FOBL AGM 2019 – Chair’s Report

Fiona Mitchell is the current Chair of the FOBL committee.  She delivered this report at the FOBL AGM for 2019.

“I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where we are meeting tonight, the Wangal and Cadigal people of the Eora nation.

Here, at this FOBL gathering where we always celebrate books and writing, it is good to remember that Aboriginal people told and recorded stories for thousands of years.”

On my right, our acting treasurer Ron Brown who I have to thank for stepping in after our previous treasurer resigned. We are very grateful. On my left our dedicated and hard working secretary, Shirley Allen. To both of these committee members my heartfelt thanks and also to all of my wonderful committee for the time, energy and enthusiasm that they bring to the committee meetings and to each event which we hold. We are a small committee which means each member puts in a good deal of work for each event. In addition to the committee meetings and the organisation around our events, they, together with former committee members, provide the delicious light suppers that we all enjoy and for which FOBL is well known.

Ron Brown will focus on matters financial shortly. I would like to acknowledge and thank Ron Brown, Chartered Accountant, for his audit of the FOBL accounts. We appreciate his time and contribution to FOBL. Our thanks also to Gillian O’Mulloy who prepares the FOBL accounts for the audit. She does this meticulously each year and her time and dedication to the task is much appreciated.

My report will cover the many FOBL initiatives and events since our AGM last year. I will apologise now if my report is overly long, it is simply a reflection of all that FOBL has done during that time.

As you know, FOBL was founded, in 1998, to fight for the library’s inclusion within the restoration of the Balmain Town Hall. Fortunately, we no longer need to fight for our library which is thriving and is a much loved hub within our community but our support is still needed. Our events are held to raise funds which we then use not only to support the library but also to promote the love of reading and writing within our community. We have purchased a screen for use in meetings at the request of the library as well as more than two dozen books to add to the Nobel Prize collection which was itself a FOBL initiative. And more recently, we have been in discussion with the library about purchasing new chairs for the children’s area. Much of the money we raise is used to fund our writing competition which encourages young writers in both the Primary and Secondary schools on the peninsula.

I would like to thank Hill of Content who are great supporters of FOBL. Not only do they provide book vouchers as our raffle prizes for each of our events but they give a generous discount to FOBL members when we purchase books.  We are very grateful for their ongoing support.

The AGM last year saw the resignations of Mariella Totaro-Genevois, our long-standing chair, of Annette Waterworth, our long-standing treasurer, of Gillian O’Mulloy, another long standing member of the committee who had been secretary and was running FOBL’s website and facebook page, and of Maryellen Galbally, the former Chair of the Writing Competition Committee. I, for one, was not sure we could fill the gap they left. I hope that by the end of my talk you will agree that the legacy they left continues to thrive.

At the AGM last year we presented FOBL life memberships to Mariella, Annette and Maryellen as a recognition of their tremendous contributions to FOBL. Gillian was unable to attend the AGM and was presented with her life membership at an Open Book Group meeting – which was very apt as you will hear later.

I have thanks to give to two people who joined the committee last year but are no longer on the committee. In the time they were on the committee they both contributed a great deal to FOBL. Douglas Clark took over the management of FOBL’s website and the advertising of events – he spent many hours updating the website, giving it a fresh look. He added online ticketing to our events, which helps us by giving us some idea of how many people may be attending any given event, we hope that more of our members will embrace this as time goes on. Many thanks are due to him for all the work he put into FOBL. Douglas continues to support us by producing posters for events and sending out emails to our members which is much appreciated.

Kate Inglis-Clark joined the committee as Treasurer, doing a meticulous job in keeping FOBL finances in order, bringing FOBL into the 21st century with internet banking and accepting credit card payments for tickets as well as cash payments. I’d like to thank Kate on behalf of the committee for the time and energy she put into FOBL.

One more note of thanks to my Deputy Chair, Jan Aitkin, for her support and guidance and for covering my absences.

