WHILE visitor numbers have significantly increased at the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame, the annual general meeting roll-up was far from a full house – and that’s just the start of the association’s concerns for the next 12 months.
President Eric Scott said the small number who did turn up were very welcome, but overall it was a disappointment to see so few there.
The bright spot on the horizon for the custodians of history was the presence of honorary solicitor Michael McHugh, who is now the newest director on the board.
Previous secretary, Hilary Scott, who is now a board member only, was replaced in her secretarial role by longtime volunteer Athol Latham and vacating board member Bev McCumstie’s position was filled by Mr McHugh.
“While we have a sizeable membership, many are from out of town and it’s just not viable for them to attend the AGM,” Mr Scott said.
Mr Scott was returned as president, Lorraine Pfitzner as vice-president, Athol Latham is secretary and Judy Loffel is treasurer. Barrie Brennan, Steve Bartlett, Colleen Bannister, Hilary Scott and Michael McHugh complete the board.
A combination of additional referrals from Tamworth Visitor Information Centre, the $130 signage on the corner of Peel and Brisbane streets and the increased national profile of the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame have all contributed to the stronger visitor numbers, but volunteers were still in short supply, Mr Scott said.
“Times are tough and we not only need volunteers, we particularly need people with computer input skills,” he said.
“We’re making a definite push to get our volunteers to accurately input data for the cataloguing, which is our main need at present. Volunteers are also needed to do front of house, greeting visitors, but when visitors aren’t there, they can help with the data input, which is very important to us.”
In his president’s report, Mr Scott said several skilled and keen people had stepped up to keep the behind-the-scenes work flowing, but a number were unable to commit more than one day a week.
He cited the enforced closure of the museum and archives at the end of January due to exhaustion of the volunteers and possible risk of burnout if they’d soldiered on.
“A number of our key volunteers have experienced health issues this year ... so we need to find younger volunteers eventually to replace us who will share our enthusiasm for our charter and bring the commitment necessary for this archive’s continuance,” Mr Scott said in his report.
He said other museums of national and international significance had paid staff.
“The incoming board will need to prioritise our key function, which is to collect and preserve the items, the writings, the photographs, videos and recordings which make up our country music history,” he said.
“... An increasing amount of the volunteers’ time and efforts has been necessarily devoted to the running of the business – and ours is a business – to the detriment of our main purpose.
“If the Australian Country Music Foundation is to secure its future, the board will need to address the gradual transition of the ACMF to a sustainable format which will necessarily include at least one paid position and all the red tape and expenses this will bring.”
Major concerns for the organisation were the increasing annual expenses which includes electricity, which last year was $4336, and could rise as high as $5000; and expenses incurred with the group’s major fundraiser – the Australian Country Music Roll of Renown concert at Tamworth Town Hall.
Town hall hire and ticketing fees for the concert amounted to almost $4000, which took a big chunk out of the $9875 receipted. With other expenses, the profit margin dwindled to $3300.
“In years past, we have relied on that profit to keep us afloat for the following 12 months. Without the performing artists agreeing to donate their services, it is very likely we would have had no profit at all; in all probability we would have made a loss,” his report read.
“I would like to express the board’s sincere thanks to those generous artists who have supported us by performing free of charge. Regarding next year, council still has not advised us as to what increase in hiring fees will be applied for this coming festival, but we can be assured there will be increases, and quite possibly major ones.”