Croydon Camera Club
Croydon Camera Club

Croydon Camera Club History: 1890-2000

1963: All Change
Sir George Pollock elected

The Council meeting on 28th May 1963 elected to membership G. F. Pollock, Chairman of Dorking Camera Club who was to be instrumental in the next 10 years in bringing Croydon into the main stream of Continental Photography via Photeurop, and by example put Croydon in the forefront of contemporary photography. The notoriety and prestige encouraged the development of abstract and audio-visual techniques which took Sir George Pollock (as he became) to the Presidency of the RPS and later of the Central Association.

Spacky dies 16th May 1963

C. S. Spackman RBA ARcamA LRIBA FSA (Scot) died on 16th May 1963 and the passing of a dear and old friend since he first joined the Club on 25th November 1925 was keenly felt as he was present at almost every meeting and took a great interest in all our affairs, although he was not a photographer. The Club were grateful to learn that Mrs Spackman did not intend to leave The Studio for at least 12 months. A memorial to "Spacky" was called for and in July this was approved as a Figurine to be called the "Spackman Trophy".

Replace "The Studio"

At the AGM on 27th May 1963, the President, Maurice Marchant retired from Council after seven years. S. G. Pickford handed over the post of Syllabus Secretary after five years and took over the Editor of the Bulletin for the next three years. Mrs Majorie Marshall retired as first lady secretary to the Club. John Hutchinson became President and he had to grapple with the problem of our tenancy of The Studio which was no longer secure after 30 years and a proposal by John Birchell was to form a limited company with shares to be sold to members to raise £2,500 for building on land provided or £5000 for our own development. A return of 2% was possible. The matter was deferred for further consideration and was quashed at a Special General Meeting on 22nd January 1964.

Also passing away was J. F. Bourne, Club Auditor for over 30 years who joined the Club on 20th May 1908.

Start of the Wilderness Years

Stuart Pickford as new Bulletin editor introduced pictures for the first time and also commenced a brief record of the events at each meeting which were characterised by the late starting. John F Keane donated a new Rollei projector to the Club who benefitted substantially from generous gifts from John Keane's son. However the new projector failed to stimulate interest in the Colour Group which was disbanded on 4th October.

John Keane's bust

It was at this meeting the contents from the Dark Room were recorded for dispersal and of particular interest was the custody of the bust of John Keane so recently donated, and placed in the President's hands. It was not enquired of or seen again until 25 years later when a member of Old Coulsdon CC advised the Club in October 1988 that the bust was for sale in an antique shop in Faversham, Kent for £60. How it got there from a house sale in Norwood is open to speculation and why Croydon did not pursue the matter immediately is not readily explained, but when it came to the author's notice six months later he traced the shop and found the owner so attached to the bust that he had declined all previous offers of purchase. When the circumstances were explained a sale was agreed, and the bust of John Keane is now back in the Club's possession.

"Group 7"

In March 1964 a number of members formed a working team to promote progressive photography known as "Group 7" to which membership was by invitation only. Council were uncertain whether this "group" was a good thing being different from any other "group" to which members had a right to join, but decided to see what resulted.

The Studio closes: 23rd September 1964

By the time the AGM on 27th May 1964 took place there were cracks appearing on the face of the Club though it was to be almost 20 years into the future before virtual disintegration. It was observed that the Dark Room venture failed because members did not keep it clean; no coffee was available at the interval as no-one wanted to make it; bar service was slow, and delayed the meetings as there were no volunteer barmen. If this did not have an effect on membership then the enforced change of venue would and the last meeting took place at The Studio on 23rd September 1964, where the bar stock was drunk and members staggered out for the last time since our first meeting on 29th March 1933.

Meetings in The Gun Tavern

Our new venue at the Gun Tavern in Church Street was at a hire charge of 15/- for the hall and 5/- per week for heating and the first meeting took place on 30th September 1964.

All started well at the Gun Tavern but getting members from the bar and across the yard to the Hall by 8pm began to be a problem proving irksome to the non-drinkers patiently seated for an 8 pm start and Remembrance Day on 11th November was aptly named as the hall was booked by a pop group for a rehearsal and we were offered a corner of the saloon bar. So where previously we had a bar in the Club, now the Club was in the bar.

The lecturer K. G. Moreman from Ilford Ltd said he had always wanted to visit Croydon CC but this was incredible and he did not think he would come again. The accompanying chatter from the public and the shouting of "orders" so disrupted the lecturer that he demanded the public shut up or go, otherwise he would drown them out with his lecture. The public went.

So did the Club. In six months' time it became obvious that the landlord was not offering the standard of service and responsibility we had come to expect after 30 years at The Studio. During the winter the heating was not turned on sufficiently early to make the room a comfortable temperature until about 9 pm and the introduction of pop groups in the bar with amplified music disturbed several of the lecturers. An Extraordinary General Meeting was called on 24th March 1965 where Council obtained members' authority to seek alternative premises and on 10th May the Club transferred to TocH at 158 Lower Addiscombe Road. So 30 years in one place (The Studio) and then two venues in the next eight months! Almost a record. Also a record was the meeting date changed to a Monday for the first time in Club history (war years included).

During the eight months at the Gun Tavern, the Club celebrated its 75th Anniversary with an Exhibition in the Arnhem Gallery of the Fairfield Halls opened on 15th February 1965 before an audience of 400 people with Judge Helmut Gernsheim. Amongst the awards was a Silver Cup for the "Best Landscape" donated by the author [Stuart G Pickford].

"Nick" Vilag: a Real Character

Occasionally a character joins the Club, one such was "Nick" Vilag (20 July 1964). Apart from being an expert photographer he owned an art gallery in Devonshire Street, Wl. He was renowned for painfully seizing your arm at a Club meeting and demanding: "When are you coming to my gallery — come tomorrow", and to get your arm back in once piece, you would agree. Nick's idea on your arrival, was to feed you whether you wanted to eat or not, and to show cartoons of himself drawn by most of the best newspaper cartoonists of-the era.

Never in the Club did he say how or why he came to England from Hungary where he was born on 24th October, 1910. Of Jewish descent, he grew up with strong Communist ideals and during the Second World War he joined the Resistance, fighting in Yugoslavia where he despatched many of the enemy and was recorded a Partisan Hero. Nicholas was penniless when he arrived in England in 1947 and settled in Sanderstead, taught himself English and, with the aid of his camera, was able to establish himself in the community.

He livened up many a meeting for the 18 years he was a member; he was in all respects a genuine Bohemian.