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Kirsova Playground Number Two

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Kirsova Playground Number Two


An article by Fay Mander Jones in The Glebe Society Bulletin, March/April 2004


Saturday 14 February – a lovely morning and a crowd was gathering at a small piece of open space beside the railway tracks in George Street Erskineville.


Seats were laid out, flags were flying, refreshments were on hand, coffee and tea for adults, ice cream and orange juice for the children. There was an air of celebration around. Was it a party? Somebody’s birthday perhaps? Not a birthday, but definitely a celebration …


As a result of Dr John Hood’s research, this pocket of playground has been identified as the second piece of land bought by Madam Helen Kirsova (the first has since been built over) to provide playing space for the disadvantaged children of the area. Dr Hood had approached South Sydney Council and today the park was being named and dedicated to Mme Kirsova.


About 50 people listened to the speeches, watched the unveiling of the commemorative plaque and had their photographs taken. Ex-Councillors, would-be Mayors, local families, all mingled together and were made very welcome. However, the biggest welcome was reserved for five of Mme Kirsova’s Dancers who had come to attend this dedication from as far as Brisbane and Cootamundra. They had many stories to tell and many old photos to hand around. They remembered Mme Kirsova with great respect and affection. The Ballet Company she founded was the first professional dance company in Australia and had a reputation for excellence. Madame was a woman of independent means, and all of the Ballet Company’s profits were given to the Red Cross or used to establish three inner city playgrounds, two of which now bear her name.


The City of Sydney Council has undertaken to upgrade the third Kirsova Playground, situated in the corner of Wigram Lane, Glebe. We look forward to celebrating its refurbishment and its dedication to a most remarkable woman.

-Fay Mander Jones


(Left to right)  Helen Black (Ekin), Strelsa Heckelman (Lording), Tony Pooley (Mayor of South Sydney/Administrator of the City of Sydney), John Hood, June Newstead (Strykowski) and Judith Burgess (Bartram).
These four Kirsova ballerinas had attended the original opening of the playground 60 years earlier. Helene ffrance (Rendall) also came, but was given wrong directions by the Station Master and did not arrive until after this photo was taken.


Front (standing) June Newstead (Strykowski), Centre (seated, left to right) Judith Burgess (Bartram), Strelsa Heckelman (Lording), Reg Bartram.
Photos by Gabrielle Hood.