Regulation stars

FOLIO Sutton Coldfield has pledged to share Dr Agnes Kaposi’s testimony and work towards increasing community knowledge about the Holocaust through public events and library resources. As part of this commitment each month we share a short piece from Agnes, exploring one aspect or experience from her life.

This month’s window into Agnes’s life takes us back to 1944 and is titled “Yellow Star Factory”.

My native Hungary fought World War 2 on Hitler’s side, and yet, the German army occupied allied Hungary in March 1944. One of the reasons was to eliminate the Jews of the country.

Hitler put Adolf Eichmann in charge of the task. Eichmann wasted no time. Within weeks, Jews were confined to ghettos nationwide. Even before, from 5th April 1944, Jews aged six and above had to wear a distinguishing sign: a six-cornered yellow star with strictly specified colour, hue and size (10cm diameter). At the age of 11, I came under the regulation.

At first, Jews appeared on the streets wearing limp scraps of yellow rags. The police chased them home, demanding regulation stars.

What good fortune, having a mathematician for a father! Even before I reached school age, my father had taught me how to construct hexagons, using a compass. I put my skill to good use. I cut six-pointed stars of the prescribed 10 cm size out of thin cardboard. Next, my grandmother and I cut slightly larger six-pointed stars of some yellow felt from her stock of textiles, and she and I tucked and sewed the felt around the cardboard. We made stars for each member of the family and sewed them to our outdoor clothing. Everyone admired our smart designs, and soon we were producing yellow stars by the dozen, the fruits of our labour freely available to all.

These stars earned me a handsome sum decades later, when my beloved grandmother, the real star of the star factory, was long dead. In London, in 2006, my mother was nearing the end of her life, suffering from dementia. One day a lady came from Britain’s ‘Jewish Care’ organisation, asking how they might help. The lady was surprised to hear that my mother and I had been in the camps during the war, and asked whether we had worked in the ghetto. I said of course not. How did we spend our time, she wanted to know? When I mentioned making yellow stars, she perked up, asked a lot of questions, filled in a questionnaire, and told me to sign it: she knew of a German fund which ‘compensated’ Jews who worked in the ghetto. A few months later I received a cheque for some £800. Other survivors (although not members of my family) had received ‘restitution’ money. Can a lost childhood be restituted? Can people be compensated for fear, pain, grief, degradation?

Dr. Agnes Kaposi

FOLIO first worked with Dr Agnes Kaposi, in January this year when we collaborated with Echo Eternal in their Horizon’s festival.

Agnes was born in Hungary and started school just at the outbreak of World War II. Many of her family were murdered in the Holocaust, together with half of million other Hungarian Jews. A series of fortunate coincidences allowed Agnes to survive the ghetto, deportation and slave labour in Nazi concentration camps.

After the war Agnes’s native country fell under a tyrannical communist regime. The 1956 Hungarian revolution offered her the opportunity to escape, settle in Britain, and build a career, becoming a distinguished member of the engineering profession.

If you’d like to learn more about Agnes’s life and experience you can borrow her autobiography from the library or purchase your own copy. You can also watch the interview we made with Agnes in January on YouTube.

Past snippets include Conspiracy, Right to a Future and Marriage, Communist Style.

An interview with Kitty Aldridge

Sutton Coldfield has appeared in the pages of books a surprising number of times, from Shakespeare’s Henry IV part 1, to memoirs by Sarah Millican and AA Gill, via references in poetry by Pam Ayres, a play by George Bernard Shaw and a book that Phillip Pullman described as being “one of the indispensable books; for my money, it is the best of all.” But twenty years ago a novel was published that eclipses them all in terms of really having Sutton Coldfield at its lyrical heart, and that book is Pop by Kitty Aldridge.

This funny, eloquent and moving novel about a teenager who, in 1975, goes to live with her grandfather, a regular at the Fox and Dogs on Little Sutton Road, following the death of her mother is full of poignant and witty observations. Whether it is drinking in the Pint Pot or Plough and Harrow, walking in Sutton Park, or exploring the shopping delights of a new Gracechurch centre, Pop oozes Sutton Coldfield in wonderful, authentic detail, only adding to the delight any local resident may have when reading this brilliant, down-to-earth yet poetic novel which was one of the Sunday Telegraph’s Best Books of 2001.

To celebrate 20 years since its publication, and to inspire more fabulous writing set in Sutton Coldfield as part of FOLIO’s current Flash Fiction competition, FOLIO’s Chair Zoe Toft recently interviewed Kitty Aldridge about her life and how she came to set her debut novel in Sutton Coldfield.

