This article gives a flavour of what happened when the Jesse La Flair and Corey DeMeyer’s Off The Edge tour stopped off for a day in Dublin, Ireland last October, as told by Irish Parkour and Freerunning Photographer Brendan Jackman (@urbanmovespk).
when a crowd of people come together to share and learn from each other with open minds and hearts. The air is charged in a way that touches everyone there and leaves a lasting impression for a long time afterwards. So it was when OFF THE EDGE (OTE) came to Dublin last October. Anticipation had been building for months ahead as the OTE team announced the tour dates and venues. First off, were they REALLY coming to Dublin? Major European cities with established freerunning scenes, definitely, but surely we don’t have enough freerunners in Dublin, do we?, do we really? FREERUNNERS!? You couldn’t jump without landing on a freerunner that day. They were EVERYWHERE! Where on earth did they all come from? Answer: they came from all corners of Ireland to meet the OTE team. The day was full of surprises, expectations exceeded and dreams made reality. And that was just me! As a parkour and freerunning photographer I get to share a lot of the fun and excitement of jams with the least risk of physical injury of everyone there. I knew a lot of the local freerunners I normally photograph were going to the OTE jam and screening so I thought it would be fun to go along, take a few shots of them in a new location and if I was lucky, get a couple of nice shots of Jesse and Pasha. I imagined a tightly organised media event with the “stars” performing before their adoring audience. Again, how wrong I was! As a courtesy I contacted the official OTE tour photographer Emily Dyan Ibarra (@ediphotoeye) beforehand to ask if I could come along a take a few shots. I’ve worked on events before where there was more than one photographer and we all just kept getting in each other’s way and taking the same shots. I would have understood if Emily had politely declined my request, but to my delight she welcomed me along.
Dun Laoghaire pier, a very scenic part of Dublin, was the chosen location for the OTE jam. As I approached the pier in the company of my traceur friend Jim Tuohy we spotted a small group throwing shapes on top of one of the pier buildings. Only freerunners could get up there, so that must be OTE. Approaching the group, two of them broke away, leaned down, shook our hands and welcomed us. They were Jesse La Flair and Pasha! First impressions last as they say and those were of two very down-to-earth, friendly and open individuals who were interested in connecting with people on a human level without barriers. I find that the parkour and freerunning spirit and philosophy rubs off on you after a while and your outlook on life changes, even for a non-practitioner like me. The friendliness and openness of the community were very evident throughout the day. I found OTE photographer Emily lying on the ground when I first met her, thankfully not through heat exhaustion in Ireland, but eyeing up a roof gap jump video opp. Imagine my surprise when during our chat Emily explained that the OTE cameraman Giles couldn’t make it to Dublin so she was going to shoot video and asked me if I would mind shooting the stills. Shoot photos for the OTE tour? Dream became reality! Just focus Brendan, literally!! Good advice to any photographer. Adopting my best freerunning attitude I set about capturing the mood of the OTE jam. I wanted to get action shots of the talented Irish community, but I also wanted to capture the spirit of community, the friendships, the fun, the sense of excitement.
All of a sudden a large ninja army of freerunners descended on Dun Laoghaire pier as a train from the city centre pulled in, headed up by Luke Grennan, suitably wearing a bandana. Now let’s jam! After a group shot and welcome speech from Jesse the action started. Unfortunately Cory DeMeyers couldn’t make it to Dublin but Pasha came along to ensure we still got a talented freerunning duo.
Everyone was surprised and delighted by the huge numbers that turned up. No one knew that there were that many freerunners in Ireland. They travelled from all corners of the island to be there: from Derry and Belfast in the North, Waterford and Wexford in the South, Mayo in the West, from Dublin and the surrounding areas.
There was so much happening that day that it was difficult to capture it all on photo or video. Freerunners were chatting, getting to know each other, sharing their skills and learning from each other. Jesse and Pasha joined in the fun too, watching the locals move, showing some moves of their own and discussing techniques.
