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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Parkour finds a new space in the heart of the CBD

Jumping, vaulting, swinging and climbing aren’t usually synonymous with a city’s centre, but Newcastle is changing that.

Following the transformation of a quiet corner of the CBD into a unique, creative space, Parkour has cemented its own active urban play space.

Located next to the Ka-fey Café in the Hunter Street mall, the space, referred to as ‘The Market Garden’, opened on Tuesday, 12 January.

The space is the brainchild of Newcastle Parkour coach Alex Rzechowicz and Fluence Design founder Clarence Henderson.

The pair say The Market Garden is the result of regular rejection and a case of very good timing.

“We were used to people approaching us at public spaces and asking us to move on,” Alex said.

“All our classes are outdoor, we train in public spaces, so we are often asked to move on because people are afraid we’ll hurt ourselves, or someone else.

“So when the owners of Ka-fey Café approached us when we were training outside their premises, we assumed they were going to ask us to move on.”

What transpired was the pair being awarded a grant as part of the Newcastle City Council Special Business Rates Program (SBR).

The café owners had been so impressed with the skills the duo was demonstrating with a group of kids, that they suggested they apply for a grant to beautify the space and give their sport a permanent fixture.

The SBR program offers funding for projects aimed at the promotion, beautification and development of the city centre.

Categories of focus were industry, business development, place activation, events, beautification, infrastructure development and promotion.

The annual funding, awarded for the most creative and innovative project proposals, is distributed through a competitive application process.

“We did a bit of research online and realised we literally had 24 hours to apply before applications closed,” Clarence said.

“We applied straight away and were flabbergasted when we were told we were one of the winning applicants.”

Project Market Garden, as it became known, saw the transformation of a 7.5m x 4m empty laneway into a recreational urban space filled with hand railings, bench seats, potted plants and a range of elevations.

The project was possible thanks to a $30,000 grant.

“The idea is not to be a planned obstacle course but an urban environment, taking inspiration from the natural environment, consisting of different height elevations, forms and concepts that allow creative play,” Alex said.

“It’s about getting kids moving in a positive way and teaching them how to move their bodies safely.”

Alex insists parkour is an expression of an individual’s creativity rather than an obstacle course with set movements.

Parkour is also not limited to children.

“Newcastle Parkour host classes that can accommodate any age,” Alex said.

“From first-timers to creaky bones.

“It’s about learning safe movements so anyone can learn how to fall and bruise, rather than break bones.”

Growing in popularity, Parkour is defined as a training discipline using movement that developed from military obstacle course training.

Parkour practitioners aim to get from one point to another in a complex environment, without assistive equipment and in the fastest and most efficient way possible.

While Alex and Clarence are keen to welcome parkour enthusiasts to the new space they insist safety is always paramount.

“We highly recommend people try a class first before trying out the new space,” Alex said.

“Check out our pages and come along to a class.”

Newcastle Parkour are also asking any social media shares of this space to include the hashtag #inthemarketgarden to help them track the use of the space.