History professor Kwok Siu-tong lovingly leafs through the heavy book laden with photographs of old Hong Kong. Suddenly his slim fingers stop at a black-and-white picture of a boy jumping through a circle of fire, cheered on by excited children. 'This is Mongkok's Macpherson playground, an unforgettable place in my own childhood,' says Professor Kwok, breaking out in a smile. The book, Hong Kong's Playgrounds and Children, is his latest work and has just gone on sale. He was invited to write it to celebrate the Hong Kong Playground Association's 70th anniversary. 'Look at these playgrounds,' he says, flicking through more pages. 'They were heaven for children in those harsh times of the 1960s and 1970s.' Born in Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei, soon after the second world war, Professor Kwok is not pleased with modern urban renewal. 'At a time when Hong Kong people are searching for their roots, how can the city planners be so indifferent to the feelings of the old community? 'How can the community reorganisation be mapped out without a genuine appreciation of human emotions and cultures?' says Professor Kwok, who taught history at Chinese University for 25 years. 'If Hong Kong wants to keep a balance between the traditional and the modern, it shouldn't avoid the basic issue of balancing the sense of place and the feelings that embrace the place.' With a grant from the Quality Education Fund under the Education Department, Professor Kwok and his colleagues organise trips for secondary school pupils to visit the old communities of Yau Ma Tei. As a result, a unique world of people and sites has been revealed to students who had been living in the neighbourhood without a real sense of belonging. Professor Kwok says the youngsters talk to fortune-tellers, caterers, old Shanghainese barbers, coffin sellers and walla walla boat owners. Many of them have made friends in the communities. 'Now they can say something about the evolution of the place and how it developed in relation to the social changes of the community,' he says. And while the communities fade away, the memories will remain. 'If you can bring back old memories, with feeling, then the old communities will be revived,' Professor Kwok says.