The Creation of The LEICA Fellowship
The LEICA company was the only camera manufacturer to hold regular tuition for users of their products. These were originally held at the headquarters of the company at Wetzlar, Germany, but in 1975 the first LEICA School based on the German model was introduced at the UK base in Luton.
So that close attention could be provided by the tutors, the three-day courses were limited to 10 participants. After the end of the first group of courses in 1975, some of the students held the view that, as the courses had been so stimulating and friendly, they would like to continue the new friendships that had been formed. The Company was approached to consider the formation of a club and it was agreeable on the condition that it was independent of the Company.
The inauguration meeting was held in Luton on 27th March 1976, at which a Council of five members was formed. It was agreed to hold a weekend meeting in September of that year. This then increased to two each year at places of photographic interest in the UK.
The 10th Anniversary meeting was held in north London in April, 1986. The guest speakers during the weekend were the late Victor Blackman, ex Fleet Street photographer and photographic press columnist; Gene Nocon, photographer and mentor to the Duke of York, who also invented the darkroom exposure timer based on "f-stops" in place of the customary seconds, and LEICA staff from Luton.
To celebrate its 20th Anniversary, The LEICA Fellowship visited the LEICA company's new headquarters at Solms in Germany, where the members were the guests of the Company's directors.
To celebrate its 30th Anniversary,The LEICA Fellowship held its meeting in Alnwick, Northumberland.
To celebrate its 40th Anniversary, The LEICA Fellowship held its celebration yet again in Northumberland, this time in Allensford.
The "Fellowship" has continued its successful meetings formula and
its Council members have prepared locations for several years ahead.
The original Council had five members, but the success of the Leica Fellowship and it’s increasing membership over the years resulted in the Council being increased to seven, namely, President, General Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Secretary, Conference Organiser, Competition Secretary, and Newsletter Editor.
There are two meetings a year, one in the Spring, either late April or early May, and the other in the Autumn, usually in September. The venues for the meetings are decided upon by the Council after considering suggestions put forward by members of Council, or by other members who attend the meetings.
The location of a meeting must be easily accessible by car, and, at the same time by train. As far as possible, these meetings are held in turn in the south, west, north, east, and centre of England, such as Exeter, Bath, Bristol, Windermere, York, Lincoln, Norwich, Stoke, Sheffield, etc. However, there must be a good quality hotel at the location which can provide the number of rooms and the facilities we require. When the location and hotel have been agreed, then ideas for the programme are considered and when these are also agreed, the decisions are implemented by the Conference Organiser.
The programmes have to be arranged around three permanent events, the day and time of which can vary, but in the Spring the AGM, and a less formal slide competition is included, and in the Autumn the main photographic competitions are held.
While there are “in House” activities in the hotel: lecturers speaking on the area being visited with information on places of particular photographic interest; or talks on, or demonstrations of, a speaker’s special interest, such as landscapes, candid photography, black & white, digital, etc.
There are visits during our meetings to a variety of places offering interesting photographic opportunities. These have included: stately homes, castles, cathedrals, potteries, docks, preserved working railway, a safari park, and working museums.
To venture outside the venue of a meeting needs transport, and while there have been car convoys, these are not always practical. When the meeting was in Windermere, two mountain goats (small coaches) were hired for the day to explore the Lake District to the west of Windermere, the hiring firm planning the itinerary for us. Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience of the "goats" climbing up the mountains on narrow roads, when frequently a sheer drop could be seen on one side of the vehicle, if one cared to look. We went where a convoy of cars could not have ventured, let alone stop to take photographs as we did. When visiting Richmond in Yorkshire, mini buses proved to be the best way of negotiating the narrow roads in the Dales, where bushes and trees frequently brushed against both sides of the buses, and, of course, it was possible to stop and take photographs in places where several cars could not have stopped.
