at the age of 74 so you'd better have a good reason.

“Mine is to tackle youth nuisance. When young people say they have nothing to do they often have a point.

“We quite rightly organise lunches for elderly people, and play sessions for mother and toddlers, but young people, particularly teenagers, also need to be served.”

The LBJ Centre.

The LBJ Centre.

It was one particular case when sitting as a magistrate that made him take action.

He said: “A 15-year-old boy had started smoking cannabis. He then got recruited by the drug dealers, got mugged and didn't have the money for the dealers so they beat him up.

“He came into my court with his hands bandaged and bloodied, and it was said said there was a lack of things to do which led him down the wrong path.

“This really resonated with me."

Youngsters at the parkour site in Endcliffe Park.

Youngsters at the parkour site in Endcliffe Park.

He has now teamed up with Lorean Biet and Pawel Van Der Steen, of the Sheffield Parkour Movement, to launch plans to bring parkour - a form of exercise which involves leaping between obstacles - to communities in south Sheffield.

Together they plan to introduce a 10 week indoor parkour course to run between January and April next year at either Gresley Road Committee Rooms in Lowedges, Lowedges Batemoor Jordanthorpe Community Forum Centre or The Michael Church in Lowedges.

They are in talks with community leaders at all three to see which is most suitable.

And if the sessions prove successful, they hope to establish a permanent parkour centre at Greenhill Park.

While it may seem an unlikely partnership, they have teamed up before for a similarly successful scheme to launch a parkour court in Endcliffe Park.

Coun Pullin said: “This is a very well used site and I believe it is the only dedicated outdoor one in South Yorkshire.

"If we can create something similar, but perhaps even more elaborate, in Greenhill Park then that would be fantastic."

The idea of parkour struck a particular chord with him as it fits in with his mission to keep young people on the straight and narrow.

He said: “It was devised by the French to encourage young prisoners in their penal institutions to get fit and to keep them out of trouble so it is very much linked to what I'm trying to do."

Lorean, aged 25, said he and Pawel, aged 27, have previously worked with police on a number of projects to help troubled Sheffield youngsters to turn their lives around through parkour, skate and BMX bike riding.

They now hope to replicate that success in the southern part of the city.

Said Lorean: "We helped a lot of kids who had lost their way to get back into school.

"We don't just teach them to jump around, we teach them about respecting others in the community and where they should and should not practice parkour.

"We saw a massive change in a lot of the youngsters and we want to do that again for youngsters in another part of the city."

But they all accept they have a lot of work to do to inspire youngsters to get off street corners and through the door for an organised activity run by adults.

Said coun Pullin: “Youth nuisance is still a problem yes. I heard recent reports of youngsters getting onto the roof of The Michael Church and damaging glass, they have also been on the roof of the shops at The Terminus Initiative in Lowedges throwing things at people, so we do need to take action.”

And others in the community agree something needs to be done.

Brenda Hemmant, manager of the Lowedges, Batemoor and Jordanthorpe Community Forum, said: "We have a youth club but the numbers have dropped off. We have been looking at ways to get more youngsters in, and parkour could help that.

"We see quite a lot of teenagers hanging around the shops. They often aren't doing anything wrong, but it is intimidating for older people, and they are there because they haven't got much else to do.

"Hopefully we can change that."

Jo North, manager of Batemoor and Jordanthorpe Community Association, said: "There has always been problems with youths. Obviously they are not all bad, quite a lot of young people use our centre but when they get to a certain age then they do need something to keep them occupied."

Coun Pullin said they hope to have full details of the parkour sessions ready to release before Christmas.