Saturday, 20 October 2012

Our first AGM

Happy birthday, Arthur Rimbaud! Poet and arms dealer.
We held our first Moffat Book Events AGM yesterday evening, a landmark in the affairs of any organisation. We are positioning ourselves as facilitators of all the arts in Moffat and area, as our chairman Andrew Wheatcroft explained in his chairman's report - as follows:

Moffat Book Events
Chairman’s Report for Inaugural AGM
Fri Oct 19 2012 at 7pm MDCI

Moffat Book Events (MBE) started in 2010 as a community group, founded by Marilyn Elliott and Elizabeth Roberts. They took advice from Alistair Moffat who runs the highly successful Borders Book Festival. Alistair told them two things: it would take them 10 years to establish MBE on the scene, and they needed £10,000 as start-up funds.  Advice and practical help was also generously provided by Carolyn Yates, Dumfries and Galloway’s Literature Development Officer. Elizabeth supplied the startup cash.

In spring 2011, MBE launched its first event: ‘Love and Marriage in Moffat’ – a celebration to coincide with the launch by Persephone Books of ‘Miss Buncle’s Book’, their reissue of a best seller by local author D E Stevenson. In autumn 2011, our programme explored matters as various as Scotland’s DNA ‘Identity – Jeans or Genes’ (Alistair Moffat making the first of what we hope was the first of many appearances under our auspices), advice on children’s books with Guardian children’s books editor Julia Eccleshare and the introduction of ‘The Moffalump’ - Moffat story teller Angus Sinclair’s imaginary beastie.

It was MBE’s accountant Gerald McGill who advised the organizing committee to apply for Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation status. A constitution was agreed in July 2011 and SCIO status was granted in December last year. The granting of charitable status was an important development, giving us a framework and a structure – and an identity beyond that of just  a group of enthusiasts.

Plans for 2012 were soon under way. A coffee morning to raise funds was held at Moffat Town Hall on St Patrick’s Day 2012. A garden-themed event ‘Beyond the Garden Gate’ on Sat May 26 was a great success, with a ‘Gardens Open’ day organized by Tina Fox and a team of volunteers on Sunday May 27. Janet Wheatcroft had a Free Weekend for All at  Craigieburn, and my strongest memory is of children roaming the garden trying to find the Moffalump

Looking ahead, we have lots of plans for 2013 and beyond, fund raising permitting. There is no shortage of ideas but we need to be ambitious in developing the kind of plans that will attract serious levels of support. With that in mind, we are very lucky to be working with Alan Thomson, a well-respected figure on the D&G arts scene. He took over the organization of our extremely successful international conference last month: ‘Russia: Lessons and Legacy’. He is now helping us broaden our horizons,  applying to take part in Creative Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage’s ‘Open Country’ scheme, Day of the Region 2013 and to  apply for Creative Scotland’s Creative Places’ award in 2014.

So we have a double strategy. In the immediate term we want to put on a growing number of events. The first of this we hope will be an event centred on crime fiction – Murder in Moffat is the provisional title, for next  Spring. Scottish  Crime Fiction is becoming –like Scandinavian Crime Fiction- an important and identifiable category of writing. Our major task is to find the funds to make it possible. At the same time we are we are aiming to consolidate our partnership with the Russian state library for foreign publications (a result of ‘Russia: Lessons and Legacy ) The collaboration will play an active role in the UK Year of Russian Culture and Language in 2014. It celebrates  the 400th anniversary the building of the Globe Theatre and the 450th of Shakespeare’s death. All parts of the United Kingdom will be involved and we hope, working with The British Council, to make a significant contribution to the celebrations in Scotland. We shall use this activity a major part of our Creative Places application.

All this may seem very ambitious. It is. However,  the lesson of Alistair Moffat’s success with the Borders Book Festival and the development of Wigtown is that big ideas can sometimes be more be more achievable than something more modest. My belief that our great asset is Moffat itself. When we had the Beyond the Garden Gate event, and also ‘Russia: Lessons and Legacy, the speakers were entranced by the town.

This is why we are so anxious to extend our membership, and to bring  together fresh ideas and effective enthusiasm. I stepped into the shoes of Adam Dillon, and it was only then that I realized the opportunity that we have to put Moffat on the big map as a centre of creativity: publishing books, writing books, enthusiastic readers, theatre, music, - and more.

Andrew Wheatcroft
Oct 19 2012

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