THE AUSTRALIAN ELIZABETHAN THEATRE TRUST
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
11th May 2016
SPEECH BY THE CHAIRMAN
The Hon Lloyd Waddy AM RFD QC
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I spoke for so long last year this year I intend to give you a reprieve. I hope to be brief (for me anyway!) although we have had an eventful year to then end of 2015, (our reporting period), and then I shall highlight a few happenings since.
Without doubt our Diamond Jubilee was significant. It brought back to me memories of my own association with The Trust: firstly as a member of the public, watching Judith Anderson in Medea in the 50s, enjoying the old Majestic Theatre at Newton converted into the Elizabethan Theatre which The Trust restored; getting sea-sick there watching our Opera’s rendition of the Flying Dutchman, with the cast swaying side to side in a rather unconvincing storm scene and so on.
Later I remember serving as ADC to His Excellency Sir Roden Cutler VC and with Edwina enjoying the box next to the Vice-Regal couple. I was rather naughty that night. I stopped Edwina stepping forward until I heard the drum roll and then as we appeared we were greeted by all present standing for the anthem, then God Save the Queen! I resisted waving…
In 1974, following my five years as Sir Roden’s honorary ADC, I was asked by Jeffry Joynton-Smith to help with the Marionette Theatre of Australia, which had enjoyed the support of the Trust since 1955. Later Sir Charles Moses and I took the MTA to incorporation.
When we had secured premises Peter Hall of Sydney Opera House fame built us a new theatre for children in The Sailor’s Home at The Rocks.
After my years with the MTA Mr Ian Hardy joined me. May I repeat my warm welcome to both him and Mrs Hardy.
Earlier you confirmed him as our new AETT board member. This is auspicious, as the MTA and its wonderful collection of puppets has been the subject of deep discussion with the SBW Foundation concerning Dr Rodney Seaborn’s Archives, of which the MTA relics form perhaps the most famous part.
I have served on the Board of the Trust since 1974 and you will be delighted to learn that tonight I won’t go into all that has happened since then. I may leave out two or so years…
THE DIAMOND JUBILEE OF THE TRUST
The undoubted highlight of our Diamond Jubilee in 2015 was the official opening of our specially designed new premises here, by our local member and former Prime Minister Mr Tony Abbott. Just as Sir Robert Menzies had given his support to the foundation of The Trust in 1954, had attended its opening productions in 1955, and had secured Her Majesty’s gracious patronage for The Trust and given her name of Elizabeth in our title, so sixty years later another devoted monarchist had agreed whilst Prime Minister to lead the celebration of our Diamond Jubilee.
It is now past history, and we all know our present Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, suddenly replaced Mr Abbott. His office offered to send someone to represent the PM at our dedication. We however insisted on keeping to our original arrangements, as previously agreed with Mr Abbott. I hope you enjoy looking at the permanent plaque on our central pillar Mr Abbott graciously unveiled.
That pillar also carries the photos of my first GM at AETT, Mr Jeffry Joynton-Smith. And properly hanging above him and the Diamond Jubilee Plaque, is the portrait of dedicated and our longest serving – not to mention highly gifted – GM, Mr Warwick Ross. Around the pillar appear the names of almost 100 of our scholars to whom we have awarded over $1M since receiving the magnificent Nerissa Johnson Bequest.
How wonderful to have endowed musicians with such largesse. We take the administration of that confidence as our most important obligation. You will shortly hear played a little Schubert, by one of our most recent scholars on her recent return from studies in France.
The 2015 list of our distinguished overseas scholars is indeed impressive. All came highly commended, were chosen and were recommended to the Board on references receiver by our General Manager:
Som Howie (clarinet);
Emma Grace Stephenson (Jazz Piano);
Frances Ross (Piano); and
Christopher Nazarian (Bass singer).
I would like to highlight yet another:
Steven Stanke, (Conductor).
Steven is the genius behind the Sydney Independent Opera Company that The Trust has enthusiastically championed since its inception. Now in its fourth year, with its splendid performances of no less than six chamber operas and several gala concerts already under its belt, it illustrates the remarkable achievement of The Trust under Mr Ross in converting the Independent Theatre at North Sydney into a brilliant acoustic space, ideal for chamber music and for chamber operas and gala concerts. The Indy can hold its ranking acoustically with the leading centres for chamber music in the Southern Hemisphere (and I might add a great part of the Northern hemisphere as well)! It is a recent high achievement of The Trust.
