Glasgow Parkour Girls


Born in France and immortalised in Hollywood, Parkour has trickled down to Scotland; shedding its macho image on the way.

Over five years ago a group of women, Glasgow Parkour Girls, adapted the free-running art to their city and physic.

This was no mean feat, as the training discipline meant navigating the streets via running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping, rolling, and quadrupedal movement.

As well as physical obstacles, the women had to overcome the image of Parkour as a male sport.

Coach Kel Glaister said: “Parkour has its roots in France, where in the early eighties a group of young men in Lisses (near Paris) began training to their functional strength, and developing movement through environment.”

She continued: “Parkour’s unofficial motto is ‘être fort pour être utile’; be strong to be useful. Training is focused on the functionality of movement, the longevity of the traceuse, and on helping others.”

This community spirit is central to Glasgow Parkour Girls (GPG) group.

Glaister said: “We recognise that to an outsider Parkour can seem inaccessible, scary, and macho. Our group aims to change that perception, and make space for those who identify as female; especially those feeling marginalised in other sports.”

Welcoming women of all ages and builds, Glaister explained that GPG caters to different abilities.

She said: “The the current group consists of women in their early twenties to thirties, but Parkour is for all ages. We’ve had Glasgow Parkour Girls in their fifties and sixties.”

She added: “Everything we train can be scaled to all levels of confidence and ability. There should be something challenging for everyone, and something that everyone is good at.”

Glaister explained that strength and confidence building is part of training.

She said: “Parkour training is focussed on longevity; for instance practicing landing technique so you absorb the impact with you muscles rather than your joints.

“It also means learning to judge risk and to trust your own judgement. We rarely train at height, and no one will ever pressure their peer into a jump, drop or climb at a GPG session.”

This supportive environment is, Glaister said, one attraction of the group.

She explained: “GPG is non-competitive, and that’s a draw for a lot of people. There’s no way to win or lose at Parkour, it’s all about individual progress. This means everyone understands the struggle. Getting the first climb-up or speed vault is an amazing moment, and everyone will cheer – no matter how slow or low it is.”

GPG classes start with a twenty minute warm up, before drills and techniques are learned. This is followed by a twenty minute strengthing and conditioning session, and rounded off with stretches.

Glaister said: “GPG has a private facebook group, and that’s where we chat about training. We are based around Glasgow, so we have most classes near one of its underground stations.”

Glaister explained that GPG members are equals, however, the group benefits from the knowledge of professional coaches.

She said: “I lead Glasgow Parkour Coaching women’s classes, which happen every Tuesday evening.

“We ran a fundraising campaign to get me qualified, and we’ll be fundraising again to support more female coaches.”

Also keen to attract new GPG members, Glaister said: “Anyone interested in the class should come along – all our training is focussed on safety and longevity- and it really is accessible.”

Print and be Damned


A feature on getting fiction published

Alistair Canlin leads a double life. By day he works with retailers in Glasgow, by night he works with strippers, zombies and murders and he’s not alone.

“There are lots of us writers out there.”

Every year hundreds of people take part in the National November Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, all attempting to have drafted manuscripts by the end. Well, they do say everyone has a novel in them.

As if to prove the point, Canlin has written four: Heaven, the tale of a Glasgow strip club, Twisted Love, about a partner turned killer, Black and White, which follows a forensic photographer and Middle Class Zombie.

Yet these are not the fruits of NaNoWrimiMo or any other writing group; instead Canlin’s work comes from an Open University course and self publishing.

“To be honest Lulu is not a proper mainstream publishing deal; I am still pursuing that, along with an agent.

“I have a box filled with rejection letters that one day I intend to paper a room with. Rejection is just part and parcel of being a writer.”

Si – fi author, Tara Harper explained that (in the United States) each year only three out of every 10,000 submitted manuscripts are actually published.

Harper explained this turnover to be a product of the profession’s demands. Work must be well written, edited and commercially popular, to get to print.

With such odds, it is no wonder self-publishing sites have boomed. They give writers the assurance of print and allow them control of production, with some sites offering choice of lay- out and finish.

Despite this democratic effect, the revolution has not been embraced by everyone.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch was quoted saying ‘vanity presses are called vanity for a reason. They appeal to the writer’s vanity, not the writer’s sanity. Stay away if you want to be a serious writer’.

Yet, self- publishing can lead to mainstream success, as Canlin found out, when an American producer read Heaven and wanted to adapt it to film.

Another success story of self- publishing is that of Catherine Baird, a writer from Cumbernauld. She replied to Padgett Powell’s book of questions, The Interrogative Mood, with her own book of answers, The Responsive Mood.

As well as selling her book on Amazon website, Baird read it alongside Powell in Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Arts.

While the novel had finesse enough to gain his endorsement, it was rejected by Cargo publishers, due to its abstract nature.

This concept of style dictating success is one Baird is familiar with, despite writing and editing Valve literary journal, published by Freight, she is not optimistic about her solo work getting the same reception.

“The stuff I write is never going to be in the genre which millions of people will buy. When it comes to literary fiction, or really exciting Scottish literature, publishers don’t give it as much of a push.”

That being said, there are a wealth of literary journals and magazines on the Scottish writing scene looking for such material. One of which is Octavius, a magazine open to submissions from any Scot in higher education.

Octavius editor, Samuel Best, said: “We saw a gap in the market for student writing, and decided that we should create a platform for newcomers to have their work published.

“Within just a week of launching we had a flood of submissions and some of the pieces were incredible: professional-standard writing without the famous name behind it.”

This quality of work is often the product of writing groups, scribes who share and critique each other’s work to get the best finished product. Many of these can be found in central Glasgow haunts, such as the Scotia Bar.

So if you fancy writing but aren’t sure where to start, why not visit: the Scottish Poetry Library to find a group near you. Or to submit work see Books from Scotland’s list of literary journals.