Kitty Aldridge was born in Bahrain but writing about Sutton Coldfield came about due to a family connection. Her grandfather, Arthur Aldridge, on whom the eponymous Pop is based “loved Sutton Coldfield with a passion” having been born and bred in Four Oaks. Kitty, as a child, had been “impressed by his swagger, his abundant general knowledge, and by the glamour and irreverence of his copious smoking and drinking, not to mention his exotic-sounding accent. He seemed to me in those days to be an otherworldly figure: swashbuckling, rakish, stuffed with songs and stories from his time with the RAF’s 110 Squadron,” and so when Kitty decided in the mid-nineties to move from acting (her credits include appearances in ‘A Room with a View’ and ‘Cadfael’) into writing, she took inspiration from Arthur and his life.

“Arthur was regularly appalled by something or other which, in his opinion, ought to be put right: this or that was a disgrace. It was easy to imagine him clanking about in rusted armour with a lance and indeed, years later, I thought of moustache’d Arthur and his mongrel dog, Blowbroth (not re-named in the novel), as West Midlands versions of Don Quixote and Rocinante.”

Arthur’s son, Kitty’s father Peter Aldridge, accompanied her on several research trips spending long mornings in Sutton pubs, walking around The Parade and Sutton Park with its Roman road and pools. “I felt at home in the West Midlands during this time and I came to love Sutton Park in particular. Pop would famously grow wistful when talking about Sutton Park, he was very proud to be a Sutton man.”

Arthur Aldridge during WWII during his time with 110 Squadron

“When writing I always research the local geography and history of a place: it’s helpful and always enriches and informs the writing. I am preoccupied by rural landscapes that have been altered, developed, transformed, and what that does to the identity of the people who live there.

I walked around Sutton Coldfield until I felt the place in my bones. My father had many personal memories of his father, Arthur, and of the area. When you start to write a novel it is important that you feel as if you own it, the place, the characters: it must belong to you (even if it doesn’t). I keep researching until I run out of questions and then I often return to the research later. Eventually, if you spend enough time in a place watching and listening, you begin to hear the voices speaking – you smell the fields, the beer, the hot tarmac. And off you go.”

Although researching her debut novel proved immensely enjoyable for Kitty, reading and writing have not always been as pleasurable; at school Kitty struggled with learning to read and write eventually deciding to leave at 16. “I chose, instead of A’ Levels, to live and work in London, doing various ordinary jobs – a far better education for an actor or a novelist than A’ Levels. No A’ Level will teach you about real characters, serendipity, human struggle, colloquial language: all the things you need as an actor or novelist.”

After various jobs in London restaurants, bars and shops Kitty was accepted into drama school. Following graduation she paired up with fellow acting student Esther Freud, and together they wrote and performed a two-woman show, the success of which opened doors leading to fifteen years working as an actor in film, theatre and T.V. After a stint working on screenplays, and around the time she became a new mum, Kitty made the leap into writing fiction.

“People quite often ask about the parallels between acting and writing – and there are parallels, of course, in terms of narrative story telling and development of character, but they feel to me like very different disciplines. When you are acting you are not thinking about the arc of the story at all – you’re not supposed to – you are focused entirely on responding to the characters around you; remaining truthful in the moment.

Being truthful is important to a novelist too but you are also preoccupied with the narrative as a whole, and a cast of characters, as well as considering what took place twenty pages back and how that might affect what follows twenty pages on. It is necessary to have an overview as a novelist that as an actor you must avoid (when acting it’s not helpful to know all about other characters’ hidden motivations or what the outcome of the scene will be, for example). The self-doubt is the same, however! The ability to imagine other worlds. And the stillness.”

Arthur, Kitty and Peter Aldridge in c.1965Thinking about what advice Kitty might offer anyone trying to write an entry for FOLIO’s Flash Fiction competition, reading other writers and finding inspiration from them is perhaps a good starting point. Kitty, drawn as she often is to write “about ordinary working people leading apparently unremarkable lives”, has been particularly influenced by the writing of British novelists like Alan Sillitoe and the Black Country poet, Liz Berry. “I hadn’t understood that you could take liberties with English, write in dialects, use idiomatic expressions. At school we were punished for that.”

Deadlines (24th of October for FOLIO’s Flash Fiction competition!) and finding a writing peer group can also help, as well as being prepared to take a risk and try something different. Kitty completed a Masters in Creative Writing aged fifty eight; “it offered something new: in particular the fellowship of a writing group and supportive tutors. I found the numerous deadlines helpful. I was encouraged to experiment and I was required to avoid writing another novel, having published four, so I wrote a collection of short stories, which I am currently completing.”

But one project that, sadly, may never be completed, is the planned film of Pop.