The Sydney Independent Opera generally performs in English to local audiences, charging very reasonable prices. It performs many operas seldom performed by the major companies. It hones performers’ skills. It provides opportunities for singers, musicians in its orchestras and stage and theatre staff to develop and maintain their talents whist they await opportunities in the major companies, or advancement to a life of music performance.
I highly commend the Sydney Independent Opera to all.
THE TRUST HISTORY
During 2015 and continuing The Trust has authorised the collation of its History of 60 long years. I commend the willing co-operation of Mr Ross, who gave hours of recorded interviews. These are to add to 150 or so earlier recordings previously made by many of those who had been associated with The Trust.
These recordings are now being honed down to usable length. Similarly, past projects on the early history of the Trust together with other interviews initiated by The National Library earlier this century are being scrutinised to provide an overview of all the Trust had achieve: its successes, its failures and its challenges.
In terms of financial matters, throughout 2015 and continuing until tonight The Trust has rarely been in a healthier condition. We hold this magnificent office suite in the heart of one of the booming suburbs of Sydney, only five kilometres from its centre, with direct bus and taxi access, usually of only seven minutes duration. Buildings are rising all around us, some five levels with two levels of underground parking, as is happening opposite and also across the laneway. Our holding had risen in value by roughly 25% since its purchase two years ago.
As you may have seen in the corridors, the whole three-levels of business areas are receiving new air-conditioning. We have ordered a spare extra unit in this recital room, which we can turn on to add to your comfort when we have gatherings of our members or guests.
A great sadness that occurred this month has been the Australia-wide closure of Dick Smith Electricals. Their local store was directly beneath us, and, as they were stripped of their immaculate fittings, The Trust sped down the lift, directly across the entry foyer and through a side door to the rear of their showroom, where we chose and purchased the wonderful display that you see around you-one floor directly above their original site!
Together with another of our offices similarly fitted-out, and a separate storage or display niche down the southern corridor, we have added approximately 240 running feet of shelving to our establishment. Our storage space includes those splendid display cases you see beside the pillar. This has allowed us to retrieve and begin sorting the material we have kept in storage for so long. I promise it will be gone from your sight by next year’s AGM!
I should also mention that just as the stage behind me is elevated and soundproofed and isolated from contact with exterior vibrations, so next to our GM’s office has installed a record-mixing room to facilitate our intended website expansion with our own uploaded AETT music programmes. This is a most exciting and long anticipated initiative.
I am told the program will include music in which The Trust already holds the copyright and which may then be purchased online, entire or in part, depending on the buyer’s preference. I believe current recordings include: “Gorgeous Girls CD by Cantabella Choir (Melbourne); “Quintopia” CD by the Sydney Wind Quintet; and music of Michael Forsyth performed by the Parramatta Brass Band.
It is intended that this AETT collection will grow as we receive and promote contributions from our past and future music scholars. Such may well include for example, William Chen (piano) and Som Howie (Clarinet). I know of others, some here tonight, that may well seek our cooperation in immortalising and adding to the Internet their Australian compositions, several of whom are famous for outstanding past compositions but not yet sufficiently widely recorded and available in relation to their other works.
This new venture was commenced in 2015 by Mr Ross, and provides a stunning way forward in the promotion of our nation’s Arts, not yet fully explored in Australia.
A SPECIAL TRIBUTE
Before concluding, I wish to pay tribute to someone now “gathered” (as he himself so graciously used to describe others who predeceased him): Dr Rodney Seaborn.
Without Sir Ian Potter’s lifetime support, and indeed his immediate cheque for $170,000, The Trust would have failed instantly in 1990. Without Dr Seaborn’s personal guarantee of the AETT in 1990, (some $250,000), The Trust would have failed thereafter. Without the subsequent donations of Lady Potter, Mr Larking, Dr Seaborn, myself, and an anticipated attendee tonight, Mr Frank Hooke, it would never have risen from the ashes, and come out of provisional liquidation. Like all great Arts companies, the AETT has certainly experienced its challenges!
