Croydon Camera Club History 1980-1990
Few thought that the 1983 AGM of the Croydon Camera Club would be the last, although not many could imagine how the Club could survive the motion to wind it up. To the rescue came Harold Stillwell, who stood up and stated he would be prepared to step in as President. Harold Stillwell had been President previously and had already done a great deal for the Club. His loyalty and enthusiasm for the Club were equal to anybody's. He certainly had the experience and enthusiasm necessary, but some present doubted his wisdom. However few knew of the trump cards that he had up his sleeve. One was Tessa Most, who had been very much involved with the running of the Club a number of years before, but now lived near Newbury in Berkshire. Harold persuaded Tessa to undertake the job of Syllabus Secretary. Tessa, together with her husband Dr Brian Most FRPS, had extensive contacts, particularly through the Royal Photographic Society and therefore had all the credentials for a first rate Syllabus Secretary.
Relative newcomer Chris Cripps volunteered to take on the job of Secretary. Although he had little experience of the Clubs affairs he did have the asset of a word processor. Computers were not only making an impact on the administration of the Club, but were appearing in cameras, with Canon and their AE1 35mm Single Lens Reflex, claiming in the late 197O's to be the first to have functions controlled by an in—built micro—chip or computer.
So the Club survived this major crisis. As if to celebrate, Roy King, who had continued as Treasurer during this period gained his LRPS, Ray Palmer won £160 of glass in a photographic competition held by local car dealer, L.F.Dove, and 5 members gained acceptances at the 1983 C.A. Exhibition, which that year was held in the prestigious surroundings of the Guildhall in the City of London. Those members were Tony Cane, Raymond and Jean Duthoit, Roy King and Michael Hope, who had only joined the Club in the previous year, showing his promise by winning a Certificate in the Pictorial Slides Class.
Harold and Tessa's intentions were to put together a holding syllabus - for the 1983/84 year, whilst preparing the big guns - for 84/85. Nevertheless this first, quickly put together, Syllabus had some notable evenings to give a foretaste of things to come. David Pollock, the son of Sir George, brought his AV show, Mavis Ferguson was brought in from Newbury and Barry Barker and Jim Cotterill both from Woking. Together with Club stalwarts and Honorary Members Alan Richards, Tom Samson and Edwin Appleton the Club made a good start to the year.
No Exhibition was held in the 1983/84 as no plans had been made by the previous Council, bookings have to be made at least a year in advance.
The most significant event during the session was the move from the Friends Meeting House, after only two and a half years occupancy, to the YMCA in Lansdowne Road, Croydon. Discussions had been going on with YMCA for quite a long time about the possible use of their darkroom. The Council was split on the issue of the Club having its own darkroom, with the enthusiasts who saw it as a way of attracting new members, the Club was always getting enquiries from possible new members who wanted the facility of a Club darkroom), balanced by the practical realists, some of whom had seen Club darkrooms before and realised that someone would have to take the responsibility of running the place. The discussions inevitably came to naught and the YMCA converted their spare room to some other purpose, but whilst members were at the YMCA they were told a meeting room was available. This room, called the International Room had a pleasant atmosphere and was offered to the Club at only £5 per evening, whereas the Friends room was fast approaching £10 per night. The majority were keen to make the move, but old grievances again came to the fore when Stuart Pickford actively opposed the move on the grounds that two moves in two years was never good for a Club and the Club could lose members as a result. Also the Club could be in danger of becoming a YMCA Club. Stuart Pickford had found the Friends Meeting House himself and organised the move there and no doubt he felt personally towards it but the new President Harold Stillwell wanted a clean break from the old and what he saw as the failed regime.
Stuart was overruled and at the end of February 1984 Alan Richards presented the last evening at the Friends, this being rather apt as Alan had judged the competition on the first evening in 1982. On March 7th 1984 the Club moved to the cheaper, larger, more comfortable YMCA. The success of the move was soon clear, with prints all round the walls, a splendid kitchen with hatch to the meeting room a walk—in cupboard for the Club equipment. The main disadvantages were the difficulty of parking outside and the thumps on the ceiling from the Judo Club in the room above. The worries about losing members proved unjustified. The opposite happened. The Club gained new members and during the time at the YMCA the Club only managed to enrol one YMCA resident, so Stuart Pickford's fears were unfounded, but the YMCA soon realised that their fee of £5 per night was not a commercial rent for Central Croydon and the nightly charge went up rather quickly!
By the end of the 1984/85 season Ian Coulling had won the advanced Print Competition and relative newcomer Michael Hope had carried off the advanced Slide Competition, with Ray Palmer and Colin Izatt winning the two Intermediate Trophies.
A remarkable transformation had happened. From the depths of despair just a year ago, the Club had bright new premises, a very good syllabus, new members coming in (notable new members at that time were Clifford Fifield and Sam Tanner) and enthusiasm. Harold Stillwell and Tessa Most had saved the Croydon Camera Club!
By the time of the AGM of 1984, Harold Stillwell had retired from his insurance career at the Commercial Union and had moved from Sanderstead to Zeals, a village on the borders of Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset. He was proposed and accepted for a second year as President but couldn't do the journey every Wednesday. So here the Club had the situation of the President and the Syllabus Secretary both living miles from Croydon! Chris Cripps, who sadly had been criticised from some quarters for his administration, rather than helped, didn't want to be Secretary for another year so another relative newcomer Peter Fenner took over.