“The actor, Richard Harris, read Pop the novel, and was keen to play Arthur. His son, film director Damian Harris, hoped to direct his father in a film version, which was to be shot locally in Sutton. Producers bought the film rights, and Damian approached me to co-write the screenplay with him, which I did in early 2002. The budget was in place and they were looking to cast the role of teenage Maggie when, very sadly during pre-production in October 2002, Richard died suddenly. Damian did subsequently consider other actors for the role, but as the budget was dependent on Richard Harris and therefore the production stalled and never revived.”

It’s tantalising to think what might have been!

Pop’s depiction of Kitty’s grandfather is rich, sensitive and such fun to read. He is buried in Mere Green, where, long before his own death he was walking past the churchyard one day and “spotted an elderly man leaning on the wall, surveying the unusually tall grass that had grown to the height of the gravestones. Arthur liked to share the old man’s comment: ‘’Some of these poor buggers could use a haircut.’’ Irreverent, surreal, it was a remark Arthur could easily have made himself. He was a Sutton man all the way to the tip of his cigarette.”

………

Kitty’s latest book The Wisdom of Bones, described as “a real tour de force from a supremely talented writer” can be borrowed through the Birmingham library system and delivered to any library in Sutton Coldfield, or ordered through Waterstones Sutton Coldfield.

Entry to FOLIO’s Flash Fiction competition is free. The deadline is 24th of October, and full details can be found here: https://foliosuttoncoldfield.org.uk/flash-fiction-competition-2021/

Conspiracy

FOLIO Sutton Coldfield has pledged to share Dr Agnes Kaposi’s testimony and work towards increasing community knowledge about the Holocaust through public events and library resources. As part of this commitment each month we share a short piece from Agnes, exploring one aspect or experience from her life.

This month’s window into Agnes’s life takes us back to the 1950s and gives an insight into life under Hungary’s communist regime and the role of the secret police.

Janos’s parents’ house – where Agnes and Janos lived after marrying and where the Secret Police concluded some sort of conspiracy was afoot.

The Hungarian Revolution broke out in October 1956. It gave people the opportunity to break open the steel files of Personnel Departments and get hold of their secret personal files. The Secret Police compiled such files on everybody. We preserved a few leaves of my husband’s file, and here they are, on the shelf. They make for almost amusing reading. It shows that he successfully walked a tightrope, managed to present himself as helpful, polite, technically and culturally astute, but politically moronic, unsuitable for recruitment into the Communist Party. We had my file too, but it is now lost. It showed that I failed to blend into the background, I came close again and again to being unmasked and punished as an enemy of the people. The most serious item in my file was the suspicion that I was involved in, may even be the organiser of, a dangerous conspiracy. Here is the case.

It was noted in my file that my fiancé Janos and I married at the end of my first university year, and that we lived in a room in his parents’ house. Theirs was a corner house, with a low garden fence, easily overlooked from two streets. The home of the old and young Kaposi couples was a flat upstairs on a high mezzanine, and there were three small semi-basement dwellings below. The names of neighbours and the families downstairs were recorded.

My personal file showed that the Secret Police regularly questioned several families in the vicinity, and also interrogated the three families downstairs. The reports stated that we led a quiet life: classical music was frequently heard, there were no quarrels, no large gatherings and no noisy parties. They noted a few occasional callers but only two sets of frequent visitors: my parents and my husband’s best friend Zoli, his wife and their baby daughter. On the other hand, the observers reported that very suspicious events took place twice a year: for about two weeks, three or four young men would arrive and spend many hours in the house, sometimes even on Sunday. Occasionally these young men would even stay overnight! The informers remarked how still the house was during these visits. Apparently meetings were taking place, the observers stated, but conversations were intermittent and the talk was so quiet that outside listeners could not discern what was being said. During these events even the classical music was silenced! – After such hushed two weeks all would go back to normal, but the suspicious events were repeated at roughly six-monthly intervals. A conspiracy was suspected, and agents of the Secret Police warned all neighbours to stay vigilant.
The state authorities were thorough and their observations were correct, but they were not clever: they never figured out what was going on. Have you worked it out? Here is they key to the dangerous conspiracy:

I was at university for four years of my married life. My university course was organised semester-wise, and examinations took place at the end of each semester, in February and June. I was preparing for exams together with a few of my colleagues. Sometimes we worked well into the night, so if trams had stopped running, my colleagues stayed overnight, sleeping on the floor, wrapped in blankets. My friends were students who lived in bleak unheated hostels, whereas our house was warm, my parents-in-law were hospitable, and a bowl of soup and a mug of coffee was always at hand.

Dr. Agnes Kaposi

FOLIO first worked with Dr Agnes Kaposi, in January this year when we collaborated with Echo Eternal in their Horizon’s festival.

