Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 19 (1988)
Before I began this, my 20th. annual Report, 1 looked back to my first and found, to my amusement, that it was a mere half quarto page! During that year we had visited the Amold Bennett Country, seen the play of 'Wutherlng Heights', and our Guest of Honour at the Dinner was the writer, Richard Church, a kinsman of George Eliot. Our total membership was 60.
1987 was inevitably a quieter year than 1986 - can it really be more than two years since we unveiled the Statue? At the AGM in March it seemed almost inevitable that we should be accepting the resignation of Ann Reader who had been our treasurer for ten busy years culminating in the Statue appeal. A very young 79 year old, she felt it was time to hand on the purse strings to someone younger and her meticulous books were taken over by Brenda Evans who quickly proved what an asset she is with her enthusiasm for new projects and introducing George Eliot to new groups of people. By the end of the year Ann had become the first winner of the Nuneaton and Bedworth Joint Arts Association's Behind-the-Scenes A ward - a fitting climax to her ten years of service to the Fellowship, to George Eliot, and in the Statue Appeal, to Nuneaton itself. Joan Bunn has joined the Fellowship Council and has become an able and very supportive member. She replaced Ken Hayward who had been a Council member for a number of years and who had worked hard for us on many occasions, notably with 'begging bowls' and raffle tickets!
Gabriel Woolf's 18th. annual visit to Warwickshire was a tremendous success. We have come to rely on his wonderfully popular visit to help to fill our coffers; thanks to the generosity of a number of sponsors, his performance at the University of Warwick Arts Centre is seemingly assured for some time to come. It is a wonderfully prestigious place to play, and this and the evening in Nuneaton continues to be a highlight of our year. 'Tea and Sprouts', the 1987 programme, was, as always, a carefully selected and beautifully read anthology of literature with an unusual theme. Gabriel has been a very good friend of the Fellowship since we first met him 19 years ago.
The Parlour Performers made a return visit in May. Jonathan Ouvry, our President, and his wife Marjorie, together with their friends, gave us a superb evening of Victorian songs, and their visit raised a considerable sum towards the cost of the second plaque on the plinth of the statue - this time an informative one about George Eliot's life. No-one now has any excuse for not knowing the identity of the lady who sits in Newdegate Square. (No, madam, it is not Enid Blyton)! The fund for the plaque was completed by a most generous donation from Ann Reader. Her meticulous attention to detail clearly wouldn't allow her to pass on to the new treasurer a fund which was not neatly and successfully concluded. Ann is now a Vice President of the Fellowship - a lasting thank you for all her work.
At the Nuneaton Wreath-laying in June our Guest of Honour was Douglas Tribe, the newly appointed Head of George Eliot School. We had hoped that this would increase the involvement of the school with the Fellowship but, sadly, this has not happened. However, it continues to send two representatives to the Wreath-laying and perhaps schools are too busy to do more.
The Westminster Abbey Wreathlaying was voted the best yet. Jonathan Ouvry read a passage from Scenes of Clerical Life and John Kane, a member who lives in George Eliot's own Holly Lodge at Wandsworth, laid the wreath. In his strong actor's voice he gave a splendid Address on George Eliot and adulation. This was followed (amazingly, since these things are not planned but left to the choice of the reader) by Gabriel Woolf reading an entry from G. H. Lewes's diary in which he described some admirer touching George Eliot at the Westminster Abbey wedding of Lionel Tennyson, and with the beginning of Romola which began Gabriel's own ‘loveaffair' with George Eliot.