The programmes do include some free time during the Saturday or Sunday, for members to have some unorganised leisure time, when they can pursue their own interests. The meetings commence at hotels on a Friday at 5.30 p.m. and end after breakfast on Monday. With meetings held in various parts of the country, as previously mentioned, it is hoped that members living near a venue will attend the meeting. Reservations are basically taken for the 3 days of a meeting, and, when required, for either 1 day or 2 days. Also non-resident bookings are accepted, where members attend for the day's programme and evening dinner at the hotel, but havealternative accommodation in the area.
Wives/husbands/partners of members are welcome to attend, and can participate in the events, except the AGM and the annual photographic competitions. We always endeavour to give new members a very warm welcome, involve them in the events. They are also invited to mix and socialise with other members so that they will feel that they are with friends and share the experience of "fellowship" which inspired the formation of The Leica Fellowship.
The AA 4-star Best Western Dover Marina Hotel & Spa <www.dovermarinahotel.co.uk> is located on the Dover seafront overlooking Dover Harbour, close to the marina, De Bradelei Wharf and car park. This car park, about 100 yards from the hotel entrance in Cambridge Road, offers free parking for hotel guests with a permit provided by the hotel. On arrival, either park on Marine Parade (parking meters) or preferably at the hotel unloading bay in Cambridge Road (see map). Collect your permit from Reception. Dover <www.doverport.co.uk>, <www.whitecliffscountry.org.uk>, is the world's busiest ferry port, 'the gateway to England' from Europe, with its famous White Cliffs of Dover and Dover Castle atop the cliffs looking out across the Dover Strait to France, 21 miles wide at its narrowest.
Friday 6th September
5.30pm Register and Collect badges in the Chartwell Suite.
Hand in entries for the Annual Print and Slide Competition.
6.30pm President's opening remarks.
7.00pm Dinner in the Restaurant, followed by a talk by Graham Baldock from the Maritime Coastguard Agency in the Chartwell Suite.
Sales Table for buying and selling members' equipment.
Saturday 7th September
From 7.00am Breakfast in the Restaurant.
9.00am Coach trip to Samphire Hoe, Canterbury, Sandwich and the 'White Cliffs of Dover'.
Travelling by coach, our first stop is a few miles from Dover at Samphire Hoe <www.samphirehoe.co.uk>. An amazing site, made from the spoil dug to create the Channel Tunnel and a special place to view the white chalk cliffs; tea kiosk and toilets available. (Photo Shoot 1).
Canterbury is next, a beautiful city with 2000 years of history within and around its old city walls. Drop-off and pick-up will be at the Bus Station, a short walk from the Cathedral, a map will be provided. The city walls still follow the outline of the original Roman town. Since the first millennium BC, Canterbury has been important as the lowest crossing point of the River Stour which flows peacefully through the city centre <www.canterburyrivertours.co.uk> Kings Bridge, High St. 1400 years ago, Christianity gained its first foothold here when St. Augustine arrived; the present cathedral stands on the foundations of the church founded by him in 597. This spectacular cathedral dominates the landscape and is the top attraction. Outside the walls lie the ruins of St. Augustine's Abbey <www.english-heritage.org.uk> and England's oldest parish church, St. Martin. These, together with the Cathedral, make up the city's UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its ancient streets, car free, and buildings, there is so much to interest, enjoy and photograph. For further information: Canterbury Information Centre, now at the Beaney Art Museum and Library, 18 High Street, tel. 01227 378100 <www.canterbury.co.uk>, <www.canterbury-cathedral.org>. (Photo Shoot 2). Please note: entry to the Cathedral is through Christ Church Gate at the Buttermarket, Sun Street. Cameras and tripods (incl. flash!!!) may be used inside the building, FOR PRIVATE USE ONLY. BUT NOT IN THE CRYPT OR DURING SERVICES.
