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My First Lee Falk Memorial Bangalla Explorers Club Dinner

For those who could not make it (and have not been).

[Editors note: The recordings and sounds from the weekend will be out in a X-Band: The Phantom Podcast soon featuring the panel of Matt Kyme and Ash Nicholls at Supanova, plus the speech of Ash Nicholls from the dinner.]

Saturday 22 June 2024 saw the quadranscentennial (25th) anniversary and 35th Lee Falk Memorial Bangalla Explorers Club (“LFMBEC”) dinner.

64 people had the good fortune of attending at Deus Cafe in Sydney, with 11 of those being first time attendees. To put that into perspective, I understand there were 11 at the first dinner.

I was one of the new ones this time, so, I thought I would share my experience as one who came in late.

I live in Brisbane and have very little memory of Sydney from visits long ago. Getting to Sydney is not so difficult and the public transport is respectable.

I got from the airport to my hotel with very little hassle. The hotel I picked was Best Western Camperdown, just across the road from Deus! Fair warning, if you stay in the area, there is a hospital just up the road and you will probably hear the sirens.

It was good to see those who could make it and the handful of Phans I met in Bundaberg (for more on that, read my review).

The weekend starts Friday night. Many regulars stay at the Mercure, so, that tends to be the meeting place. Friday night at the Mercure Bar was very crowded.

About 20 or so Phans attended, Putting faces to names, meeting new friends, and, of course, seeing old friends who have not broken bread in far too long. The reverie ends too soon, but sleep beckons and there is a big day ahead.

Saturday tends to be the trip to Supanova, after all, this dinner is on the Supanova weekend for a reason. I've still not gone to Supanova, so, that reason escapes me. I took the opportunity to catch up with friends who live in Sydney.

Saturday night is the night of the dinner, and if you thought the Phantom themed clothes came out before, you are in for a treat. Ties, waistcoats, suspenders, jackets, shirts, pins, badges, rings, and good mark jewellery all made their appearance.

Seating was organised with Tetris style efficiency by using named menus. The party pack included an auction catalogue, a place mat, a sticker, a coaster, a newspaper extract, a Lee Falk story, and a serviette.

I understand there are even variations on the coasters and the place mats, for those completist collectors.

To think all I was expecting was a coaster and a purple serviette!

In the adjoining room was the silent auction with scores of items having been donated. The competition was fierce and the closing time was both clearly announced and strictly enforced.

The art from the Jamie Johnson collaborative jam (Jamie's ink over the other artist's blue line) was all on display in the silent auction room. Four of those pieces were up for the non-silent open bidding auction. You can learn more about this jam piece in X-Band: The Phantom Podcast #282 - The Phantom Jam Print Fundraiser.

The keynote speaker was Ash Nicolls, Director of Art of Play, which is developing the much anticipated Phantom game, a 2D side-scroller with multiple endings depending on how you play.

Ash shared his Phantom story along with the troubles and trials of putting together a game under license. If you buy the game, do not be surprised to find bits of heart and soul, alongside the blood, sweat, and tears that Ash has clearly put into this part of the Phantom history.

The official parts of the evening, including the open bidding auction, was deftly emceed by Dr Antonio DiDio, one of the first LFMBEC members. For those wondering how to join, if you attend, you are a member - according to another of those founders. You can learn more about Dr Antonio DiDio in his podcast interview.

Antonio, therefore, had the sad duty to remind those present of the still painful loss of Richard Fry, who died before the 34th dinner, having nearly finished organising the same. I did not have the opportunity to meet Richard, but I can say that the level of admiration expressed by those who knew him speaks of a remarkable man with a big heart.

Based on the fact that this year there were five on the organising committee to replace him, Richard was a powerhouse for the LFMBEC dinner!

To end on a lighter note, let us consider the legacy of the dinner, or at least what I learned on the night.

Mel Russo from the Children's Hospital at Westmead was present and shared that the LFMBEC dinner, from the first dinner to the 34th, had raised $108,000 for the Hospital.

Antonio pointed out the previous highest raised at one dinner was $11,000. With the help of some outrageous personal targets, $2,000 was raised through raffle tickets alone (at $10 each).

By the end of the dinner, including the milestone of having an open bidding auction item go for $1,500), the total raised on the night was over $21 thousand!

What a spectacular evening! What a marvelous event!!

What started as a social event every so often has now become a major fundraising event on the Phantom calendar!!!

I could not possibly thank everyone by name for such a wonderful time. To do that, I would require the entire attendance list, and more! What I can do is blame and warn you about Bradley Peach. I would not have been at the dinner if Bradley had not gone out of his way to include me when we first met in Bundaberg. Bradley and his wife Joyful Peach are just one pair of the amazing people who make up this community.

If you are wondering whether or not to go to one of the LFMBEC dinners, I recommend you do!

There has been some talk about holding a smaller similar event to coincide with the Brisbane Supanova in November 2024. Keep an eye on the LFMBEC website or Chronicle Chambers platforms for more information closer to the date.

[Editors note: The recordings and sounds from the weekend will be out in a X-Band: The Phantom Podcast soon featuring the panel of Matt Kyme and Ash Nicholls at Supanova, plus the speech of Ash Nicholls from the dinner.]


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