Agnes was born in Hungary and started school just at the outbreak of World War II. Many of her family were murdered in the Holocaust, together with half of million other Hungarian Jews. A series of fortunate coincidences allowed Agnes to survive the ghetto, deportation and slave labour in Nazi concentration camps.

After the war Agnes’s native country fell under a tyrannical communist regime. The 1956 Hungarian revolution offered her the opportunity to escape, settle in Britain, and build a career, becoming a distinguished member of the engineering profession.

If you’d like to learn more about Agnes’s life and experience you can borrow her autobiography from the library or purchase your own copy. You can also watch the interview we made with Agnes in January on YouTube.

Could you be a FOLIO Trustee?

FOLIO Sutton Coldfield is recruiting two new trustees to join our Board!

You can find full details below or in our downloadable (pdf) recruitment pack.

Closing date for applications: 8 October 2021 (5pm)
Interviews: 2 November (evening)

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FOLIO Sutton Coldfield is a Registered Charity (No. 1175929, registered in England and Wales). We formed from a community group of Sutton Coldfield residents who wanted to see our public libraries not just survive, but thrive at the heart of our community.

FOLIO Sutton Coldfield runs an extensive programme of events and activities, designed with the intention that everyone will find something that might appeal to them. The events are generally held in Sutton Coldfield Library and encourage people to visit the library and use its services.

Our constitution sets out our ‘objects’, which are “The advancement of education for the public benefit in the area served by public libraries which are based in the constituency of Sutton Coldfield, without distinction of sex, sexual orientation, race or politics, religious or other opinions, in particular but not exclusively by: (a) supporting and promoting the current library service in Sutton Coldfield; (b) facilitating educational courses and events in libraries and through library outreach.”

We have thought about what these ‘objects’ mean in everyday language:

Our vision is to help create an inspired and cohesive local community, passionate about reading and learning, which enjoys and engages with library services.

Our mission is to offer inspirational and transformational activities for the community to learn, interact and thrive, through engagement with local library services.

Our values are that we will be:

Welcoming:
We reach out and welcome people in
We are respectful and inclusive
We engage fully with participants, funders and partners

Imaginative:
We provide activities/events which are meaningful for the participants
We offer activities/events which enrich library services
We create a “wow” factor

Community-focused:
We involve our local community and the wider community
We collaborate with a diverse group of stakeholders to deliver a variety of activities/events together
We offer a wide range of activities/events that will appeal to different sections of our community

FOLIO Sutton Coldfield raises funds to host events and facilitate projects within or in support of the public libraries in Sutton Coldfield. While our activities have been hampered over the last 18 months, due to the coronavirus pandemic, previously we were, on average, putting on 2-4 events a week, from code clubs and creative writing workshops to den building and messy play, local history talks, school and adult workshops and a whole host of author and illustrator workshops. These events have ensured increased footfall to Sutton Coldfield Library, a raised awareness of all the library service has to offer and an increased passion for our local library service. During the pandemic, we have been offering digital and some ‘offline’ activities, some ‘in-person’, when restrictions permit, in line with national and local requirements and the results of our own assessments of risk.

We have raised in excess of £120,000 through grants since we were formed and are widely considered a key local community group. Feedback from our events since the start of 2020 included the following comments:

“It was a once in a lifetime experience, so much fun.”

“[The best bit was] Seeing so many happy people loving being in a library – so many people finding corners to read and share stories in, inspired by sessions they had just attended. It was an amazing atmosphere, a brilliant event, bringing people together.”

“It was so lovely to have a fun, buzzy, local book event for my two year old. Seeing her so happy was great!”

“This was inspirational for my 8 year old who loves reading and writing.”

“Thank you ever so much for organising such a fantastic event and inspiring children to read and have a passion for books. It was absolutely brilliant!”

“An amazing inspirational event that has encouraged my FASD child to read.” (FASD = Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder)

“It could hardly be classed as ‘work’ when it’s such an enjoyable thing to do.” [on volunteering at a FOLIO event]

“Thank you for organising these events which have brightened an evening during these difficult days of lockdown.”

“The online sessions have worked brilliantly, although I’m also looking forward to some face-to-face events as well. Many thanks to you and Folio for enabling a real sense of community under such difficult circumstances.”

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FOLIO Sutton Coldfield – our current situation

FOLIO Sutton Coldfield has a Board of Trustees, currently with four members:

Chair – Zoe Toft
Treasurer – Jenny Wilkinson
Acting Secretary – Liz Parry
Trustee (with special responsibility for volunteers) – Noran Flynn

You can read more about FOLIO Sutton Coldfield and our work here on our website – please use the menu items above to navigate around.

