Chair’s Report – FOBL AGM 2021

Good evening everyone, I am very happy to welcome you to the FOBL

AGM for 2021 and indeed for 2020. I am Fiona Mitchell, the Chair of FOBL. I’d like to welcome and thank Beverley Malone, the archivist from the Balmain Rowing Club, for agreeing to speak tonight. We look forward to her talk.

To begin:

“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 treasurer Ron Brown who will report on the FOBL finances shortly. On my left our hard-working secretary, Shirley Allen, who will speak to us about the Special Resolution and potential change to the FOBL constitution. My heartfelt thanks to both of them for all that they do. 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. My thanks to Jan Aitkin, Bronwyn Monro, Vivienne Nicholl Hatton, Susan Sharpe and Donna Bozowsky. Please join me in thanking them for their good work. As you can see, we are a small committee which means each member works hard for each of our events. 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.

My report will cover the FOBL initiatives and events of 2019 and 2020 since this AGM also covers our AGM which was postponed last year.

As you know, our library is a much-loved hub within our community. Our events are held to raise funds which we use to support the library and to encourage a love of reading and writing within our community. Since our last AGM in 2019, we have purchased extra copies of the most requested books in the library, at the suggestion of the librarians. We presented these, each with a FOBL book plate inside the front cover, to Balmain Library, in August of 2020. They went into the Inner West libraries catalogue and, I believe, have been often borrowed. We also added to the Nobel Prize collection which was itself a FOBL initiative. We have bought copies of books for the Open Book Group which continues to thrive more than 12 years after its first meeting. In 2019 monies raised were used to fund our writing competition which encourages young writers in both the Primary and Secondary schools on the peninsula. We are looking to support the library in a larger capacity this year and are awaiting their wish list. Balmain library is the next in line for refurbishment, we hope to be able to contribute to that in a substantive way.

I would like to thank Hill of Content who are great supporters of FOBL. Not only do they provide book vouchers or beautiful coffee table books 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.

Many thanks are also due to Douglas Clark for all the work he puts into FOBL. Douglas continues to support us by producing posters for events and sending out emails to our members. His time and commitment are much appreciated.

One last note of thanks to my Deputy Chair, Jan Aitkin, for her support and guidance and for covering my absences, though they were far fewer last year than in previous years.

Now to report on what FOBL has done over the past two years. Whilst there were no events held in 2020, we held some memorable events in 2019. Our speaker at our AGM in 2019 was Caroline McLeod, Group Manager, Library and History Services, Inner West Council, who gave us a fascinating insight into the Library services of the Inner West Libraries.

Dr Olivia Murphy joined us to talk on the subject of Frankenstein, which was of great interest to our members. Interesting facts we learnt from Dr Murphy’s talk are that the monster asked the doctor for one of two things: a bride or revenge, that Frankenstein is considered the first example of science fiction and that Mary, Percy, her husband and Lord Byron had a competition to see who could write the best horror story – guess who won?

Following the success of our inaugural FOBL Trivia night in 2018, we held a Christmas in July trivia night in July 2019. Susan Sharpe, dressed in her finest Christmas garb, together with Viv Nicholl Hatton, the green elf helper, created a quiz to test our knowledge of all things Christmas related. This meeting room sparkled and the mulled wine and Christmas fare was enjoyed by all. It was a very enjoyable evening.

Our final event for 2019 was a memorable night. The well-known and much loved film director, and local resident, Bruce Beresford was our speaker at an evening that we co-hosted with the Inner West Council. I have to say a special thank you to Donna, who was our most recent committee member at the time, who took on the task of dealing with the bookings and with Eventbrite. It was onerous given that this was the biggest event that we had taken on, the Town Hall was filled to capacity with an audience of 300. Councillor Darcy Byrne, our mayor, welcomed the audience, noting how thrilled he was to see the Town Hall so full. Jamie Parker, our local MP, then encouraged everyone to support their local libraries and to join FOBL.

