Croydon Camera Club History 1980-1990
The meeting that called for the formation of the Croydon Camera Club took place an February 25th 1890, so the Syllabus year 1989/90 was to be the Centenary Year. There was no question that the Centenary of the Club was to be celebrated, but there were questions about how it should be celebrated, who should do what and how it might be funded. Since at least 1986 various meetings had been held to make plans and set up an organisation and as early as 1986 Harold Stillwell had produced a framework which proposed a higher quality syllabus throughout the year, a number of Exhibitions in February 1990, these to include a retrospective exhibition of the Club's history, a 'Croydon Looks at Croydon' Exhibition and the members own exhibition, all to be centred at the Fairfield Halls; the production of a Written History of the Club; and important guest speakers during the Centenary week or fortnight. This was agreed in principle and this was more or less what happened, but between 1986 and 1989 people came and went, grandiose plans were made, bookings at the Fairfield were attempted with difficulty, possible guest lecturers were approached, potential sponsors were approached, but not very much really happened because there was no one willing to be the driving force behind it. In the earlier years Harold Stillwell and the Tessa Most tried hard to give some momentum, but both lived considerable distances from Croydon, so when it came to the beginning of 1989 the President Michael Hope found that it had to be his task to get things going with not much time left. But with lots of helpers the Centenary was most successfully celebrated, as you will read about shortly.
The Syllabus, prepared by Roger McCallum was of a high standard and was very expensively prepared in gold, carrying a new Club logo on the front skilfully prepared by Wally Conquy, who was a graphic designer by occupation. Among the names in the Syllabus were such well known photographers as Helene Rogers, Edwin Appleton, Sir George Pollock, Bill Wisden, Chris Wainwright, Colin Westgate, Brian Steptoe and Derek Forss, and close to the Centenary fortnight Norman Grysperdt, an active member in the 1930's, who had resigned in the 40's, who came back to give a demonstration of the Bromoil Process. Honorary members Stuart Pickford, Harold Stillwell and Alan Richards entertained the Club in their own ways.
The new season had started with a major change in the Club Competition Rules, with commercially produced prints being allowed in all classes. This proposal was not without opposition, but a majority supported it, so it was given a years trial. At the end of the year it was deemed a successful move, and so was made permanent. Another decision at the same Council meeting in the summer of 1989 was for the Club to once again enter into one of the F.S.L.P.S Inter-Club competitions, the Colour Print Competition.
The monthly Print and Slide competitions were reported as being enthusiastically supported. Club members were still producing interesting work and were gaining acceptances in outside Exhibitions. At the end of the year 44 different members out of the total membership which had climbed to 72, had taken part in the internal competitions. The overall winners of the advanced prints and slides were David Eaves and Harry Cundel1 respectively.
At the start of the year the problem of accommodation came up again. For some time now the YMCA, who supplied the Club with a most satisfactory meeting place, had warned the Club that rebuilding works would remove the International Room from available rooms and so at the start of the Centenary Season the Club found itself being forced to meet in a much smaller and totally unsatisfactory room at the YMCA, with no hope for anything better in the future. The prosperity of Croydon as a commercial centre, with a total transformation in the town centre taking place in the last 30 years, meant that rooms in central Croydon at a price that a Club could afford were not common. However two members on the same evening separately told the Club Secretary that they had heard the Croydon Gramophone Society had started meeting in a room in George Street. And so it was that on January 17th i990 the Club moved once again, this time to St Matthews House at 100 George Street, Croydon where a very pleasant room was available. The room was in a small complex of offices and accommodation owned by the Diocese of Croydon, and had been built on the site of St. Matthew’s Church, which had been demolished in the 1970's to be rebuilt in Park Hill. This move to George Street brought the Club full circle as its very first premises had also been in George Street In 1890.
Outings were still happening. A days outing to Rochester and Chatham, organised by the President's wife, Valerie, was enjoyed by a dozen members; an evening in Brighton, and a weekend in Wiltshire all happened in 1989, and in May 1990 a visit to the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank was organised to see the Magnum retrospective exhibition.
The Centenary fortnight opened by the Mayor of Croydon on Monday February 26th 1990 turned out to be a great success for the Club. The highlights were three concurrent Exhibitions at the Fairfield Halls, held for two weeks. In the Sun Lounge was a Members Exhibition, organised by Liz Malarkey, and judged by Roy Green, editor of the RPS Journal, who chose as best Panel of Prints one from the President Michael Hope, who was taking advantage of the change in rules that allowed commercially produced prints. The other major awards, including the slide trophy went to Harry Cundell, who was having a most successful year with acceptances at many external Exhibitions as well as Club successes. Overall this exhibition created great impact and was said to give very great credit to the Club. In the Exhibition Corridor on one side was a second Exhibition, organised by Stuart Pickford, giving a visual history of the Club, with a display for each decade, and on the wall opposite an Exhibition of 'Croydon, Then and Now' organised by Harry Cundell. Both these Exhibitions generated a lot of interest from the members of the public and strong feelings of nostalgia from older Club members.
The Club gained sponsorship for a second year running from local dealer, City Camera Exchange and this went some way to fund the events at the Fairfield, although a small loss was reported by the Treasurer at the end of the year.
During the fortnight the Competition Secretary David Eaves organised an Inter-Club competition in the new St Matthews House premises, between nine local Clubs, including old rivals such as Sutton, Bromley and Old Coulsdon which resulted in a story book ending with Croydon being the overall winner, when the scores given by judge John Abrook, the President of the South London Federation, were added together.
Good coverage of the Club and its celebrations were obtained in the local press, helped by the running of a photographic competition jointly with the Croydon Advertiser, with prizes donated by the City Camera Exchange and the Club President being the Judge.
Finally to cap a memorable and nostalgic fortnight a most excellent Centenary Dinner was held on the last Saturday of the fortnight on March 10th, ably organised by Tony Cane. This was held in the Maple Room of the Fairfield Halls and Michael Hope had obtained the services of the Speaker of the House of Commons, Mr. Bernard Wetherill CH, MP, who was also Member of Parliament for Croydon North East, as guest of Honour. It was a notable achievement that three Honorary Members of the Club who also held distinguished office elsewhere were present. These were Majorie Marshall, who was now President of the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain, Sir George Pollock, who was President of the Central Association of Photographic Societies, and Edwin Appleton, who was Vice—President of the Royal Photographic Society. Many past presidents of the Club and other distinguished guests were present and a highlight was the presentation of a photographic collage of the Houses of Parliament, created by Donald MacFarlane, to Mr Wetherill.
So ended one hundred years with so many fine achievements to be proud of. Years of tradition, but change always being necessary. Most importantly with the Club in a strong position to go into the next one hundred years.