On Sunday 20th March, the Maltese Culture Movement had its Annual General Meeting. Bernard Scerri the chairman opened up by thanking all the members that attended and all those that responded with nominations. He then proceeded by remembering all the members that passed away since last AGM and observing a minute silence in their memory. The secretary, Barbara Scerri then reported on the past activities and in particular about the Imnarja function and how much this had improved since the last two years when the format of this function was changed to an open day affair with entertainment for all the family. Emphases were put on how much we depended on the committee and the many helpers who volunteer their time and energies to make the event a success. She thanked all those who helped for their work and support. The accent then fell on the Malta Day in September and while this event was conducted under the auspices of the Malta High Commission, the Maltese Culture Movement, was a big player in this event and compelled to its success. She again expressed the need for more volunteers to continue making this event a success.
Then it came to the New Year’s Eve Party, which the Movement has been organising since its inception in 1998. This function has always been very popular and well attended and had become almost synonymous with the Movement’s activities. Sadly, the attendance during the recent years has decreased while the hotels continue to demand higher prices. The secretary maintained that the Movement was duty bound to offer value for money to its members and the hotels were making it impossible with their exorbitant prices. This year it was touch and go whether to go ahead with this function but through perseverance we managed to find a hotel just within budget and as it happened it turned out to be a very enjoyable party. She then mentioned the Convention for Maltese Living Abroad that took place in March 2010 and commented that she was fortunate enough to be present and expressed how this put a different light on Maltese living abroad but left it to the chair to report further on this subject.
Bernard confirmed that taking part in the convention was a privilege and at times very moving as one meets the many other fellow Maltese working within the Maltese communities abroad. People whose high convictions compelled them for the preservation and well being for all that is Maltese. The picture that started to emerge was a common one; whichever side of the globe we settled in we faced the same scenario, mainly that we are now an ageing community and our young ones are becoming more and more detached from what we see as our traditions, heritage and culture. He said that as a result of the convention the Federation of Maltese Living Abroad (FMLA) was formed and the aim of the Federation are to associate, represent and safeguard the interests of its member organisations. Bernard continued saying that the Government of Malta committed itself to the setting up of a public institution to safeguard the interests, rights and aspirations of the Maltese living abroad and that the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Tonio Borg, intended to give this institution a legal basis through the enactment of a Bill in Parliament. ‘This is something that we’ve been working for, for a long time’ he said ‘and at last the Maltese authorities are listing and hailing us some recognition and why not? The way I see it is that the Maltese living in the UK have contributed heftily to the Maltese economy and yet we are probably the least recognised simply because geographically we are nearer and visit the Islands more frequently’. But on the other hand, now that things are happening it is up to us to continue this momentum by coming together and show solidarity. We have a part to play too and we shouldn’t keep taking a nonchalant attitude because things might have not have happened in the past. He then announced that on the 25th June at our Imnarja Function, Dr Joseph Muscat, leader of the opposition was to visit. ‘This is a great honour for us’; he said and promised that there will be more visits by other prominent members.
Bernard also mentioned about the Migration Museum at Dar L-Emigrant. This is going to be a state of the art museum and anyone with artefacts and memorabilia should consider contributing these to them. Also donations are being sought to finance the museum and those who may wish to contribute must do this direct with Monsignor Phillip Calleja at Dar L-Emigrant,Valletta.
The next on the agenda was the treasurer’s report. This job also fell on Bernard Scerri, as acting treasurer since the passing away of Joseph Criminale early last year. The finances showed a healthy balance for the passed financial year. He reminded those present that our financial year starts on May 1st and ends 30th April. He then went on to explain that these dates were purposely chosen as we like to compare each year like for like and since we hold an Easter function and Easter sometimes falls in March and sometimes in April, this would avoid cases were in one financial year we have two Easter functions while in another non. He expressed that the trust fund that was intended to raise funds to establish our Maltese Centre was disappointing and major funding was needed if we are to realise this dream. And since the property boom it put this project completely out of proportion and perhaps a semi commercial approach should be looked at rather than purely philanthropic. He also said that he was looking forward to see the new treasurer taking this post so that we can start fine tuning the finances.
The floor was then taken by the Membership Secretary, Teddy Cassar, who reported that we have to date about 3800 contacts on our database out of which 1180 are members. These are listed on the website including the new members. He expressed the disappointment that the membership fee was not being paid and to keep reminding members it can sometimes cost more than the fee itself. He said that this was partly our fault as we paused to see how we can automate the process of collecting the fee through the website. He also pointed out that the system we adopted was that the membership starts from the day one joins till a year later. This system was good initially because it staggered the reminders, which were personalised. But as the membership grew bigger it became harder to keep up. He proposed that a system where the membership becomes due on the beginning of our financial year would be more practical to handle and send bulk reminders by email. It was resolved that the new system would apply from the beginning of May our new financial year. Another preposition was that the membership fee should be increased to reflect today’s prices. Most members agreed that a £10.00 rather than the present £6.00 would be more appropriate. However this was not voted on as it was argued that most members round off their payment to £10.00, which is registered as £6.00 fee and £4.00 donation. Teddy also pointed out that those that send donations they were automatically listed on the website and thanked for their donations and this list remains there for 12 months. The Membership secretary then stated that after ten years in this position he is standing down and intends pursuing other positions within the organisation, which he truly loved. He then thanked everyone who kept up with their membership and wished every success and good wishes to his successor.
The Secretary Barbara Scerri then proceeded with the election. She read all the nomination forms and these were seconded.
The elected members of the new committee were: Bernard Scerri (Chairman), Barbara Scerri (Secretary), Marianne Troullis (Treasurer) Annette Aggett (Membership Secretary) Teddy Cassar (Regional Secretary), Theresa Cassar (Catering), Victor Bonett (Press Secretary) Grace Farrugia, Grace Xuereb, Carmen Attard, Kevin White, Anthony Wellman and Walter Field-Cassar (Social and Fund Raising).
Four of the retiring members, Connie Vella, Ruby Scerri, Wilfrid Storace Rutter and Marthese Murch were made life members for their services to the Movement.
After the election there were open discussions on future activities and emphases were put on organising functions outside London and for this we needed key persons from that area. The chairman pointed out that we had a number of requests from Scotland, Manchester, Southampton/Portsmouth, Cambridgeshire/Northumberland and Gloucester. There was some interest also from different parts of London.
Then the discussion went on youths and how to organise with this in mind and some suggestions were put forward which we intend to implement. These were:
- First we have to divide the youths in different age groups.
- For the younger groups promoting through their schools. – Most schools in the UK hold multicultural days. The movement can assist by providing Maltese Flag Maltese costumes and Maltese products. This should be encouraged together with posters of Malta and a brief history.
- Most schools hold local carnivals – Interested schools (usually where Maltese attend) show these students the art of Maltese float making on a smaller scale.
- Sponsor a Junior Football team and have them visit the Islands and hopefully arrange a match with other similar Maltese football teams.
- Arrange a Maltese talent competition with proper qualified judges and a top prize – visit to Malta.
- For older groups arrange Maltese get-togethers in clubs and supply the Maltese beverages (kinnie, cisk) and Maltese food. – A couple of clubs already earmarked.
- Announce events on facebook, twitter, etc
The chairman then concluded by thanking everyone who attended and to follow us with feedback as these suggestions are implemented. The meeting was then closed and everyone joined in with a reception for the occasion.
At the end as everyone started going home we realised that we got so carried away that we forgot to take a group photo… Oh well nothing is hundred percent!