The Creation of The LEICA Fellowship

  • Short History
  • Council
  • Meetings
  • Typical Programme
  • 25th Anniversary Report

    Short History

    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.

    Typical Programme

    Tiverton Hotel, Blundells Road, Tiverton, Devon EX16 4DB

    Provisional Programme

    Tiverton <> was founded in Saxon times [650AD], becoming a Borough with a charter dating from 1258, was burnt from end to end in 1598, Blundell’s School being founded a year later. It suffered another fire in 1731, making 2,000 people homeless. Later, things improved with the building of the Grand Western Canal in 1814 and the railway in 1848. During the 19th century, wool manufacture gave way to extensive lace making. Today, on the edge of the Exmoor National Park and standing above the rivers Exe and Lowman, it is a market town and regional centre, especially for tourism, with good communications: Exeter is only 15 miles to the south and Taunton to the north is 22 miles. The Tiverton Hotel is modern and situated close to the town centre <>

    Friday 27th April
    5.00pm Registration and collect badges in the Crystal Suite.
    Hand in entries for the Audrey Bury Competition to Hugh Elliott in the Crystal Suite.
    Sales Table for buying and selling members’ equipment.
    Tables for displaying members’ prints.

    5.30pm Welcome drink.

    6.00pm President's opening remarks.

    7.00pm Dinner in the Crystal Suite, followed by the Annual General Meeting.

    Saturday 28th April
    From 7.00am Breakfast in the Dining Room.

    9.00am Coach Trip
    A coach trip: firstly to Exford on Exmoor, where we will stop at the White Horse Hotel for coffee. This is owned by renowned photographer Peter Hendrie. Many of his pictures are displayed on the hotel walls.
    We then travel to Lynmouth <> Here we will stop at the picturesque harbour on the Severn Estuary, where there are places to enjoy lunch. You may also like to take the opportunity to travel up to Lynton on the cliff railway (at your own expense, 2017 fare was £3.80 return) <>. Lynton is well worth visiting and has many quaint, unusual shops.
    We then travel to Arlington Court, a National Trust property (nb Remember NT cards!) <>. Here can be found the National Trust Carriage Museum, which is about 7 minutes walk from the entrance and shop. The house also has much of interest and there are collections of model ships, pewter and shells. The landscape and gardens also have much to offer, but time is limited so you should choose your priorities before visiting. (There is also the usual NT café and excellent shop!)

    5.00pm Return to the Hotel

    6.00pm NEW! Hand in pictures for “My Day Out”
    Please select 4 pictures from today’s outing.
    Bring along a memory card, or camera and lead, so the pictures can be loaded on to the computer.

    7.00pm Dinner in the Crystal Suite followed by an illustrated talk by Don Morley; “Hardy, Hols and History” – (Though not necessarily in that order!)

    Sunday 29th April
    From 7.30am Breakfast in the Dining Room.

    A free day and lots of things to do. Here are some suggestions:
    Around Tiverton
    Grand Western Canal within walking distance of the hotel, offers boat hire and horse-barges <>. There is a Visitor Centre and café. Interesting and colourful photo opportunities can be found by walking along the canal towpath.
    Knightshayes Court – two miles away, fabulously decorated Victorian Gothic Manor with fine gardens. <>
    Further afield
    Exmoor, Dartmoor, the north coast of Somerset and Devon, the south coast of Devon from Seaton and Beer to Torbay and Dartmouth, and Exeter are within reach: all lovely places to visit and enjoy <> and <>.
    • Those of you who did not come to Tiverton last time may be interested to visit Buckfastleigh station where the steam train can take you to Totnes. <>. By the station there are excellent photo opportunities at the <> centre.
    Buckfast Abbey is also nearby: <>
    Beer and Seaton – part of the World Heritage Jurassic Coast and for Seaton Tramway <> and <>.
    • The West Somerset Railway is 20 miles long and runs from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead. Dunster Castle (National Trust) on the route is worth a visit <>
    Great Torrington – RHS Garden Rosemoor and Dartington Crystal Glass Works <>, <>.
    Exeter – one of the oldest cities in England with its fine Cathedral, including the longest unbroken stretch of Medieval Gothic Vaulting in the world. Also, it’s Historic Quay, an excellent place for a day’s visit. <>.

    5.20pm Return to the Hotel.

    6.00pm Presenting the Audrey Bury Competition in the Crystal Suite followed by showing the pictures entered for “My Day Out”

    7.00pm Dinner in the Crystal Suite followed by a short talk by Keith Mason. “Teignmouth, from Black and White to Colour”. A personal view of this South Devon seaside town

    Monday 30th April
    From 7.00am Breakfast in the Dining Room.
    Clear rooms; settle accounts and farewells.

    25th Anniversary Report

    The 25th Anniversary Meeting of The LEICA Fellowship was held Aspley Guise, near Milton Keynes, over the weekend 4th to 7th May, 2001. The following report was written by Geoffrey Harris.

    “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:
    “And she saw that it was pleasant to the eyes”. Almighty God, we thank you for the beauty of the world, and for the goodness of the earth: save us from temptation, and give us grateful hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    At each place setting there was a commemorative menu card and to whet the appetite of those unable to be present -the menu was:-

    Duck Liver Parfait with Brioche
    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

    Wines were
    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:

    3rd ‘Alport Heights’ by Peter Burgess
    2nd ‘Stubble Burning’ by Robert Chamock
    1st ‘The Himalayas’ by Bert Crawshaw.

    Monday morning saw the close of the meeting with members leaving for the four corners of the UK.