The posters, leaflets and press articles about the Neighbourhood Challenge past Kyle by. On the days he was in Brixham the parkour enthusiast would more likely be doing forward rolls along Fore Street to strengthen his shoulders. It would drive his girlfriend mad.
“I was doing some jumps around Brixham when someone from YES saw me and told me about the Challenge competition, said it was about developing young entrepreneurs and suggested I apply. That was when my parkour business was just getting off the ground and so the timing was just right.”
“So what’s the difference between parkour and free running?” I ask him when we meet the morning after the Brix Awards.
“Well, there’s not supposed to be any difference but as they have developed parkour has become more popular with purists who focus on efficient movement rather than fancy flips. Free running is more about the big flips that look impressive.”
Laura and I have come to the ornate but decaying Oldway Mansion in Paignton, a 15-minute car journey along the bay from Brixham. The original house was built in the 1870s as a family home for Issac Singer of sewing machine fame. Forty years later one of his sons re-modelled the house in the style of the Palace of Versailles, all pillars and tall, recessed windows. The multi-layered gardens were laid out with low walls and shallow steps, perfect training ground for a traceur, the right name, apparently, for a practitioner of parkour.
I’m not good at sports photography. I like my subjects to stay relatively still. I can see this is going to be a challenging shoot. And it’s a grey morning. I decide to use flash off the camera and underexpose the background so my main light is a flashgun that I ask Laura to hold at an angle.
“Are they all right with you jumping all over their walls?” I ask as Kyle starts to clamber over the century-old masonry. Oldway Mansion is now offices for Torbay Council. As well as a museum of sewing machines and a café, the luxurious upstairs rooms are used for weddings and civil partnerships.
“Oh yeah,” says Kyle, “I find if you can explain to people what you were doing you’re much more likely to get them on your side. I teach young people to respect their environment, it’s their training ground after all. I teach them to clean up after themselves, to attempt to fix things if they are broken and not to run away if they are approached by the police or security teams. It’s always better to explain what you are doing and earn respect from others.”
Kyle is keen to be photographed. He repeats his moves, one, two, three times. I eventually get something that works. I only need a couple of shots, nobody will see the out-takes.
“So, have you ever hurt yourself?” I ask, buying time while I review the images on the camera screen and adjust my settings.
“Last year I damaged the ligaments in my leg and couldn’t walk for a week. It’s indescribably painful. I was on loads of painkillers. Luckily I heal quite quickly. Within a week I was jumping around again. Oh, and I fractured my collarbone once but didn’t realise it until several weeks later. I have a very high pain threshold.
“But this sport is safer than football. It is so insanely safe, it just looks dangerous. The way we train, the way we focus: I teach kids about starting small and building confidence before working up to bigger moves. With the right physical abilities, mental attitude and confidence, it’s as easy as picking up a pen and writing.”
With 30 or 40 digital images on my card – two or three of which I feel happy with – I suggest we get coffees from the café so I can put my tape recorder in front of Kyle.
We take our drinks and find a table on the veranda. It’s a veranda with a history. Maybe King George VI walked across here in 1943 when he visited RAF cadets training to be fighter pilots. Or maybe the actress Vanessa Redgrave had a couple of scenes out here in 1968 when she made a bio-pic about the dancer, Isadora Duncan.
Read more from Kyle on Monday at 2pm.