Opinion: Why parkour champion David Nelmes is proud to be part of LEEDS 2023

This week, a new film was released that marks the beginning of a countdown to LEEDS 2023, the transformational year of culture taking over the city next year.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 30th January 2022, 11:45 am

Star of the film is David Nelmes, the World Champion parkour athlete from Cross Gates, who throughout the film discovers artists and creatives as he moves about the city. Here he tells us about how and why he is proud to be part of LEEDS 2023.

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I’m not sure that, when my family saw me start vaulting over the garden fence when I was around 15, they were really sure what parkour was. Let alone that it was something that would see me taking place in competitions around the world, or being part of something like LEEDS 2023. To be honest, I wouldn’t have seen the last part coming either!

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Star of the film is David Nelmes, the World Champion parkour athlete from Cross Gates.

I was a really active kid growing up, whether karate, diving, swimming or gymnastics I was always busy. I continued with gymnastics the longest but it was the self-expression and flexibility of parkour that really attracted me to it and once I started, I was hooked.

Leeds is a great city for parkour. There are strong structures across the city and the university campuses have loads of places to practice. The parkour community in Leeds was massive back then, still is now, with big groups getting together to practice and fine tune our moves. It’s such a supportive community, everyone was there to help each other out, and it’s a lot safer than people think. People think parkour is jumping between high buildings but there’s a lot more to it than that, and those bits at height – they are done thousands of times on the ground first.

Since I started parkour, 12 years ago now, I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world and get to know different aspects of the sport. Each country has its own scene and style of parkour. The UK is pretty well rounded and as it’s still quite a niche sport but the network of athletes is just like a big international family.

I honestly feel honoured to be able to share our sport in this short film. Coming back to Leeds to do the film was amazing, I know the city so well – or, I know its walls and rails and steps so well – it was brilliant to be here and visit places that are new to me. It’s always a challenge to do something in a new space, it takes time to get to know what you can – and can’t – do. A venue like the Howard Assembly Room is an example. I’d never been there before so I had to get creative, to see what might work, and the result is one of my favourite bits of the film.

It's so important that we make the most of LEEDS 2023, it’s an incredible opportunity to talk about how this is one of the best cities in the world – not just for parkour! It’s about showcasing the incredible art and culture we have here too, encouraging people to try something different, see the city in a new way. Bringing parkour into this culture-based celebration is such a big deal and I feel excited to be representing the sport I love in the city I love.

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