You can get a sense of our community on our Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/FOLIOSuttonColdfield/

Here is FOLIO’s entry on the Charity Commission website:
https://register-of-charities.charitycommission.gov.uk/charity-search/-/charity-details/5104330

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FOLIO Sutton Coldfield – where we want to be

As is the case with many young / small charities, at FOLIO Sutton Coldfield our Board of Trustees is not only responsible for the governance of the charity, but additionally we carry out most of the day-to-day running of the charity, from writing funding applications, managing projects, creating publicity materials for FOLIO and delivering/stewarding at events. In addition to our Board of Trustees we have a body of around 30 volunteers who assist with events on an ad hoc basis.

As part of our strategic vision for the next five years we want to move to a model where FOLIO has a significantly increased body of volunteers enabling us to deliver more events, a small team of paid staff who will be responsible for the operational side of FOLIO, and an expanded Board of Trustees who can focus on strengthening the charity’s governance. All of this will significantly enrich FOLIO, ensuring that the flying start we have got off to as a charity can be maintained and our sustainability is ensured.

To assist us in our transformation we are seeking to recruit two new trustees to our board, one of whom will be appointed as our Secretary.

In parallel with this, we are also have an application currently under consideration with a grant awarding body which would fund a paid part-time project manager to support us in providing an exciting and varied programme of events as well as fund-raising and running the charity.

Who are we looking for?

First and foremost we are looking for enthusiastic people keen to make a real difference to the local community in Sutton Coldfield by playing an active role in enhancing our existing dynamic team. A can-do, creative and positive approach is essential. Previous board experience is not necessary. We are very keen to increase the diversity of our Board of Trustees and will work to ensure we are fully inclusive. We welcome applications from everybody.

We are keen to recruit young people (16+), current or retired librarians/library assistants, those with experience of working in an education setting (not limited to schools), those with experience of working in the arts and people with commercial/business experience. 

If you have skills in IT, fundraising/income generation, charity law, finance or helping organisations evolve, you’ll be able to make a particularly valuable contribution to FOLIO Sutton Coldfield. Recruiting to the role of Secretary is a key priority for the board. Please see below for the Secretary Role Specification.

We can offer trustee training and support, as well as a comprehensive induction. Trustees are unpaid volunteers but we can cover your expenses.

Trustees are expected to attend monthly board meetings. These normally take place from 7.30pm to 9.30pm and are usually on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings. Over recent months, we have been meeting virtually, via Zoom, but we expect to move to alternating between virtual and in person meetings from the autumn. In person meetings will be in or around central Sutton Coldfield.

During our period of transition, as we move from a model where trustees do much of the operational work to one where FOLIO has a small number of staff, we also ask trustees to steward at up to four FOLIO events during the year (chosen to align with your particular interests). This is a great way to experience FOLIO’s work and meet library users and others who attend our events.

The closing date for expressions of interest in becoming a trustee of FOLIO Sutton Coldfield is 5pm on Friday, 8 October 2021. Interviews will be held from 7.30pm on Tuesday, 2 November in the library in central Sutton Coldfield.

If you’d like to have an informal conversation about becoming a trustee, please feel free to contact our Chair, Zoe Toft, on chair@foliosuttoncoldfield.org.uk

If you’d like to find out more about what it means to be a charity trustee in general these links will help you:

https://reachvolunteering.org.uk/guide/become-trustee
https://knowhow.ncvo.org.uk/governance/getting-started-in-governance/trustees
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/charity-trustee-whats-involved

Dates for remaining Board of Trustee meetings in 2021:

21 September, 7.30pm – online
20 October, 7.30pm – in person
16 November, 7.30pm – online
21 December, 7.30pm – in person

FOLIO Sutton Coldfield has a Code of Conduct for its trustees which you can read here: https://foliosuttoncoldfield.org.uk/policies/

Trustees are appointed for an initial term of three years with the option to renew thereafter. You can read our Constitution (our Governing Document) here.

FOLIO Sutton Coldfield requires all trustees to hold a full DBS certificate. This does not need to be in hand at time of application; should you be invited to join FOLIO’s Board of Trustees we will meet the cost of a DBS check.

There are certain legal constraints on who can stand as a trustee. For full details please read the section “Trustee eligibility and responsibility” on this form: https://bit.ly/2KhNSJf

If invited to join FOLIO’s Board of Trustees you will be asked to formally confirm that you are legally eligible to be a charity trustee.

