Smethwick Photographic Society has been in existence since the mid 1920s, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the society came into prominence. The very successful 1st Smethwick International Exhibition of Photography in 1974 promoted SPS around the world as extremely good organisers of a prestigious International.
As a result membership grew fast, to a point where it could no longer be accommodated in our rented room at the back of St. Mary’s Church in Bearwood. The Society set up a “Future Facilities Fund” whilst we looked for larger accommodation. The Fund was given a boost when the club won the first two Slide Championships organised by the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain, each of which carried a sizeable cash prize.
First Smethwick premises
In 1981 SPS took on the lease of a derelict wooden building in Coopers Lane, Smethwick, and, using the ‘Future Facilities Fund’ money, coupled with a great deal of work from the members, restored it into a purpose-built clubhouse with lecture room, kitchen, studio and licensed bar.
The Society and its International Exhibition enjoyed great success in the 1980s and 90s, until a fateful day in July 1998, when the roof of our ageing structure caved in. The building was irreparable and the club was forced to meet in local pubs whilst searching for suitable new premises.
Renovation of the Old School House
Within 12 months a disused 100-year-old primary school building was found. It would be ideal for our new headquarters, but the cost of purchase and restoration was daunting. However, a number of members decided to invest in the purchase of the building and the Society would purchase shares. The goodwill from friends of the Society throughout Britain was astounding and donations came flooding in.
The roof leaked, the walls were sopping wet, paint peeled off everywhere, toilets were broken and the floors were covered in junk. Planning permission also had to be obtained for the building’s new use. There were only a few months to the next exhibition. However, inspired leadership would not be put off. Old walls came down, new ones went up, electrics and plumbing were replaced, most of the work being carried out by the members themselves.
The vision of the few and the sweat of the many brought the project in on time for the opening of the 25th Smethwick International Exhibition of Photography in January 2000.