by Matthew Burgess
From the shadowy past of Sydney’s underbelly and Redfern’s The Block, there has been a remarkable change in the inner city that’s inviting and relaxing. Once a hangout for drug addicts, drinkers and the disaffected, Prince Alfred Park symbolises the new inner city, a sanctuary of colour and peace, a place for friends and family to gather and enjoy their surroundings.
Mark Foy, Director of Belle Property in Surry Hills, has noticed the change. “Over the last 10 to15 years, it’s become more family focused.” Mr Foy suggests an increase of retail and social amenities has pushed the previous demographic of young, single individuals from the area to make way for families.
Young mother Amanda Lane, a Redfern resident who runs through the Prince Alfred Park nightly, isn’t worried about the area’s notorious past. “There are some places I wouldn’t go at night, but here is fine.” Noticing some homeless people lying on the grass, she says, “They’re just enjoying the park as well.”
The Sydney Fringe Festival celebrated the city park with its family picnic day. Families who attended were encouraged to enjoy the leafy environment, look at the grass and bugs with magnifying glasses, sketch the trees, play in the soil and plant seeds to take home and watch them grow. This new growth symbolises the evolution of Sydney’s inner suburbs.
Sydney’s Fringe Festival, now in it’s fifth year, is a snapshot of the diverse and dramatic community of Sydney.
“We’re encouraging people to step outside and see the independent cultural aspects of the city,” says Kerri Glasscock, director of the Festival. “The picnic is more about people making the park their own than an organised structural event. It’s casual.”
Schula Kirovksy, a picnic day volunteer, showed 20-month-old Lole Elliot the bugs on the ground. However, Lole seemed more interested in the magnifying glass itself than looking through it. Other kids, including Ms Glasscock’s children, joined in the fun looking for bugs, planting seeds and chasing each other around.
Many of the young families met through the Redfern mothers’ group. Craig Elliot said a message went out on the group’s Facebook page, “Let’s hijack this fringe festival.”
Craig and Fleur Elliot lived in Woolloomooloo before moving to Redfern. “We were once hip and trendy, knowing the best bars, best restaurants, but now it’s changed,” she laughed.
As well as the family picnickers, there were wedding parties, grandparents with their grandchildren in the playground, young lovers gazing into one another’s eyes and teenagers playing basketball.
As a volunteer said of the day, “How often do you see kids chasing a bird?”