by Mary Mortimer, Friends of Pyrmont Community Centre Convenor, August 2022 (from Bulletin 6/2022)

Harold Park Community Hall at Tramsheds

Pyrmont Community Centre is temporarily using the Harold Park Community Hall while their premises are closed for renovations. Mary Mortimer brings us up to speed on the Pyrmont Community Centre so we can get to know our new, if temporary, neighbours.

When new families poured into new apartment blocks in Pyrmont from 2000, they looked for social and community facilities. The old Pyrmont Public School had been renovated and half of the building served as a Community Centre, with two gyms. New residents were keen to use vacant rooms for a variety of other activities and willing to organise themselves. The City of Sydney declined to share control but agreed to cooperate with an informal body, Friends of the Pyrmont Community Centre.

Alex-Greenwich at Pyrmont Community Centre’s International Women’s Day morning tea

In 2009, the first new programs – over-55s exercises and a choir – faced complicated forms to fill: How many participants would be Indigenous, non-English-speaking, MPs, female, over 80 or indeterminate? We complied, a community-minded Centre Manager was appointed and the documentation ebbed away.

Activities expanded. By the time COVID arrived, over 50 programs were operating: a monthly community dinner, dance and exercise classes, karate, ukulele group, fundraising concerts, children’s ballet, Little Kickers, Mah Jong, a Book Group, a stitching circle, pilates, yoga, scrabble, a movie day, a photography group.

A young pregnant woman came to Pyrmont from Spain with her husband when he got a job here. She

knew no-one until she joined the stitching circle. The other women supported her, teaching her to sew and make clothes for the baby, and celebrated with her when the baby arrived.

Pyrmont Book Exchange at the Pyrmont Community Centre (photo: Mary Mortimer)

A Friend donated an excellent piano and a piano teacher gave local children lessons. A children’s choir began and the adult choir continues. A group of Friends painted and fitted out an unused corridor. It became a drop-in space that accommodated a link to the City library and a book exchange, with donated bookcases and books.

There are notice boards along Harris St promoting these activities. Volunteers produce and distribute What’s On in Pyrmont every two months to keep our community informed about what is available for them.

COVID brought many programs to a halt, but Centre staff produced a newsletter that they emailed to Pyrmont locals, with cartoons and online links to exhibitions, recipes, local history, exercise, art, entertainment and more. And they phoned isolated community members to check how they were going.

The Pyrmont Community Centre’s Ukulele group (photo: Trish Curotta)

Activities are now reviving – carefully – as many people are still nervous about sharing space with others. But we are learning to live with coronavirus by being fully vaccinated, wearing masks in crowded areas and staying home if we feel unwell. Some of these activities are managed entirely by Centre staff, others by residents: most involve collaboration, often under the aegis of the Friends of the Pyrmont Community Centre. Equally important, the friendships made at the Centre bring together residents who develop other programs, such as Christmas in Pyrmont, Pyrmont Ultimo Landcare, and the Pyrmont Walking Group.

In short, the revitalised Centre has helped to create a community out of a bunch of strangers.

We trust that the Pyrmont community will be able to use the Harold Park Community Hall to maintain these connections while our centre is being rebuilt, and we hope that residents of Forest Lodge and Glebe will join us. We invite everyone to join us for a community dinner on the last Friday of each month. Volunteers set up the hall and provide the food; diners are asked to book, bring their own drink and a donation to help cover the cost.

Pyrmont Sings! already has members from Glebe, Newtown, Leichhardt and beyond. We welcome new members who enjoy singing. We pay a fee to employ a professional conductor and pianist, but we can discount it for those who have difficulty.

Art class at the Pyrmont Community Centre

We hope that more community activities will take place over the next few months. Possibilities include a book group, fitness classes, an art/craft class/group, playgroup, kids’ ballet, karate and dance.

Let’s work together to turn the Harold Park Community Hall from a venue for hire into a genuine community centre. Contact Jan Macindoe, Dorothy Davis, or Mary Mortimer, 0410 679 204 with questions, suggestions and offers of help.