Emily meanwhile was busy capturing great video moments while Jesse’s wife Brianne as Tour Manager was kept on her toes sorting merchandise and screening tickets for everyone. Some of my favourite moments were of my friend Keith Rellis having a webster contest with Jesse and Pasha’s on-camera antics. The most original move of the day though has to go to Ryan Luney for his front flip off Pasha’s feet! What a creative and unique move! Even Pasha looked surprised.
Another surprise that day was the recruitment of an enthusiastic new freerunner to the Irish community, in the form of my young cousin Liam. I attended a family get-together with my Dublin cousins the previous night and mentioned my plans for the next day to Liam. He came along to the jam, saw the action, got to meet Jesse and was instantly hooked on freerunning. Since the OTE jam he has trained regularly with a local group and as they say “he’s got skills” now! He’s the first freerunner in our family, I’m proud to say!
While I love the action shots I took that day, some of my favourites are the candid shots I took of people chilling out and of Jesse and Pasha interacting with the local community. All day long Jesse and Pasha were very happy to talk at length with people, listen to people, sign autographs and pose for selfies. There was no schedule and no show, just whatever will be will be – ce sera sera. The Dublin jam was the last of a long European tour so I guess there was a bit of a Friday feeling for the OTE team. They could finally relax and look forward to going home for a break.
When I asked the community for words to describe the OTE day they said things like “gather, meet, play, exciting, uncompetitive, thrilling, beast, awesome”. There were lots of great memories of the OTE day, mostly meeting new people, hanging out and freerunning with them. Meeting Jesse and Pasha unsurprisingly was up there with the best memories. A stand out memory for one person was learning new tricks from Pasha and realising that he was at their stage once, learning from other people. Many people received encouragement and confidence from the day which they felt was of huge personal benefit to them.
As evening approached it was time to wind down the jam and head to a local cinema for the screening of the From Here To There documentary. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a well-produced documentary of Jesse and Cory’s journey to the finals of the Red Bull Art of Motion competition. It’s a story of ambitions, hard work, perseverance and chasing dreams that everyone can relate to. After the screening Jesse and Pasha held a wide-ranging discussion with the community. Lots of topics were discussed in an open manner, from the relevance of competitions to freerunning, the role of sponsorship and merchandise and ways of building communities and bringing them together. The local community had tons of important questions for Jesse and Pasha, questions that got to the core of freerunning. Yes, Jesse La Flair is his real name!
In his bestselling book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference Malcolm Gladwell describes how sociological changes spread like viruses. A key role is played by people he calls Connectors, who are people with a special gift for bringing the world together. In that regard Jesse, Cory and the OTE team are Connectors, bring the freerunning community together through the OTE tour. As I write this a successful OTE American tour has just finished and the Web Series is showing online. Without exception, everyone I spoke to mentioned all the new friends they made at the OTE jam and that they travel to meet and train with them regularly. I gained over 100 new Facebook friends in the week after OTE, many of whom I’ve met and photographed on a few occasions since and keep in contact with. The Irish community is interacting and meeting more regularly now since OTE. Like all relationships this must be nurtured and developed, and this is happening in many ways since OTE, more of which in a future article.
In the interests of balance I also asked the OTE team for their words and memories that best described the Dublin jam for them. The OTE team were very surprised at the large number of people who turned up. Not only was it the biggest jam ever in Ireland but it was also the largest jam on the OTE European tour! I also got “freckles, excited and slightly rebellious, unexpectedly talented outcome, impressive, beautiful and entertaining”. I was also told cryptically “spicy wifi in an Irish accent”! Yes, you know who you are!!! I’ll leave you though with one of Pasha’s favourite memories: “A funny story I remember was when the locals asked us if we would want to join them on a climb up the church to have some drinks with a view. Excited and a little intimidated we followed them to what we thought would be a massive cathedral or something. Turns out it was a one-storey chapel and we had a good laugh and then an amazing night with all the local Freerunners on the roof!”.
All Photos ©Brendan Jackman
Connect with Brendan online at www.BrendanJackman.com
See the full gallery of Dublin OTE photos here!
View the Dublin OTE Web Series Episode at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iALqV4cIEk