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Amos Fortune Forum returns using a virtual model

  • Francie Von Mertens with a glacial erratic off the Fremont Trail in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/8/2021 2:53:27 PM

What makes the Amos Fortune Forum special? The main attraction of the over 60-year-old series is the individuals who share their life stories, career achievements and intellectual anecdotes. But it’s sitting in the Jaffrey Meetinghouse and catching up with old friends, the post-talk reception in the parish hall of the First Church and just simply being with others that share similar interests that make a summer Friday night in Jaffrey Center unique.

Last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Amos Fortune Forum postponed all but one of its speakers – a special online weekend of collaboration with the Monadnock Summer Lyceum and Electric Earth Concerts to honor women’s suffrage in August. At the time, the shift to an all-virtual season wasn’t really something the committee wanted to pursue.

“We just thought that’d be the antithesis of the spirit of the lectures and more so the community gatherings,” said co-chair Nan Beiter. “That’s a really important part of the Friday night experience.”

But the thought process changed as it was clear that a return to in-person might not be possible in 2021. Due to the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus at the time of planning what will be the Amos Fortune Forum’s 74th season, the weekly speaker series will shift its 2021 season to a completely virtual model.

“The thought of scheduling it all live and having to shut it down was not what we wanted to do,” Beiter said. “And we didn’t want to skip another year. We want to keep the interest and spirit alive.”

While going to an online platform removes some of those special moments from the festivities, Beiter believes there will be some good to a return, no matter the circumstances.

“This opens up a whole different audience,” Beiter said. Last year’s single talk had viewers tune in from well beyond the Monadnock region and the rebroadcast had over 100 people watch. Depending on how this season goes, Beiter said it’s a real possibility to have a livestreaming aspect in future seasons.

“We might get the best of both worlds,” Beiter said. “This summer is an experiment to see how it works.”

This year’s season kicks off Friday night with Francella Clark and her talk, “Seeking out the Settlers at Monadnock, exploring local life in the 18th century.”

Beiter said that every one of this season’s speakers has “at least dabbled a toe in the Monadnock region.”

Clark lives in Jaffrey and Courtney Banghart, who will speak on the subject of “Competitive Leadership: Strive, Thrive, and Advance,” on July 16, was raised in Jaffrey. The same goes for Greg Cunningham who will give a talk on July 23, “A View from the Front Lines of the Climate Crisis.”

Will Torrey, the scheduled speaker for the July 30 forum summers in Jaffrey and brings his expertise with “Your Health Matters: Improving Access to High-Quality Psychiatric Care.”

On Aug. 6, longtime Peterborough naturalist Francie Von Mertens will discuss “Wild Bees, the Pollinator Pros, and How We Can Help Them in Backyards and Beyond.”

The forum season wraps up on Aug. 13 with Ted Widmer and his talk “Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington.”

Beiter calls the season a nice range of topics and all six were actually scheduled to speak last year and agreed to honor that commitment in 2021.

“They’re sticking with us through this experimental year,” she said.

Beiter said the biggest hurdle this year will be fundraising, as the collections at the weekly forums go a long way to helping with expenses.

The talks will be on Friday nights at 8 p.m. For more information and a link to the live talk, visit amosfortune.com.




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