Woodley resident, Dennis Dawson, founded Woodley Photographic Club in 1967. Dennis had earlier been a founder member of the possibly more famous, but less enduring Kennett Camera Club. The first meeting of the Woodley Club was held in April of that year and Dennis became the first Chairman. Roy Lapidge was the first Treasurer and the first secretary was a Reading footballer, George Harris.
The fortnightly meetings were took place in number 12 Headley Road, Woodley, a house due for demolition. The rent was twelve shilling and sixpence (65p) per meeting. The venue was known as Group 66 House, later duly demolished and replaced by the council car park, but the ‘Group 66’ name endured until 2003 in the form of a club trophy awarded for the best beginners slide.
These first meeting were not always comfortable! The room in Group 66 House had one power point and if the projector was in use there could be no electric fire. Members sat in their overcoats.
The aims and policies of the Club were laid down in its early formative years. Dennis Dawson is quoted as saying, ‘We were to be a Club first, and a Photographic second‘. ‘We did not want a clique of elite photographers – we wanted everyone from holiday snap shotters onwards to be able to participate and enjoy‘.
After the demolition of Group 66 House in 1968 the Club moved to Woodford Park Pavilion (opened four years earlier) and continued to meet here until the opening of the Oakwood Centre. This venue provided some difficulties for visiting speakers and judges, who found it hard to find, but the Inn in the Park Saloon Bar made a popular post meeting rendez vous point for members.
Membership grew in the seventies and club became involved in many local activities including classes at Woodley Horticultural Shows and providing photographs for Woodley Council Guidebooks.
Not all activities were purely photographic. Floats were entered in the Woodley Carnival Processions and gained a third prize in 1970
In 1972 the Club produced ‘The Berkshire Journey‘, a slide/tape essay with commentary and background music. There were estimated to have been a hundred showings of this sequence to local club and groups and many captive audiences at homes for the elderly!
Michael Miller took over from George Bishop as chairman in the early 1980s and served on the committee for a number of years at that time.
Post meeting drinks in the bar was great fun with characters such as John Palmer, Rod Townsend, George Bishop etc. it really was a very vibrant active club.
A treasure hunt was a popular annual activity where the winner was given the job of arranging the route for the following year.
John Palmer and George Bishop were two members of note.
John was a telephone engineer, but bought a house in Church Road Earley and started ing his business in which he became one of the top wedding photographers in the area in it’s prime, always a loyal member of the club.
George and his wife Emily were very popular and enthusiastic members. George in particular had an enthusiasm for photographs and even more so for cameras that was infectious, he certainly influenced and encouraged members with their photography.
During the 2019-20 season the club took the unprecedented decision to cancel all meetings after TOC Round 6 due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. The committee held the first video conference in our history as we could not meet in person due to the social distancing measures in place.
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