In 2007, the Wigan Photographic Society celebrated its 70th Anniversary. It seems appropriate therefore to re-draft a brief history of the Society. This compilation owes much to the version drawn up for the Fiftieth Anniversary in 1987.
The first meeting was held at the premises of Messrs Foley & Scott in Marsden Street, Wigan on 13th April 1937. It was at this inaugural meeting that the decision was taken to form the Wigan Photographic Society. The first AGM was held 26th May 1937. Draft Rules had already been prepared by a provisional committee, and Officers were duly elected. It was decided that the Society should affiliate with the Lancashire & Cheshire Photographic Union (L&CPU), which automatically includes affiliation to the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB).
It was further agreed that during the winter, meetings should be held every Tuesday at the premises above, and that for the summer months of July and September meetings would take place on the first Saturday and Wednesday in the month in the form of rambles.
An account of the first AGM was reported in the Wigan Observer dated 29th May 1937.
The Intermediate Years – 1937 to 1987:
In the years that followed, the Wigan Photographic Society (WPS) held its meetings in a succession of premises including the Roy Café, the Elms Club, and the Grammar School. Eventually in 1945, the Society secured the use of rooms in the Queen’s Hall Buildings, a location which proved to be a big improvement over its previous homes, even though access was via three flights of stairs. The accommodation could be used at any time, and consisted of a lecture room, a studio, and a kitchen/dark room. These were probably the most complete premises that the WPS ever occupied. Redevelopment of the town centre in the early eighties led to much of the Queen’s Hall Buildings being demolished, and the Society had to find a new home. It was eventually decided to accept the offer of a room at the offices of the AUEW in Chapel Lane, the first meeting being held in August 1981.
Outings were for many years an outstanding feature of the Society’s activities. Records indicate that many local rambles and visits took place, often in conjunction with the St Helens Photographic Society, as well as two annual visits further afield in the Spring and Autumn.
In 1988 the Society represented the L&CPU at a national knockout slide competition in Birmingham, held by the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB) and sponsored by Minolta. We came third and received a bronze medal, which is currently in the safe keeping of our then President, Peter Lee.
In 1989 there was some divergence of opinion on the competitive objectives of the Society. This eventually led to some members leaving the WPS to form a new Society, which became known as Wigan 10.
The WPS changed premises from the offices of the AEUW to St Mary’s Church Hall in 1993, then again in 1995 to our present premises at Gidlow Methodist Church, Buckley Street. Although not as convenient as having our own premises, it has been, and is, a happy relationship with the church management.
There was a brief time in 1999 when an offer was made of a more comfortable venue at Mabs Cross. The offer was quite attractive and seriously considered, but circumstances intervened and we remained at Buckley Street.
In the year 2000, we discontinued the use of categories in our Annual Exhibition. Previously entries were classed as Portrait, Theatre, Action, Landscape, etc. This was abandoned; all future entries would be entered into a single open category. This has caused some confusion for the visiting judge as the trophies are still to be awarded by the judge for each category.
During these most recent years, there have been one or two external interests:-
- For some years the Society was sponsored by Wilding Photographic; it is currently sponsored by Jessops.
- We were invited to mount an exhibition at the annual Standish Arts Festival from 1997 till its demise in 2005.
The Digital Age:
For the Wigan Photographic Society (WPS), the digital age started to make its presence felt in about 1996/7. We were beginning to see digital prints in folios and competitions with other clubs. Moreover, WPS members were already showing an interest in digital techniques. Discussions took place, and in 1997 the Society’s Rules were altered to allow the source of an exhibit to be a “… negative or slide or digital image …” Thus digital prints began to enter our internal competitions, taking the Society into the digital age without fuss or fanfare.
The growing popularity of digital cameras resulted in a decline in the number of entries in our monthly slide competitions. The inclusion of ‘Digital Slides’ needed to be accommodated by the Society. This required computer procedures to be devised and the Rules of the Society to be altered. So it was that EPI’s (Electronically Projected Images) were introduced for the start of the 2006/7 competition year, and although it is still early days, their inclusion in monthly slide competitions has been successful, and it is expected that they will stem the decline in ‘slide’ entries evidenced over the previous two years.
The digital developments above could not have happened without funds to purchase the necessary hardware in the form of computers and a digital projector. David Wright undertook the task of applying for lottery funding in two separate grants. He did this more or less single-handedly and was successful in both applications.