In the afternoon, we travel the 13 miles to Sandwich, once a Saxon stronghold and one of the Cinque Ports, now silted up and merely a reach on the River Stour. It is said to be the most complete medieval town in England. Drop-off and pick-up will be at the coach park on The Quay near The Bell Hotel (a map will be provided). The street plan has changed little since the time of Doomsday in 1086, some churches, houses and public buildings dating back to the 13th Century. The 4th Earl of Sandwich 'invented' the sandwich 251 years ago! <www.visitsandwich.co.uk>, <www.open-sandwich.co.uk>. (Photo Shoot 3)
Our last stop on our journey back will be at 'The White Cliffs of Dover', a spectacular natural feature and an icon of Britain's hope and freedom. The views over Dover Harbour with the intense ferry activity and over the English Channel are magnificent. The Visitor Centre (NT) has toilets, a cafe and shop. (Photo Shoot 4)
5.00pm Return to hotel.
6.00pm The Annual Print & Slide Competition in the Chartwell Suite, PART 1 Judge: Richard Walton <www.richardwalton.co.uk>.
7.00pm Dinner in the Restaurant followed by PART 2 of the Competition in the Chartwell Suite.
Sunday 8th September
From 7.00am Breakfast in the Restaurant.
9.00am This is a free day with plenty to see. Here are some suggestions:
Dover Castle: the greatest medieval fortress in England created by King Henry II and his Plantagenet
successors. The secret wartime tunnels, dug deep into the White Cliffs, include a realistic presentation.
'The Miracle of Dunkirk', master-minded here in l940. <www.english-heritage.org.uk>.
Harbour boat tour from North Quay, Dover Marina: contact Richard Mahony, 07971 301379
Western Heights including the Grand Shaft <www.doverwesternheights.org>: owned by various
agencies, with limited access to the public. Worth a visit: please ask Keith or Geoff to try to arrange.
Dover Museum: Bronze Age vessel.
Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le Ferne, about 7 miles away <www.battleofbritainmemorial.org>.
St. Margaret's at Cliffe: the Coastguard Pub & Restaurant, virtually on the beach. Excellent!
Deal: a seafront vista from its pier; fishing boats pulled up on the shingle and Henry VIII's Deal Castle.
Walmer Castle: Henry VIII again and now the residence of the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports.
Dungeness: the nuclear power station is open to visitors again; To book a visit contact the station via: dungenessBtours@edf-energy.com
or call 01797 343728 <http://www.edfenergy.com/media-centre/press-news/Dungeness-B-opens-its-doors-to-the-public.shtml>.
Dungeness, Romney Marsh: a fascinating place and so photogenic, <http://www.urban75.org/photos/kent/romney-hythe-railway.html>. Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway <www.rhdr.org.uk>.
Rye: perched on a hill, this ancient town is well worth the journey from Dover <www.visitrye.co.uk>.
The tiny harbour with its fishing fleet, two miles out along the River Rother, and the narrow cobbled
streets and alleys up the hill offer unlimited photo opportunities. The 326 bus, Station-High Street (tel:
01797 227722) runs half-hourly; park at the station.
7.00pm Dinner in the Restaurant
followed by a number of members giving short illustrated talks on the theme: 'R Digital - My Way' in the Chartwell Suite.
Monday 9th September
From 7.00am Breakfast in the Restaurant.
Clear rooms; settle accounts and farewells.
“The best ever”; “very professional”; “well organised, good food and good company” were just some of the remarks made about the 25th Anniversary Meeting.
Friday afternoon saw a steady stream of members arriving and the reception area was soon full of groups catching up with news and, of course, ordering pots and pots of tea.
We occupied all but one or two rooms in the hotel, so the sixty-five members and their partners/guests took over the restaurant for the evening meal. The quality of the food and service boded well for the week-end. Following the meal there was a slide presentation about Milton Keynes given by a ‘Blue Guide’ badge holder. Many were surprised to find how attractive the town was as fascinating facts were revealed.
The Annual General Meeting followed the illustrated talk.
Saturday saw a coach and car trip to Waddesdon Manor. This was one of the homes that belonged to the Rothschild family, but now a national Trust Property. A fine, sunny day was spent looking round the magnificent house and beautiful gardens. The proposed trip to Stowe was cancelled due to the foot and mouth crisis.