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Trustee – Role Specification

Trustee responsibilities:

  • Ensure that FOLIO Sutton Coldfield complies with its governing document, charity law, company law and any other relevant legislation or regulations.
  • Ensure that FOLIO Sutton Coldfield pursues its objects as defined in its governing document.
  • Ensure that FOLIO Sutton Coldfield uses its resources exclusively in pursuance of its objects: the charity must not spend money on activities which are not included in its own objects, no matter how worthwhile or charitable those activities are.
  • Contribute actively to the Board of Trustees’ role in giving firm strategic direction to FOLIO Sutton Coldfield, setting overall policy, defining goals and setting targets and evaluating performance against agreed targets.
  • Safeguard the good name and values of FOLIO Sutton Coldfield.
  • Ensure the effective and efficient administration of FOLIO Sutton Coldfield.
  • Ensure the financial stability of FOLIO Sutton Coldfield.
  • Protect and manage the assets of the charity.
  • Be involved in the appointment of staff and the monitoring of their performance.

  • Additional Role Specification for Secretary

    In addition to the above, the Secretary has the following specific responsibilities:

  • Ensure smooth and efficient running of trustee meetings. Liaise with the Chair to prepare the agendas and collate and circulate paperwork on a timely basis.
  • Take and circulate minutes of board meetings. Accurately record decisions and actions and report to the next meeting on the progress of actions and the result of decisions.
  • Prepare and file the Annual Return and Annual Report to the Charity Commission.
  • Ensure our Charity Commission records are kept up-to-date.
  • Otherwise correspond with the Charity Commission as required.
  • Ensure that all decisions made by the trustees are in accordance with the governing document and reflect the objects of the charity.
  • Ensure proper governance of the charity and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Communicate necessary updates regarding regulatory and compliance matters to the board.
  • Trustee – Person specification

    Specific skills and experience relating to the trustee role: 


  • Commitment to FOLIO Sutton Coldfield, its vision, mission and values.
  • Understanding of the legal duties, responsibilities and liabilities of trusteeship.
  • Willingness to put time and effort into the trustee role.
  • Commitment to Nolan’s seven principles of public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
  • For the Secretary role, a legal background and understanding of Charity Law would be a benefit but not essential.

  • Personal qualities

  • Good, independent judgement.
  • Impartiality, fairness and confidentiality.
  • Willingness to speak their mind.
  • Tact and diplomacy.
  • Respect for others.
  • Willingness to learn new skills.

  • Specific skills and abilities

  • Strategic thinker.
  • Creative thinker.
  • Effective team member.
  • Excellent communicator and strong interpersonal skills. 

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    How to apply 

    Please send us a statement (maximum 500 words) about why you want to be a trustee of FOLIO Sutton Coldfield and what you think you are able to offer to the charity. We are interested hearing about your relevant experiences, whether in work or as a volunteer. Please indicate if you would be specifically interested in the Secretary role.

    Please include the names and details for one referee who will not be contacted until after a successful interview. The statement should be sent by email to Zoe Toft on chair@foliosuttoncoldfield.org.uk with the subject: Trustee Expression of Interest.

    All applicants are strongly encouraged to meet informally with FOLIO trustees before they submit their statement. Please do come and chat to us at one of our events in September:

    Elderberries in Sutton Coldfield Library
    9 September 10.30-11.30am

    Sutton Coldfield Town Hall Community Fete
    12 September 11-6pm
    Come and say hello to FOLIO at our stall

    Telling Sutton’s Stories at Banner’s Gate Community Hall
    14 September 1.30-4.30pm

    Holy Trinity Heritage Open Day
    18 September 11-3pm
    Come and say hello to FOLIO at our stall

    Sutton Coldfield BID Expo
    25 September 9-5pm
    Come and say hello to FOLIO at our stall. NB This event is on the Parade outside the Gracechurch Centre.

    If you are not able to attend any of these dates but would still like to meet informally with FOLIO trustees please get in touch by emailing Zoe Toft on chair@foliosuttoncoldfield.org.uk
    
The closing date for expressions of interest is 5pm on Friday 8 October 2021.

    Interviews will take place in the evening of November 2nd in the library in central Sutton Coldfield.

    Please let us know if you will require any adjustment because of any disability should you be called for interview.

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    Queries 

    If you have any queries on any aspect of the appointment process, need additional information or would like to have an informal discussion, please contact Zoe Toft on chair@foliosuttoncoldfield.org.uk

    If you would like to support FOLIO Sutton Coldfield but decide that applying to become a trustee is not for you there are several other ways you can support our charity. You can:

  • Tell your friends and colleagues about FOLIO and encourage them to attend one of our events.
  • Share your ideas with us about the sorts of events you’d like to see in your local public library.
    Volunteer at an event.
  • Volunteer behind the scenes with distributing information about FOLIO events either in person eg via schools, churches, or online.
  • Donate to FOLIO (you can donate online via https://localgiving.org/charity/folio-sutton-coldfield/).
  • Right to a future

    Dr. Agnes Kaposi

    As regular FOLIO followers will know, we have an ongoing relationship with Dr Agnes Kaposi, who we first met in January this year thanks to our collaboration with Echo Eternal in their Horizon’s festival.

