When plans for a year of events were being formulated a weekend excursion was suggested. It is some years since the club held one; probably not since Jean Bint and her late husband Cyril organised camping and caravan trips in the seventies and eighties. A few venues were suggested but suddenly Edinburgh was proposed, not just because it is an exciting, photogenic city, but also because it is the home of another one hundred and fifty year old club, the Edinburgh Photographic Society, (EPS) founded four years before us in 1861.
Why not go there and invite ourselves to their premises, unique among photographic societies? The opportunity to attend extended to all members of the club.
And so at the end of May a party of members and spouses ventured to Edinburgh for a special weekend. The group included the Chairman and 150 Chairman, two other Past Chairmen, the recently retired Secretary, the Treasurer, the new CISP Chairman and the Editors of our two books, Capturing the Moment and A Year and a Day.
Arriving independently, the group gathered informally on Friday evening and enjoyed a Japanese influenced meal while planning the morrow. Saturday saw most of the group on top of an open tour bus while the guide described the sights. Heavy traffic meant the tour took longer than scheduled which was to our benefit as he managed to keep talking and we were able to take photographs of the busy streets and historic buildings with the bus stationary. Back at the starting point, it was time to dash back to a favourite location.
Around 4.00 pm we began to gather at the home of the EPS, 68 Great King Street which is unique. Yes, a few other clubs have their own premises but is there another that owns its own city centre premises of this stature? Located in an Georgian house in the ‘new town‘ area of the city, this is an incredible material and members’ asset providing every facility a photographer requires. For those who know Parmoor House, Cheltenham, home of our Civic Society, the EPS premises are considerably larger with a wide hallway furnished with interesting relics. On arrival we were welcomed with refreshments in the large ground floor room which serves as the meeting room and exhibition space for their annual members’ exhibition and particularly for their annual International Print Exhibition which is displayed during the period of the Edinburgh International Festival attracting thousands of visitors. Unlike our CISP which is three years old, EPS has held its print exhibition for 150 years! Attracting some 3000 prints from around the world only 202 are exhibited so it is said that “Getting an acceptance at Edinburgh is like getting a medal at other salons.” The logistics of handling all those prints are mind boggling, but fortunately they have the space, the systems and the supportive membership, currently about 200, who pay a subscription a bit more than twice ours.
Following refreshments we were shown around the premises in groups. The first floor hosts a large studio with high ceilings and dressing room. An extensive ceiling track electronic lighting system enables any mode of lighting to be achieved without floor stands and there is an extensive collection of backgrounds. All members have an electronic key to the premises and can use the studio at any time, subject to booking in advance and for an additional subscription. On the same floor is the digital suite, the library and also an administrative office.
In the basement there is a large darkroom with various size of enlarger, wet benches and a cascade print washer. For some of us the first smell of hypo we have had in many years brought a whiff of nostalgia. Apparently they still have around ten members using this facility, because it is there.
Also in the cellar is a small gallery devoted to showing internal exhibitions by members — one man shows and groups, including the Phoenix Group, a forum for constructive criticism and analysis. Like us they have a nature group and organise excursions, while the studio hosts regular portrait group sessions.
After the tour of this exciting building we regathered in the lecture room which is equipped with a ceiling mounted projector and electrically operated screen, where we were formally welcomed by Society president, Stephen Meek. Our chairman, Des Ward thanked him for their hospitality and introduced Martin Fry who gave a brief synopsis of our beginnings and Dr Wilson, and then showed his spectacular AV, Capturing the Moment which was very well received. And so to serious business!
A battle between the two clubs had been proposed with twenty-five digital images from each and an independent judge. Our entries were self selected by members of the party submitting two images each and submitted in advance so the judge could make his assessment in advance of the presentation. The judge was Hunter Kennedy MPAGB, EFIAP, ARPS from Carluke Camera Club and he gave well reasoned comments on all the entries, marking each out of twenty, the range being 14-20. Five images received the latter, two of ours, but we beat them on 19s, six to one, probably crucial in the final score where we won 434 to 431 out of a total of 500.
It was enjoyed by both sides and Stephen even suggested we might have a league among the six 150 clubs! Events concluded with the exchange of gifts, a copy of our two books for their library, a book of EPS members’ photographs and a framed print of Edinburgh for our . . . chairman?
The proceedings were followed by one of their members taking a photograph of our group on the steps of No 68, looking like George Osborne and gang on Budget Day, after which our group accompanied by some of the EPS members repaired to a nearby Italian restaurant.
The visit was organised by Graham Wakefield working with EPS Secretary Jan Jerome and we owe our gratitude to both. Unfortunately Graham was unable to take the trip for personal reasons, but his arrangements were first class, not only for his liaison with the Society but also for booking accommodation for some who stayed in the University’s Pollock Halls. Any misgivings any might have had about staying in student accommodation were instantly dispelled by the very efficient and friendly reception on arrival and the excellent rooms. And as for breakfast, it is unlikely that even the five star city hotels provided anything like the choice and variety offered. Coupled with the close proximity of The Salisbury Arms which served first class food and the easy bus access into the centre of the city, Pollock Halls can be highly recommended.
It was Harry Sedgwick’s dream that CCC might one day have its own permanent abode, and he left his bequest with this hope in mind. Sadly it was not to be and the interest on his ever depreciating legacy buys less and less as the years go by. But at least we managed to prove that on 30th May 2015 at least, we were the winning group — just!