Members returned to the hotel to prepare themselves for the 25th Anniversary Dinner. They gathered in the bar and on the patio for drinks and were joined by our special guests: Mr Uli Hintner (Managing Director of Leica Camera Ltd) and his wife; Glenys Runciman and her husband; Jeff Griffin and Brian Bower FRPS and his wife.
When The LEICA Fellowship was formed, Jeff Griffin (then Technical Manager for E. Leitz (Luton)) played a very important and supportive role in its foundation, and Glenys was his Secretary. In the early days she prepared the Newsletter and posted it to all members, as well as supporting us in many other ways. There is no doubt that without the support of Jeff and Glenys, The LEICA Fellowship would not have got off the ground.
A Grace had been specially written for the occasion. It had been taken from the verse of Eve contemplating the apple - mankind’s first aesthetic judgement - and was given by member, Mr Muire Smith:
At each place setting there was a commemorative menu card and to whet the appetite of those unable to be present -the menu was:-
Roasted tomato & Tarragon soup
Celebration Champagne sorbet
Fillet of Beef Wellington with a Madeira Sauce
Fillet of Salman with a Prawn and Saffron Sauce
served with fresh market vegetables
Light St Clements Mousse with a Raspberry Sauce
Brandy Snap Basket filled with a Compote of Fresh Fruits steeped in Cointreau
Coffee with Celebration Cake and Petit Fours
Piesporter Michelsberg 1999 - Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany
Koonung Hill 2000 - Chardonnay, Australia
Stormy Cape 2000 - Pinotage, South Africa
It was an excellent meal enjoyed by all.
Following the formal ceremony of ‘cutting the cake’ by Graham Thorley and Geoffrey Dawson there was a short interval before an Address by the President Mr J. Graham Thorley ARPS. In this he outlined the history of The LEICA Fellowship and thanked the many people who had worked so hard at its formation and during the 25 years that followed. At the end he announced that Honorary Membership had been offered to Mr Uli Hintner and Mr Brian Bower FRPS, both of whom had been pleased to accept.
Mr Brian Bower then rose to thank the members for the honour bestowed.
Mr Uli Hintner then spoke, and after commenting on the growth and success of The LEICA Fellowship, he briefly mentioned matters relating to Leica Camera Ltd. Finally, he too conveyed his appreciation of the honorary membership bestowed. He then announced he had found a new member for The LEICA Fellowship. He was named as Elmar Steif and hoped he would be accepted. He then produced a "Steif" bear, dressed in a blue coat and cap bearing the Leica motif, and around its neck hung a small Minox camera. This he presented to the President.
The Toast to The Leica fellowship was given by Mr Geoffrey Dawson.
The M.C. then announced there was an additional item. He called upon the Treasurer, Mr Brian Bassett, who expressed the appreciation felt by all members for the work carried out by both Mr Graham Thorley and his wife Jeanette during their twenty-five years association with The LEICA Fellowship. On behalf of all members he presented them with engraved pewter goblets contained in a wooden case.
This brought proceedings to a close. During the evening photographs had been taken by Mr Hugh Elliott and Mrs Jay Chamock and a selection will be included in The LEICA Fellowship photograph album. So ended a memorable evening, well not quite, members adjourned to the bar and lounge and conversation flowed until the early hours. It was an evening to be remembered by all.
Sunday morning saw most down for breakfast by 9 a.m. Arrangements had been made for a private visit to Bletchley Park, the home of Station X and the centre of the ‘enigma’ code breaking activities. Before leaving, the President gave a brief outline of the workings of the Enigma machine and the work of the decoders.
Following a short introductory talk, members were divided into two groups and were given a guided tour of the complex. A fascinating tour; some members who thought they were in for a boring day ended up by thoroughly enjoying a most interesting day. It was made more so when it was discovered that one lady in our group had worked as a ‘radio operator’, listening in to and noting the German Enigma coded transmissions; and a member involved in using the decoded transcripts of weather information and after the war in building the successor to the ‘Colossus’ computer. A place that must be visited again.
The ‘Audrey Bury Trophy’ competition was held after dinner. The results were:
Monday morning saw the close of the meeting with members leaving for the four corners of the UK.