Members gather to plan the future.
We wanted all members to have their say in the future of the club given that many similar groups have struggled to remain viable during Covid Lockdown, and the immediate future for traditional meetings looks very uncertain. We knew before Covid struck that we were struggling to attract new members, finding it hard to make ends meet financially, and that we should consider new ways of working and meeting with possibly a change of venue. The current crisis has given us some problems, but it has also given us real opportunities to rethink and re plan, with very little choice but to do things differently - whether we like it or not!

As Chair I have given considerable thought to what might be possible, talking with those who have come on the walks, listening carefully to their views. The summer months have at least been successful in retaining almost full membership, and certainly active participation from the majority of members through Challenges, Walks and Zoom meetings that have taken place weekly. Now on a break in August, we are missing the social aspects of meeting up that most people value highly, and so the opportunity to gather for a drink and some cake in Collett Park , in Shepton last Wednesday afternoon to discuss the possibilities thrown up by the responses to the questionnaire Jill and I concocted, was welcomed by the vast majority of members.

Having trawled the internet for information on Camera Clubs that have struggled with falling numbers as we have, looking for possible reasons as well as ideas for solutions, I became aware very quickly that this is a very common problem, and that clubs like ours have folded even before the current crisis. It is obvious that we comprise the older generation rather than the young and energetic. Camera Clubs I found that failed were typically described as being “dominated all too often by insecure old dinosaurs” and whilst they claimed to be led by the “old and the wise” the reality was often that in fact they were led by the “old and the bigoted.” Whilst almost all held regular competitions judged by outsiders, sometimes the over emphasis on this side of things all to often led to “ boring mimicry and stifled creativity”.

I really do not want NRPS to be regarded as such. I do think we need to reach out in different ways to the wider community, and this may well be possible once the situation re social mixing eases. I do think we need a change of venue and that we do not always need to meet indoors every week but should venture out in different weather and light to learn new things, and dare I mention social media and local radio? Anyway, the questions on the sheet were hopefully designed to get a clearer picture of what other members want and to discover the majority voice and views that perhaps HAVE been unheard previously.

Analysis of the 13 questionnaires returned were interesting to say the least, and I want to thank everyone for their time and say it was great to see 14 people in the park for an informal chat and catch up.

• Asked what people wanted from a Camera Club 5 of the 13 did not respond, but for the rest Learning through workshops and Competitions or Challenges that gave them feedback on their own and others’ work were the most popular closely followed by good speakers and the opportunity to get out in groups with the cameras more often than we normally have done in the past.
• Without including Margot in our numbers we have retained 16 members paid up for this season, having lost just Nick who says he needs a break and may well come back in the future.
• Of the 13, 11 had taken part in the weekly challenges, and 7 had given colleagues feedback on the galleries that were posted,. 9 had taken part in Zooms and 8 people had regularly met up for the walks.
• Whilst a few were willing to return in September to meetings at the Social Club, the overwhelming feeling was that this was too soon for those who felt at risk still, and in line with all other clubs locally with whom members are involved, the wise decision was taken not to return until at least January. We will review the situation in mid-November, but we MUST respect the views of those who feel that they, or members of their immediate family remain vulnerable so that they themselves are not prepared to take the risk. ( I have to say that DOES include myself.)
• Competitions remain valued with only 3 of the 13 members saying they did not enter these. And 11 wanting to retain the monthly nature of these.
• Looking at topics that would be of most interest in terms of the focus for meetings; 5 respondents chose not to answer this question which I found odd.
However, the interest in sports and wildlife was the greatest followed by creative techniques, and travel and landscape photography . Other ideas were low light and night photography, street photography, garden photography, architecture and macro.
• A staggering 11 of the 13 members would be prepared now to lead a club evening which bodes well.
• The activities that were possible in Lockdown and might be repeated in future planning of programmes were well supported. 1 person failed to respond to the question. 10 people wanted walks and excursions other than in the summer months 9 wanted regular Challenges with none against, and 9 wanted the opportunity to offer critique to fellow members although three did not. 8 wanted to continue with Zoom as an alternative sometimes to venue meets, although 2 said they did not support the idea, -it would help save money! Those meeting in the Park were in favour of me purchasing the pro version of Zoom and paying half for my own use with the Club paying the rest for use on evenings where virtual hosting was planned. This will cost a total of £144 for 12 months, so cost the club £72 which Dan is happy with.
• Asked to score a number of possible innovations and established club activities 1-5 with 5 being high interest, the activities that scored 5/4 were as follows:

Presentations by members on their own interests and skills (11)
Workshops run by members for members (10)
Outings and trips (9)
Challenges regularly (8)
Competitions in current format (8)
Producing prints for public Exhibition (6)
Bring your own disasters for help (5) and In house critique/ feedback of photos on a theme by members (5)

It was really useful to get the views of all and made decision making at club level very easy, so thank you all.

I have chatted with Dan who will now set up a new account for club funds with himself and one other as signatories so that internet banking can be facilitated to pay speakers. I anticipate that whilst it might be of use to have the Chair as a signatory , it makes more sense for it to be Jill as she deals with speakers and judges more as the secretary. Diana has provided the necessary statements for him to effect this asap.

I wish you all the joy of the current heatwave and thunderstorms- all of which I hate. I am happy to resume the programme as planned in September with a few tweaks and Jlll has this well in hand. I am planning a house move in the near future so may be a little pre occupied for a while.
Have a good summer and stay safe.

Jenny Short
August 2020.