Bruce Beresford entertained us with trailers from a selection of his films, from the 1970s to the present. He treated us to insights into the sometimes difficult world of film directing, as well as a little inside gossip about some of the actors he has employed over the years. He talked about only ten of the thirty films he has made including Breaker MorantDriving Miss Daisy and The Adventures of Barry Mackenzie.  Bruce finished with his most recent film, Ladies In Black, the option for which he bought many years ago, knowing it would make a marvellous film. He stayed and signed books and chatted with the audience for quite some time. He was delighted and surprised that many people wanted to hear him talk and, even more, that they wanted to buy his book “The Best Film I Never Made”.

Our first speaker of 2020 became our first speaker of 2021. We felt it wise to postpone the talk which Michele Balogh was to give in March of 2020 as government restrictions were beginning to be put into place. We were very grateful that a year later, Michele agreed to come back to be our first speaker this year. And what an interesting and entertaining speaker she was. She gave us glimpses into her book “Her Kind of Luck”, a mix of memoir and biography, intertwining the story of her glamorous great-grandmother with her own story. Michele continued through the thunder and the rain which poured through the ceiling. It certainly was a great and memorable start to 2021. It was also a test of our committee to run a COVID safe meeting which we managed successfully. I believe that our almost capacity audience, reduced due to COVID safety measures, enjoyed a great evening.

In 2019 we held a morning tea for the library staff and for the current committee and our FOBL life members. We enjoyed meeting with the library staff and having time to talk with them.  They enjoyed our baking. Clearly there were no morning teas during 2020 but we did provide individually wrapped Christmas cakes for the library staff at the end of last year – a small thank you from FOBL for their support.

The Open Book Group, which is run by FOBL continues to thrive, meeting every second Tuesday of the month.  There was a brief hiatus last year after which OBG meetings were conducted on zoom. The meetings are now held in person again, which has been much appreciated by the attendees as have the book purchases made by FOBL. These books are held behind the desk in the library until OBG meets, after which they are sent for accessioning and go into the library catalogue. Many thanks to Gillian O’Mulloy and Jan Aitkin who continue to convene the Open Book Group meetings.

The writing competition is one of the main events in the FOBL calendar. In 2020 it was put on hold, given the demands that teachers were under during lockdown, and afterwards as life continued in a rather uncertain fashion. In 2019, we held both the Primary and Secondary Writing Competitions. These events wouldn’t happen without Vivienne Nicoll Hatton, the Chair of the writing competition committee. Nor without Bronwyn Monro, together they ensure the success of both writing competitions.

For the judging of entries for the Primary Competition I have to thank Bronwyn Monro, Vivienne Nicholl-Hatton, Susan Sharpe, and Maureen Clark.

For the judging of the Secondary Competition, I have to thank, again, Bronwyn Monro and Vivienne Nichol-Hatton. I too was a judge of the Secondary Writing Competition.

The students who wrote the winning and highly commended entries are invited to our Awards Nights, along with their families and their teachers.

For the Secondary writing competition, the students wrote on the theme of “Power”. They were asked to write an imaginary story exploring how a character uses power and the effect it has on individuals and society. We were very pleased that both Mirijana Simic, the Head of English, and Julianne Beek, the Principal of Balmain Secondary College, were in attendance at the Secondary Awards night. All of the students who had won prizes came along, together with members of their family. Some of the students read out parts of their own work. Many parents spoke afterwards of their pride in hearing the work, often for the first time.

For the Primary competition, the theme was different to that of previous years. This time, students were given three intriguing sentences from which to choose as a starting point for their stories. The sentences were:

This day has come at last.

In all my life I have never been so…

“Don’t make me use my superpower”.

The students chose evenly across the three sentences and the stories showed a variety in theme and events and were very entertaining.

At the Primary Awards Night, both parents and teachers 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.

One final thank you to Donna Bozowosky who has been decided not to nominate for the FOBL committee again – she has other commitments which are calling on her time. We are very grateful for all that she has done whilst on the committee and will miss her very much.

In conclusion I hope you will agree that despite a fractured year last year FOBL has continued on as strongly as ever. This year we are working towards many events which we hope you will all support as we continue to support our beloved library. I’d like to say a big thank you once again to my marvelous committee, 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.

Just to let you know we have the launch of LA Larkin’s latest thriller which we are co-hosting with the Inner West Libraries in June, a book bingo literary event in July and Dr Jonica Newby, well known for her science journalism, will be joining us in October.

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