Yesterday I attended a wonderful event. I was invited to attend the 100th birthday celebration of Fuller’s Bookshop, a wonderful, family oriented, independent bookshop that I could live in.
The event was held at the beautiful, old Town Hall in the city with over 200 people in attendance. The event opened with the owner Clive Tilsley giving a short welcome to everyone especially to the grandchildren of the original owner who flew in from all over the country to attend the event. All of the staff were there and readers who have been customers, publishers or authors in the Fullers years. Several of the large publishing organisations in Australia had sent messages of congratulations including Text Publishing, Allen and Unwin and Penguin-Random House.
Upon arriving at the event each guest was given a small book detailing the entire 100 year history. At the back is listed all of the shared reading events the store has held as well as the list of all of the books read over the years in the book group. Surprisingly there have only been there owners of this store over the past century.
I remember when I first discovered this store on a main street in Hobart. I fell in love with it immediately. They are now in larger quarters with a lovely cafe at the back and I think it is probably the busiest store at any given time than any other shop in the city. When so many stores are closing or relocating all around the city Fullers is always a bustling hub.
There are many events planned for this year and I am looking forward to all of them.
Fullers held almost 90 events in 2019. They also share book groups the first week of each month, have held shared readings of many of the classics. There is also a strong interest in philosophical writings and this year I am attending a Shakespeare group focusing on the Roman and Greek plays.
There are three areas of interest that are supported heavily by Fullers. The Smith Family foundation that is an Australian Children’s charity. Fullers organises donations of books to these children every year. A young woman spoke to us of her background in a disadvantaged family. She has just finished her Masters of Education degree.
Their other interest is supporting the projects that Rosalie Martin has achieved. Rosie is a speech pathologist and criminologist who runs literacy and communication programs in our state prison. Her organisation its called Connect 42: Connecting Through Language, Literacy and Love.
She was also the Tasmanian Australian of the Year for 2017 for her work in this field. In attendance at the event yesterday was a young woman who participated in Rosie’s program as a prisoner. She is now released. She read a poem she wrote about her five children she loves and how she is now working to get them all back from care. I can only imagine the courage it took for her to stand on a stage in the Town Hall in front of 200 plus people and bare her soul as she did. It is through Rosie’s program with Fullers support that has given her the skills and courage to move forward with her life.
The other project Fullers have always supported is Indigenous Literacy. The shop has a large Tasmania section and they focus especially on indigenous issues in Tasmania.
As a result of this interest the special guest of the event was author and songwriter/singer Ted Egan who lives in the Northern Territory. He was interviewed by Hilary Burden, a British/Australian author, journalist and broadcaster in launching Ted’s most recent autobiographical book Outback Songman: My Life.
According to Wikipedia Egan was born in Coburg Victoria moving to the Northern Territory in 1949 at the age of 16 in search of work and adventure. In his early career with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs he was mainly in the bush and engaged in jobs such as stock work and crocodile hunting while employed as a patrol officer and reserve superintendent. Later he was a teacher at bush schools. He was a member of the first National Reconciliation Council.
Egan was the sole teacher at the Newcastle Waters Station in 1965 and was stranded at the property for six weeks when the creek flooded. During this time no supplies were able to be delivered so Egan had to hunt for animals, such as bush turkey for food. He later returned to the station in 2012 for the book launch of Middle of Everywhere about life in the area.
Egan began recording in 1969 with “Drinkers of the Northern Territory” and has released 28 albums, mostly themed around outback life, history and Aboriginal affairs. He has been a consistent performer and tourer with his choice of instrument being an empty beer carton (aka Fosterphone or Victorphone) played by tapping with his hands and fingers. He has been a prolific writer and performer of contemporary folk songs. Many of these, such as ” Gurrindji Blues”, recognise Indigenous Australian heritage.
He demonstrated his wonderful skills using an empty beer carton as a musical instrument. It was great.
After all the speakers and book launch we were served sparkling wine and cake. The entire audience broke into a the Happy Birthday song and three cheers were given. Then many were able to catch up with their fellow friends and readers.
I left the event feeling very fortunate and much a part of this large reading community we have in Hobart. If people think there is no future for the book they need to think again.
PS The Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) has published an article of this event with photos from the past 100 years. If you’re interested you can see it here.