    Agnes was born in Hungary and started school just at the outbreak of World War II. Many of her family were murdered in the Holocaust, together with half of million other Hungarian Jews. A series of fortunate coincidences allowed Agnes to survive the ghetto, deportation and slave labour in Nazi concentration camps.

    After the war Agnes’s native country fell under a tyrannical communist regime. The 1956 Hungarian revolution offered her the opportunity to escape, settle in Britain, and build a career, becoming a distinguished member of the engineering profession.

    FOLIO Sutton Coldfield has pledged to share Agnes’s testimony and work towards increasing community knowledge about the Holocaust through public events and library resources. As part of this commitment each month we share an short piece from Agnes, exploring one aspect or experience from her life.

    This month’s window into Agnes’s life takes us back to the early months back in Budapest after the end of the Second World War.

    These days Újpest is a district of Greater Budapest, but when I was a girl, it was a town in its own right, a few miles from the centre of Hungary’s capital Budapest. Újpest had been founded in the 19th century by Jewish craftsmen who were not allowed to live and work in Budapest, but could settle outside of the city boundaries and transport their goods downriver to sell them in the capital. Újpest soon grew to be one of the main industrial centres of the country. Before World War 2, of Újpest’s 100,000 inhabitants, 20,000 were Jews.

    All but a thousand of Újpest’s Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. When the war ended, disoriented Jews drifted back from the camps, skeletal and sick, many with numbers tattooed on their arm. Some found one or two members of their family, but most were alone, children without parents and siblings, mothers without husbands and children. There were as many sorrowful stories as people.

    I was 12 years old at the time, just back from the camps, homeless, hungry, newcomer to the town, one of only three Jews in the school, the only Jew in my class. My classmates did not want to know me. Some of the teachers made it clear that they hated Jews, and would have preferred if none of them had survived.

    In other schools, in workshops, in places of work, stray Jewish teenagers had similar experiences of rejection and hatred. A few met by chance. My father met the sole survivor of a large family, a Jewish boy of 14, and took him home to share our family’s meal of a plate of beans. My mum met a lone fifteen-year-old helping out in the market. Slowly-slowly, a group of some 30 youngsters gathered, the oldest 17, the youngest 11. None of us were religious Jews, our ages were dissimilar, we had contrasting social and economic status, diverse aspirations and different cultural backgrounds. Under normal circumstances few of us would have met, let alone become friends, but these were exceptional circumstances. We had all experienced pain and suffering, and had something important in common: we had survived the Holocaust. We formed ourselves into a group of friendship and mutual support. Not being very imaginative, we called the group ‘Our Society’.

    Our Society created a rich cultural and social background for its members. We organised lectures, debates, quiz games, chamber music groups, visits to such museums that had reopened, poker games with beans for stakes, rambles in the Buda hills, swimming galas in the Danube. One of us who grew up to become a journalist, regularly published Our Society’s News Sheet. Romances started up. To my surprise, handsome 16-year-old Janos took an interest in me. In due course four couples of Our Society married, among them Janos and me.

    Hitler had not won.

    If you missed last month’s piece from Agnes, and would like to read about how she and Janos got married, please click here.

    You can find out much more about Agnes on her website, by borrowing her autobiography from the library, purchasing your own copy of her book, or by following her on Facebook.

    Marriage, Communist Style

    Dr. Agnes Kaposi

    Back in January this year we were very pleased to host Agnes Kaposi for several events as part of Echo Eternal’s Horizon’s festival.

    Agnes was born in Hungary and started school just at the outbreak of World War II. Many of her family were murdered in the Holocaust, together with half of million other Hungarian Jews. A series of fortunate coincidences allowed Agnes to survive the ghetto, the deportation and slave labour in Nazi concentration camps.

    After the war Agnes’s native country fell under a tyrannical communist regime. The 1956 Hungarian revolution offered her the opportunity to escape, settle in Britain, and build a career, becoming a distinguished member of the engineering profession.

    At the start of this year FOLIO Sutton Coldfield pledged to share Agnes’s testimony and work towards increasing community knowledge about the Holocaust through public events and library resources. We were recently able to purchase a selection of books relating to Holocaust eduction and donate them to Sutton Coldfield Library as part of our commitment to our pledge, and now we are starting a monthly series, sharing aspects of Agnes’s life, not only her experience as a Jew, but also what it was like to live under the communist regime in Hungary. Agnes writes with great warmth and wit, and her message of tolerance and respect needs to be heard.