Onto to what FOBL has done this past year. We held a number of very different events. Our speaker at last year’s AGM was Councillor John Stamolis who gave us an absorbing insight into the changing demographics in Balmain in a talk entitled “Inner West, Balmain by numbers, present, past and future”.  

Our next event, held in August, was on a controversial subject. Professor Steve Rayner’s talk “Climate change: Damp Squib or Armageddon” was a topic of much interest to our members judging by the size of our audience and the lively discussion that ensued following his measured, entertaining and insightful talk into what is often an inflammatory subject.

Last year saw the inaugural FOBL Trivia night in October. This was the initiative of Viv Nichol Hatton and Susan Sharpe. Their tremendous enthusiasm and hard work made it a very successful evening. Their well-researched questions intrigued and entertained us and stretched our minds in matters of literature together with some Balmain trivia. Susan was a marvelous quizmaster. She was ably assisted by Viv, dressed as her handmaiden, in a nod to Margaret Atwood! I look forward to our next Trivia event in July of this year, Christmas themed.

In October we also hosted a forum with the Friends of Libraries Australia, FOLA. A Forum on the future of Friends and public libraries in Australia. The small audience enjoyed insights and ideas from John Vallance, the Director of the State Library, Jack Goodman, the President of FOLA and Evelyn Levison, from Studiosity.

In November we held a morning tea for the library staff to which we also invited former committee members. It was a small token of our thanks to Rachel Marreiros, who is the Team Leader at Balmain Library, for her warm support of FOBL and to her staff. It was good to see the committee and library staff mingling and to see the collegiality amongst current and former committee members.

In early December, Luke Slattery, journalist, author and Balmain resident, was our final speaker for 2018. In his talk Messing with Fact and Fiction in Early Sydney – An Imaginary Novel he shared fascinating philosophical, historical and literary insights from the writing of his recent novel, Mrs M. The many questions from our audience reflected the depth of their interest in Luke’s talk.

In February, Nadia Wheatley’s talk about her memoir “Her Mother’s Daughter” started off our FOBL events for this year. Nadia shared memories both funny and poignant. Writing her personal anecdotes into a broader social context gave her audience an insight into a slice of life in Australia in the war years and beyond. Once again, there were many questions from the audience and we were fortunate to have another author who gave generously of their time.

The Open Book Group, run by FOBL, continues to thrive, meeting every second Tuesday of the month.  Gillian O’Mulloy and Jan Aitkin have been dedicating their time to convene these meetings for eleven years now. That is a remarkable feat and our thanks to them for their dedication.

The writing competition is, as Mariella put it last year in her report, FOBL’s pride and joy. It simply wouldn’t exist without Vivienne Nicoll Hatton, the chair of the writing competition committee. Together with Bronwyn Monro, they are the stalwarts who work hard to ensure the success of both the Primary and Secondary writing competitions. For the judging of entries I have also to thank Jo Harold and Ian Ferguson, and myself. The culmination of the collecting of entries and judging of those entries is the Awards Night to which students and their families are invited, as well as their teachers.

For the Secondary Awards Night, the students waited with nervous anticipation as Viv Nicholl Hatton talked about their work and read a paragraph or two to illustrate the calibre of their writing. For many parents this is often the first time they hear their childrens’ work and their pride is evident.

This year we had the joy of having Libby Hawthorn as our poetry ambassador for our Primary Writing Competition. She helped with the judging and workshopped the poems of those students whose work was highly commended. She encouraged the students to illustrate their poems, the theme of which was The Four Seasons. At the Awards Night, each student read their own poem with their illustration on the screen behind them. It was wonderful to see the confidence and pride with which the students spoke. Parents and teachers alike commented on how much they enjoyed the students participating in the writing competition. It was heartening to hear how much this FOBL initiative is appreciated within our community.

In conclusion I think you will agree that FOBL has had a very successful year. I’d like to say a big thank you once again to my marvelous committee who have contributed to our many events, and also to all of you, our FOBL members, who support our endeavours by attending them. We look forward to seeing you all at FOBL events in the coming year.


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