Some Notable Dates:
Subscriptions: April 1937
At the inauguration of the Society in 1937, subscriptions were the equivalent of 50p for males and 37.5p for females. They were raised in 1949 to £1 and 75p respectively, and in 1960 sex equality was achieved when the subscription was raised to £1.50 for all full members. (Associate members were 25p).
First Annual Exhibition: January 1939
The first Annual Exhibition was held in the Grammar School. There were 103 Pictorial prints, 8 Animal and Still Life, and 32 Portraits. Records show that the eighth Exhibition, held in 1947, attracted 900 visitors, but according to the minutes of the 1948 AGM, it was not regarded as a success: only 104 prints had been submitted by 19 workers. This was down on the previous year, and was not thought to auger well for the future. By 1983 the number of prints had doubled, but by only half the number of workers.
Until 1949, the Annual Exhibition was held in the Grammar School, but it was subsequently held in the Mayor’s Reception Rooms, and in most years from 1951 to 1967 it was held at Haigh Hall. It was thereafter held at various times in the Arts Gallery and Museum Wigan, the Turnpike Gallery Leigh, the Reading Room of Wigan Library, and in the Wigan College of Technology in Library Street Wigan. In recent years the Exhibition has been held at the History Shop.
First Annual Dinner: March 1939
The first Annual Dinner was held in March 1939 at which 26 people attended. In 1948 it was proposed to employ the services of an amateur magician, instrumentalists, and vocalists. The records do not show whether this came to pass. The charge for the Annual dinner in 1956 was the equivalent of 55p, inclusive of a 5p tip.
Newsletter: September 1946 – 1964
“The Viewfinder”, was launched to “... keep members acquainted with all arrangements being made for the Society’s benefit ...” It also provided a vehicle for members to air their grievances and to record their views. It was discontinued for cost reasons in 1964, although a shorter version seems to have been produced from about 1966-1969.
Cleaning the Rooms: 1952
Records show that in June 1952 there were 74 members. In spite of this large number, it was felt that the payment of 10p (equivalent) per week for cleaning the rooms would not be economical due to infrequent use.
Best Club Award: 1986
In 1986, Wigan P.S. received the Best Club award in the L&CPU’s Annual Competition. In addition Wigan also had the Best Print Worker in Tom Banks, and the Best Slide Worker in Fred Wilkinson. Fred died the following year, 1987.
PAGB Knockout Competition: 1988
WPS represented the L&CPU in the PAGB/Minolta National Slide Knockout Competition and came third winning a bronze medal.
1989: Wigan-10 started.
1995: Moved to Gidlow Methodist Church.
1997: WPS Rule Book altered to allow digital images.
2006: Electrically Projected Images (EPI’s) permitted in internal slide competitions
1937 Mr H R Bennett
1943 Mr F J Smith
1946 Mr J C Laycock
1948 Mr W Mackenzie
1950 Mr R H Wills
1952 Mr H F N Hartley
1953 Mr J D Groves
1956 Mr R Stephenson ARPS
1959 Mr W H Slater
1961 Mr N Roughley
1963 Mr M E Simpson
1964 Mr L Green
1966 Miss K Hart
1967 Mr G Barbour
1968 Mr P Lee
1969 Mr H G Molloy
1970 Mrs E M Stephenson
1971 Mr B J Roscoe
1972 Mr J O Ashworth LRPS
1973 Mr F Wilkinson LRPS
1974 Mr J D Groves
1975 Mr A R Rogerson
1976 Mr T Banks
1977 Mrs M J Dennis
1978 Mr K W Wright
1979 Miss R Hanman
1980 Mr J Green
1981 Mr D Smith
1982 Mr D Wright
1983 Mrs G M Charnock
1984 Mr C P Toal
1985 Mr P G Charnock
1986 Mr K W Wright LRPS
1987 Mr T Banks
1988 Mr P Lee
1989 Mr A R Rogerson
1990 Mrs M J Dennis
1991 Mr A Wheeler
1992 Miss S Renwick
1993 Mr T Schofield
1994 Mr K W Wright ARPS
1996 Mr E Prescott
1998 Mr T Banks
2000 Mr D Swift
2002 Mr D Wright
2004 Mr D Shallicker
2006 Mr K W Wright ARPS
2007 Mr G Chisnall
2009 Mr D Swift
2011 Mr T Banks
2013 Mr S Hitchen
2015 Mrs E Parkin