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Author: Kate Follington
In 2017 the winner of the Collaborative Community Award category of the Victorian Community History Awards was a collective from Warrnambool who worked together to preserve the legacy of the Fletcher Jones' and Staff clothing business via a new website sharing local stories and photos, www.fjstories.org.au.
It was one of the few businesses prior to World War II that re-modeled as a co-operative, and the website stories offer insight into the innovative, charismatic and generous business operator who rose to fame to become a household name in quality clothing.
Julie Eagles is the Project Coordinator of the website and she shared her thoughts on why the project and recognition has been so important to them.
Q&A with Julie Eagles
Why did you feel this this website needed to be made?
Fletcher Jones, the man and the business played an incredibly important role in the social, cultural and economic history of so many people in Warrnambool and his story and impact were of national importance. And a website, rather than a book, seemed the best way to record history and stories as we are able to add new stories or updates. We have a link to our facebook page as well because the story continues with the re-purposing of the Pleasant Hill factory site, and things like the annual Christmas art market and community festival held annually in the Fletcher Jones gardens, that echoes the legendary parties that Fletcher held each year for his staff. A website is more alive than a book.
What impact has this project had on the local community?
The project enabled people to express what they valued about a piece of our history that Warrnambool people are very proud of. The process helped to embed that value and pride for the current generation as well. Then we also worked to get a Heritage Victoria grant to fix up the Fletcher Jones Water Tower (aka the Silver Ball) and so community and the new owner have worked together to conserve aspects of the actual factory site that was just falling down before.
Has the experience created new collaborations within the community?
Relationships have formed between various groups and individuals in very interesting ways. Artists, former factory workers, film makers, historical society folks, the descendants of Sir Fletcher, young and old people, locals and newcomers - it’s been a really fun and fascinating project that touched and involved a diverse mix of people in our community.
Do you think participating in the Victorian Community History Awards was a positive experience and why?
It was wonderful to win the Victorian Community History Award - in that real historians thought our project was pretty special and worthy of a statewide award among so many amazing entries! So we were very chuffed and proud!
The Victorian Community History Awards
The Victorian Community History Awards are presented annually by Public Record Office Victoria and the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. The Awards recognise the contributions made by Victorians in the preservation of the State's fascinating history, published in the previous year.
For information about entering the Victorian Community History Awards click here.