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Woolloomooloo Parade takes flight

Woolloomooloo came alive with an avian-themed procession, flower-filled trolleys, live music and more at the inaugural Woolloomooloo Parade on May 19.

More than 300 local people attended the event, which was planned over a three-month period.

Local community group Woollo Connect, which conceived and rolled out the event, described it as a “good old fashion parade with the community; a parade to celebrate Woolloomooloo”.

Thor Blomfield, Team Leader: Community Development with St Vincent de Paul, said Woollo Connect was keen to explore ways to bring the community together and the idea of an old-fashioned street parade seemed a natural way to connect everyone together in a relaxed, inclusive and fun way.

Members of the planning group were adamant they didn’t want to bring in outside experts to tell them what to do, he said. They weren’t interested in creating a polished performance for the promotion of the area, but in creating something that was community driven, down-to-earth and about the real life of people in Woolloomooloo.

To garner local participation, Woollo Connect met regularly to plan the event. Ten different groups including the local community gardens, Ozanam Learning Centre’s drumming circle and band, Plunkett Street School, the pharmacy, Hope Street op shop and church, along with people who are homeless, LGBTQI, living in social and private housing and who come from a range of cultural and life backgrounds came together to build floats, sew costumes and practise their moves.

More than 80 locals and 50 children from the local school were involved in parade-related workshops. The project also employed over 10 locals, including people with photography, visual arts, sculpture, stage management, lighting, street performance, choreography and dance experience.

The bird theme, which emerged during the first meeting of the planning committee, centred around the idea that Woolloomooloo is like a nest in which people can feel safe, nurtured and included. The nest became a guiding metaphor for the event and children from Plunket Street Public School wrote and drew a story about it.

“In the year of 2023 after the Covid pandemic, there appeared in Woolloomooloo a giant nest. All the birds of Woolloomooloo gathered at the nest. ‘What does it mean?’, ‘Who has brought it?’, ‘Why is it here?’ they chattered amongst themselves. Eventually a giant white Ibis appeared and brought a giant egg carried by six children. It was gently laid in the nest and gave birth to something new in Woolloomooloo …”

Mr Blomfield said the parade told the nest story: “Community members spent two months building the giant Ibis, a giant egg and a giant nest. The community gardens created six mobile gardens, community members created and dressed up in bird outfits, and 50 children at the school made bird-based shakers, lanterns and masks. In the finale of the parade, a beautiful bird emerged from the giant egg and danced with local children. The piece was choreographed by a local artist and the dancer was a local Aboriginal woman.”

Feedback on the event has been positive.

Postie Sue said the parade was fun and truly wonderful to be part of. “It was just big enough and just small enough. My friend works in community housing and was moved to tears. She said ‘Now this is community’.”

Other comments included:

  • “The Woolloomooloo Parade on Forbes Street last Friday was absolutely fantastic!”
  • “It was a lovely experience to enjoy with the community and to get to know different parts of it.”
  • “A lovely celebration and appreciation of the richness of the community.”
  • “It was truly by the community and for the community.”

The Woolloomooloo Parade was supported by Vinnies and the Vinnies Community Development team. The following groups were involved in helping organise the event: Plunkett Street Public School, Mission Australia, Artspace, Ozanam Learning Centre, OLC Band, the Art Gallery of NSW, Botanic Gardens of Sydney, Bourke Street Community Gardens, Hopestreet and OLC Community Gardens, Hopestreet Baptistcare, Woolloomooloo Baptist Church, Woolloomooloo Pharmacy, 4Voices and the Woollo Connect Community group.

Woollo Connect is made up of local community members and local services who meet monthly and write new stories about Woolloomooloo. They have built giant pots, community gardens, the Seniors Morning tea and now the Woolloomooloo Parade. For more information see https://www.woolloconnection.com/

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