What a delight it is tonight to know that here we are as a charity owing its life in such large part to Dr Seaborn’s faith and generosity. As the AETT started out again, he leased The Trust premises he owned, and much later sold us his restored Independent Theatre. I stress delight because his (other) personal charity, The Seaborn Broughton and Walford Foundation –named after three childless cousins and personally funded in perpetuity to an extraordinarily significant amount by Dr Seaborn–is shortly to become our next-door neighbour: Yes! Immediately next door!
How that would have delighted Rodney’s heart! And there will be placed his significant and beloved archives, on which he showered so much love and attention over years and years. Indeed, he praised it lovingly in an interview given the night before he died.
The Trust, that Dr Seaborn helped save, and later served as a director, remains true to its original vision, supporting: “The Arts in Australia, by Australians, for Australians!” In accordance with our fiduciary obligations under Mrs Johnson’s major bequest, we have loyally devoted a heavy concentration to music scholarships. Therein, we achieved the restoration of a Sydney theatre icon, The Independent and transformed it into a brilliant Sydney chamber music venue to assist and present our scholars on their returns from overseas.
In 2015, with strengthening finances, we spread our sights even wider, reaching back sixty years to where we began in 1955. We returned to our financial support of puppetry. We are very grateful to Mr Richard Bradshaw, formerly of the MTA and an iconic Australian puppeteer for his advice, encouragement and recommendations about current puppetry practices and how the AETT might support it. He is also playing a significant role in the advancement of puppetry in the Southern Highlands. On his recommendation The Trust has also given its support.
Further, Mr Bradshaw’s insistence on the sacredness and integrity of the Seaborn Broughton and Walford Foundation’s collection of puppets, puppetry books, papers and all puppetry material (placed with those archives by written agreement between Dr Seaborn on the one hand and myself on behalf of the AETT) has been inspirational. In such matters it is best to take the best advice available, as we have done. This echoes the AETT ‘s first active year when it started in the Arts. In 1955, 61 years ago, The AETT supported Mr Peter Scriven and the astounding collection of 300 puppets in his nationally famous puppet show: “The Tintookies”. It was a huge success in its time.
CONCLUSION – TRULY!
Finally, I enthusiastically thank my fellow directors for their dedication to this unique charity, their respect for our history, their vision for its future and the encouragement it continues to give to so many aspiring “musicians, singers and conductors” under Mrs. Johnson’s bequest, as it has done in so many other areas of the arts. Above all I thank them for the inspiration and support they have continued to afford Mr Ross and myself. Their confidence and support has been inspirational and their minute scrutiny of all aspects of our operations is a gift without price. Woe betides a floating comma, or worse still, a dollar entry mislabelled!
Mr Bell, Mr Burton and Mr Larking are fastidious in their oversight and vision for this wonderful charity. Mr Hardy, too, has not put a foot wrong in the half hour since he joined us this evening! And in thanking them may I also thank especially our wives, for allowing us the time to develop and expand this charity together with all our Members for their loyalty, generosity and support.
We are also grateful for your attendance tonight.
I trust you will enjoy the recital and hospitality.
ANNUAL REPORT 1957
THE AUSTRALIA ELIZABETHAN THEATRE TRUST
THE DECISION to commemorate the 1954 visit to Australia of Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh by launching an appeal for funds to establish a theatrical Trust might appear to the casual observer as an example of Anglo-Saxon eccentricity in a sun-drenched country.
The object of this appeal was boldly summarised as follows: “Our aim is to provide a theatre of Australians by Australians for Australians.”
The casual observer might be tempted to comment that, since Australian interests have been associated rather with sporting and material affairs than with art and literature, the appeal would be unlikely to meet with a wide response. Such misgivings proved groundless and a fund of ₤90,000 was quickly raised from private persons and institutions throughout Australia, many of whom became sponsoring members by donating ₤500 or more. To this was added a grant of ₤30,000 from the Commonwealth Government.
A Board of Directors was appointed representing 1,400 members contributing annual subscriptions of ₤5 each. The Trust was incorporated under Royal Charter and Her Majesty graciously consented to become its Patron.