Spring Picnic FJs, 2014

The first community picnic in Fletcher Jones gardens was on September 14, 2014, just several months after the new owner Dean Montgomery bought the site and Dean came along to the picnic with his family.    We were absolutely amazed at how many people came to the gardens on this day as there'd been not that much advertisting.  There was an artists market, live music and films all of which started at 3pm on a very chilly afternoon.  It reinforced just how strong the community interest and connection to the FJ story and site is in Warrnambool. This is the transcript from the welcome speech given by Julie Eagles on the day.   

 

"My name is Julie Eagles and I’m very honoured to say a few words to welcome you to this F Project Spring picnic and Market.   Today is a celebration to mark a new chapter in the life of the Fletcher Jones site-a place and story that just so many people in Warrnambool are connected to.  Today’s event also builds on the tradition of the many community picnics that were held in these gardens for Fletcher Jones staff and families at Christmas that are remembered with such great affection.   Today also marks the 70th anniversary of the first board meeting of the Fletcher Jone’s company. 

For such a long time, people in our community watched this site falling more and more into disrepair.  We worried and worried about our beloved Silver Ball and that we might lose this weird and wonderful sculpture from our horizon.  We watched in appreciation as a small group of volunteers kept the gardens looking good.  We told each other about how important the Fletcher Jones story is to our history and sense of place in Warrnambool.   We shared stories, and photos, made movies and beautiful art inspired by Fletcher Jones fabrics and by the Silver Ball. 

We felt a bit hopeless but we hoped for a little miracle – and that’s what it felt like when Dean Montgomery bought the site.    

It’s hard to find the words to fully express the depth of our appreciation to you Dean Montgomery and to your family.  Dean was a member of the Save the Silver Ball and Fletcher’s Gardens Face book page before he bought this site and every step of the way before and since, he has been incredibly generous with his time and in his response to our community. Dean has encouraged conversations, input and community activities around the site.  Nothing has been too much trouble – tunnel tours – “yep sure we can do that” – Spring Picnic in the gardens with movies at dusk – “yep we can do that”…… It’s a dream come true to have an owner who sees heritage and community as positives rather than obstacles.

We’ve really enjoyed watching work starting to happen–we’ve already seen safety works on the Silver Ball, removal of asbestos in the building, a new roof over part of the building and plans are underway to fully restore the gardens to their glory days.  We look forward to watching progress to the next stage of renewal and especially to see our Silver Girl with a coat of paint and new orange legs.  Save the Silver Ball and Fletcher’s Gardens Facebook group now has over 700 members and we’ve just changed our subtitle to WE LOVE THE SILVER BALL and FLETCHER’s GARDENs with the purpose to celebrate and follow the progress and restoration of the Ball, Gardens and rest of the site, because it has after all now been ‘saved.’

FProject, FProject Cinema, Lex Caldwell and his team of volunteers, Warrnambool Planning and Heritage Group, Bluestone Magazine, Save the Silver Ball and Fletcher’s Gardens Group – all of these groups played important roles to activate and encourage people in our community to express their connection to this site and in particular to the Silver Ball and the gardens.  Collectively what we’ve been doing is encouraging people to think about local character and identity – what it is that gives us our sense of place and connection. 

The Silver Ball has inspired, art works, movies, poetry, photos, radio shows and even love affairs! 

Tonia Wilcox helped inspire Coast FM radio to declare the Silver Ball must always stay when she said – “The Silver Ball is an icon, it’s an important part of our heritage and culture that is instantly recognisable as being part of Warrnambool and unique to us and our skyline.   I get a thrill when I drive up the Hwy and she rises up like a majestic full moon above the horizon. I look for her as I live my life here, and she watches over me as I walk to the end of the breakwater, as I drive out to Gateway Plaza for my shopping, as I dropped the kids off at kinder and as I go to check out the waves at the Flume. With the Silver Ball, you know you are in Warrnambool, and you couldn't possibly be anywhere else.”

And now our Silver Ball has a song as well.  You are lucky enough to be here for the world premier of ‘Silver Ball’ – a song written by Damian O’Keefe in honour of our silver girl for this beautiful spring picnic day – a song that has never before been sung in public and may never be sung again! 

Take it away Damian and most of all thank you again Dean Montgomery!"

Dean Montgomery at the community Spring picnic in the FJ gardens in 2014, not long after he purchase the site in May, 2014.  Photo: Warrnambool Standard
sound file: 

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