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President's Report – 2019 Annual General Meeting

No time seems to have passed since my last annual report on the doings of the Society, and yet so much has happened. A huge amount of work by a lot of people is involved in putting on our two shows for any given year – and all of this work volunteer. I talk a lot about the wonder of our “EUCMS family”, and that’s because it continues to be wonderful – within a broader society in which people find themselves disconnected from community, EUCMS maintains, and continues to gather, a large group of people who continue to loyally serve this group, who form connections with each other over their scripts, paintbrushes, pincushions, or over a cup of tea at supper. In this last year I have greatly enjoyed seeing not only the large number of new people coming in for a production and enthusiastically staying for the next, but also members who have in various ways grown up in the Society taking on new roles. I believe all of this shows the friendly and nuturing nature of our EUCMS family.

Central to our EUCMS year are the times that family comes together for our own church services. In 2018, we held our annual service in July, organised by Katherine Sharpham. Our speaker was Rev John Candy from Marsden Road Uniting Church, and Andrew Yager led a EUCMS choir. In December, we held an Advent service, organised by Cathy Bulfin with a choir led by Elaine Gow, and reflected on the message of Christmas through a drama written by Penny Wilson, with a “Naughty or Nice” theme.

Our first production in 2018 was Yeomen of the Guard. For the cast and crew, it was an honor to be directed by Elaine Gow, as she announced her retirement as Director after countless productions at EUCMS. Along with Susan Briedis as Musical Director and Megan Willis as Production Manager, we had the pleasure of introducing many patrons to this delightfully unusual and lesser-known Gilbert and Sullivan and satisfying those who already knew and loved it. Memorably, the coincidence of a royal wedding taking place on opening weekend saw many patrons dressing up royally on opening night, and devonshire teas on offer all weekend.

Our second 2018 production was Little Shop of Horrors, another well-loved, if very different, musical. With Penny Wilson as director, Stephen Lee as musical director and me as Production Manager, we navigated the technical challenges of growing a giant man-eating plant on our small stage while still presenting a spectacular feast of music, choreography and acting supported by our excellent behind-the-scenes teams. Not to be outdone by Yeomen’s royal wedding, Little Shop held a carnivorous plant sale in the foyer during some performances. Both shows were extremely well-received by audiences.

We supported our members’ development in the last year by subsidising attendance at the Association of Community Theatre conference, with its expert training sessions for various aspects of production and performance, and to attend a basic musicianship workshop offered Rebecca Hansen just a few weeks ago. In other activities, we had a presence at the Granny Smith festival in October and supported a Christian Community Aid’s fundraising trivia night.

I want to offer my thanks to the executive committee – Penny Wilson, Megan Willis, Joanne Conolly, Belinda Bongers, Karen Swancott, Cathy Bulfin, Adam Wilson, Kath Sharpham and Guy Burge. Despite heavy commitments at EUCMS and in other areas of their lives, these people have faithfully served EUCMS in many and various ways throughout 2018, mostly the “usual” business of the Society which is largely unseen and essential for us to continue. There are many challenges ahead for our group of busy volunteers. Joanne’s Treasurer report presented at the AGM outlined some of the ongoing rising costs which have contributed to our overall donations being reduced this year. This is one of the things that the executive will need to be actively considering in the coming year. In 2018 we trialled several strategies to increase ticket sales on the first weekend of performances, but we will need to keep considering new ideas. We also trialled the use of St Kevin’s grounds for parking during performances to make things easier for our audiences. We reviewed the charity group system and learned that the groups currently involved are happy with this system, so while we will not be actively promoting it, we will leave the system unchanged for now. Other ongoing challenges include that of physical space, for such a large group of people, especially in a busy venue, and the need for more volunteers to take on certain roles. I am extremely grateful that most of the executive are standing again in 2019 and want to offer particular thanks to Guy Burge for his time serving the committee this past year, and for his commitment to keep supporting us even though he is not standing again for the executive this year.

Halfway through 2018 we also farewelled Elaine Gow from the executive committee when she finished up as the Director for Yeomen of the Guard. I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank Elaine for her significant number of years of service on the EUCMS executive in many different roles and capacities, for her wisdom and hard work, and above all her love for the society. And again, for her willingness to keep taking on non-executive roles: note that this is not a retirement from the Society, but a chance to celebrate Elaine and the significant role she has played and continues to play in the life of the Society.

Indeed, there are many members taking on roles both large and small behind the scenes of the Society, besides the executive, and I want to offer my thanks to these people. In the next month or so, we will be putting out calls for help with various projects, and we would love to get more people involved. Outside the society, I want to particularly thank the Eastwood Uniting Church secretaries, Kerrie and Michelle, who help us with bookings while juggling a large number of other people, and Janine and her team of caterers for interval suppers at performances.

In 2018, our family celebrated weddings, anniversaries, significant birthdays, and spent time together not only at rehearsals, performances and associated events, but at our key social functions for the year. Our mid-year dinner was held in June at West Ryde Anglican Church, organised by Jessica Lee, Adam Virzi, Guy Burge, Beth Virzi and me. Looking forward to the upcoming Little Shop production, the theme was “A Touch of Green”. In December we held a Christmas picnic in Upjohn Park, organised by Megan Reddel, Jessica Lee, Beth Virzi and me.

But family life involves more than just the happy times, and many of us have lost people very close to us in the past year. Indeed, within the EUCMS family itself, in 2018 we learned of the passing of two former members, Wes Vickers and Kay Sheather – and in a great shock to all of us, current member Tony Quance passed away in November. Tony had been a EUCMS member since 1985 and was onstage as recently as Yeomen of the Guard last year. Tony’s funeral was very well-attended, and a theme that emerged was the genuine interest and care Tony took in other people. The loss of Tony and likely other friends and family are still raw for many of us, and at the AGM we held a moment’s silence.

As we enter the 57th year of EUCMS, exciting things lie ahead. Oklahoma is already in rehearsals, with Me and My Girl to follow in the second half of the year. We have tentative plans to hold another fundraising concert this year, if we can make the logistical arrangements, and I am happy to hear from anyone who would like to help. There is an exciting set design workshop arranged for June with an external professional – a great opportunity to develop our skills. And – believe it or not – a discussion has been opened about plans for EUCMS 60th anniversary in 2022. Again, if you would like to be involved in the early planning stages, please let me know. After all, a family drawn together nearly 60 years ago and still growing today despite many challenges is definitely worth celebrating.

Caroline Reddel


Caroline Reddell