    This month’s window into Agnes’s life takes us back 69 years to July 1952 and is, in her own words, the tale of marriage, communist style.

    Janos and Agnes

    Janos and I met a few months after the war, when I was 12 and he 16. We married seven years later, after my first year at university. This was Hungary in the darkest days of the Stalinist regime.We planned a late July wedding. We also thought that a marriage ceremony would involve exchange of rings. The Registry Office advised that gold was a controlled substance. We were lucky: the only shop selling gold in the country was but 10 miles away, and the only items on sale were 6-carat wedding rings.

    On the first Saturday of July, Janos and I went along to the gold shop, arm in arm, clutching our hard-earned money. We asked for a couple of rings. The smiley man behind the counter congratulated us on our marriage, and asked for our marriage certificate. We said we were not married yet, we wanted the rings for the marriage ceremony. The man stopped smiling. He said gold was a controlled substance, people could only buy rings on production of their marriage certificate. The purchase would be recorded to prevent anyone buying two sets of rings, intending to commit bigamy to profiteer with the gold. The walls had ears, so we left without a word.

    The Registry office only worked on weekdays. We were allocated an 11 am slot on Thursday, 31st July, our parents, friends and family – whoever could get away from work – to attend. There was to be a simple meal afterwards in a small restaurant. – And then, like so many times before and after, the roof fell in.

    My undergraduate course in engineering included compulsory Military Studies. In the summer break after my first year, on the 24th July, the state authorities sprung one of their frequent surprises. All students received a hand-delivered ‘Notification of New Course Regulations’: call-up papers, specifying the military barracks and the date when to report, at 5am sharp, to complement our studies with practical military training. The date was the 31st July. The date set for our wedding.

    The wedding was off. Everyone cancelled their leave. My mother cried. My grandmother packed a rucksack with essentials, including knickers, bras, and smoked sausage. My aunt Terka baked a delicious walnut pie that would keep for weeks.

    On the supposed day of my wedding it was already hot at 5 am when I reported for military service in the nearby village of Rákospalota, wearing a red-checked sleeveless shirt, shorts and hiking boots. The duty sergeant checked me in, and I joined a mixed crowd of students and conscripts. We stood for hours on the exercise yard, with our sacks on our backs. Karcsi, a gallant bulky recruit, offered to swap his little rucksack for my great big one.

    Then the Commanding Officer appeared before us and called my name, and said ‘You are excused.’ I thought I was hallucinating in the heat. No explanation. I asked what he meant. He said ‘You are not required for military service. Go home.’

    I started to walk in the blazing sun through this unfamiliar village, in the general direction of our home in Újpest. Suddenly I realised that I was still carrying Karcsi’s rucksack. I wondered if he would enjoy Terka’s pie, wearing my bras and pink knickers. By the time I got back to the barracks, the novices had been formed into neat columns, preparing to march out. The Commanding Officer could not believe his eyes; he thought I came to plead for re-admittance. He almost smiled at my explanation, got a little soldier to root out poor Karcsi to exchange the sacks, and there I was once again, back on the dusty street, walking towards Újpest, carrying a full load.

    What to do?

    Everyone was at work in distant parts of town. I should phone someone. Zigzagging along the road from phone box to vandalised phone box, I finally found one that worked. Miraculously I got through to Janos, and told him that I was somewhere in Rákospalota, having been dismissed from the army. He was calm as always and asked if I still wanted to get married. I said what did he think. He said I should make my way to the Registry Office, and he would do the same – we might still make it by 11 am.

    We arrived with minutes to spare. The Registrar said he had had notification that the marriage was off, but he was willing to ignore that; however, we needed two witnesses. My father’s friend Erdős Feri (back from the war with frostbitten and amputated toes) and our Auschwitz survivor friend Marika worked in shops nearby. I fetched one, Janos the other. They asked no questions, downed tools, and came along.

    Marika had the presence of mind to buy a bunch of flowers from a booth on the corner. The flowers were wilted in the heat, as we all were. A mucky street child followed us. Those present, in addition to the Registrar, were the groom and the witnesses in work clothes, the bride in a sweaty sleeveless shirt, shorts, and hiking boots, carrying a rucksack and a bouquet of flowers, and a barefooted child. We were late, so the ceremony had to be a bit more hurried than usual. The scruffy piece of paper here is our marriage certificate. Our names and occupations, and our witnesses’ names, are clearly legible. The street child’s name is not recorded.

    Agnes and Janos’ marriage certificate

    If you’d like to learn more about Agnes’s life and experience you can borrow her autobiography from the library or purchase your own copy. You can also watch the interview we made with Agnes in January on YouTube.