History

A brief history of the Crawley camera Club

Where we started

The beginnings of Crawley Camera Club go back to 1961 it was then known as the ‘Ifield and District Camera Club’. The original meeting places were in the Ifield Community centre and later in a school hut. Some time later a Nissen Hut in Tilgate forest (vacated by the Canadian forces after the war), was made available by Crawley Council. The club rented one of these.

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Meeting in the old hut

At this time the present name was taken over from the previous user. A Darkroom was installed and studio activities were a regular feature. One night during a photo session the heater which ran on paraffin, exploded, covering the model with sooty spots! However, the club continued to thrive and in April 1981 moved to one half of a bigger Nissen Hut on the same site.

In early 1987 the club expanded into the other half of the hut to enlarge the studio area. The dividing wall was removed and construction of the new studio was just getting under way when disaster struck. The great storm of 1987 hit the south of England. Most of the huts, being among the trees were damaged some were totally destroyed. The Camera Club hut escaped with no serious damage, but the electricity to the huts was supplied by overhead cables these were demolished by falling trees, and as the trees fell the roots destroyed the water supply and the drainage system. The site was totally closed until trees could be cleared and the site made safe, this was not a high priority. At this time the club membership was 99.

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Studio evening at the old hut

After much debate the Council decided to replace the Nissen Huts with purpose built huts at an estimated cost of £500,000. (All 30 or so huts were occupied by hobby groups and clubs of all kinds). The Tilgate Forest Recreation Centre, of which the huts are a major part is a unique venture by Crawley Council and one of which they are rightly proud.

During the next two years we were without our permanent premises.

During this time we met in various halls around the town and suffered the unusual (for us) problems of caretakers flashing the lights at precisely 10pm. double booked halls and last minute cancellations. This affected our membership which fell to less than 20.

The plans for redevelopment were eventually revealed. We were excited at the prospect of a brand new hut, and even with our reduced membership we were confident enough to commit ourselves to taking on one of the bigger huts. We had to wait while they were built, which involved much moving of equipment between huts as clearance and demolition took place. Our old hut was used as a temporary store for weight lifting kit belonging to the Bar Bell Club, until it too was demolished, and when our present hut was built it was used as a workman’s hut for a while.

We moved in at last in April 1989, the wait was well worth while.

We now have premises which are the envy of every club which visits us. The overall size is about 20 metres by 8 metres. When we moved in it was a bare shell apart from the luxury of a toilet big enough to accommodate a wheel chair. To describe the previous “sanitary” arrangements as primitive would be a serious understatement!

Our members worked hard and built a kitchen, darkroom, changing room and lighting store. Our darkroom is equipped for colour and black and white work, and our studio has available a good selection of lighting equipment both tungsten and electronic flash

Some time after we had settled in we installed a false ceiling to cover the open rafters. Two thirds of the hut is used mainly for regular meetings and the remainder is a studio area, although we can and do use the whole area as a studio at times. In addition members can use the darkroom or studio at any time for a nominal fee.

We meet twice a week throughout the year and have a thriving studio group, lots of practical sessions as well as the usual competitions and lectures. We compete in both the Sussex and Surrey federation competitions as we are on the borders of both counties.

At the heart of the Club are our members, we have absolute beginners right through to advanced workers of the highest standard. We have a good proportion of younger members which gives the club a lively atmosphere. We would like to see more ladies join us, the ladies we have are a real force in the Club and more would be very welcome.

Every year just before the start of the winter season we hold an ‘Open Day’ at the Club, and since 1993 we have held an exhibition of member’s work in Crawley County Mall. The exhibition is manned by members the whole time which allows us to meet and talk to prospective members. Our space is booked again for this year.

Because we meet twice a week, putting the programme together is a major task. There are about 80 evenings to cover and that is just the winter programme.