The society that documented an act of 'vandalism' that caused 'uproar'
The first steps towards the formation of Watford Cine Society (WCS) began in early 1958 when film enthusiasts Bob Nunn, Roger Moon, Alan Campbell and Roger Nicholls decided to combine their cinematographic interests and create a local filmmakers’ group.
By mid-summer, with Alan Campbell as chairman, the foursome raised funds with a ‘Ten Best’ film show at St Mary’s Church Hall and formed WCS on September 15, 1958 with a membership of ten. The society first met in Watford at the Free School, followed by the King’s Head, the Green Man (both long demolished), the British Legion Hall at Croxley Green and the Hertfordshire Arms in St Albans Road (now McDonald’s). When my parents joined in 1966, meetings were at St Matthew’s Church Hall, Oxhey.
When I became a member a few years later, WCS met at the Methodist Trinity Church Hall, Whippendell Road at 8pm every Thursday. There were talks, workshop evenings and filming sessions at which we all helped in different capacities, from behind the scenes and operating cine cameras to acting. There was a dedicated membership from teenagers to retirees who all had a passion for cine filming in those pre-video days.
Members used Standard 8mm and 16mm film, and, as time progressed, Super 8mm. On occasion, 9.5mm films, the first amateur and, by then vintage, gauge made an appearance. Amongst the members were: Steve Morris, David Jefferson, Chris Patching, Richard Griffin, Brian Squire and Barry Saunders.
There were many collaborative group productions, some serious, some hilarious, others documenting changes in Watford; numerous in-house and away competitions; and public film shows, usually held at St Thomas’s Church Hall, Langley Road. One special public show in October 1986 was at the invitation of the Pump House, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in April last year. Entitled Memories of Watford 1922-1975, it was a sell-out. My father compered the event and was reported in the Watford Observer as saying that he could not promise it would be a happy evening for those attending!
Amongst the films the audience watched was Changing Face of Watford, a 1972 club production. They witnessed the destruction of a number of buildings, including the well-loved and much-lamented Cassiobury Park lodge gates that impressively marked the park entrance on Rickmansworth Road. I remember my father telling me of the massive uproar from the audience as they watched scenes of its demolition.
Those of us who remember the gates can never forgive what can only be described as vandalism.
As well as shooting and scripting 8mm films on environmental changes in Watford, Bushey and Oxhey over the decades, my father produced travelogues from his overseas trips and wrote scripts, a number of which he turned into award-winning films. ‘Obituary to a Ghost’ and ‘First Anniversary’, included music specially written and played by David Jones, whose jazz band was a regular at Kings Jazz Club; one of my father’s initiatives.
A fan of Alfred Hitchcock, he delighted in skewing viewers’ expectations with twists in his films’ plots.
He also helped my mother to make an animated science fiction film, The Red Planet, for which she was awarded the Beginner’s Trophy.
It was at WCS in November 1978 that I first met my future husband. Bob came on competition night when I entered Harvest, a documentary on Victorian/Edwardian authoress, critic and social reformer Mrs Humphry Ward. When researching several years previously in Bushey Library, I read that Mrs Ward’s former home, Stocks in Aldbury, was a private girls’ school – Brondesbury-at-Stocks – with Miss Katharina Forbes Dunlop as Headmistress. But when I made the pre-arranged visit to discuss filming at Stocks, an American wearing Bunny cufflinks sauntered over to greet me. He was Playboy Vice-President Victor Lownes, then Britain’s highest paid executive, who had bought Stocks several months previously. Victor proved extremely supportive and I ended up in his autobiography, Playboy Extraordinary, but that’s another story!
WCS actively competed with other cine clubs in London, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire for trophies. The HACCA (Hertfordshire Amateur Cine Clubs Association) trophy was sought after, as were in-house awards such as Best Use of Sound, Best Film of the Year, Best Soundtrack, Beginner’s and Lady’s trophies, Circle Award (best local environmental film) and the Hammond Trophy, awarded by then-President Mike Hammond of Hammond’s music shop, on the corner of Water Lane and the High Street (where the blue pyramid is now).
In the 1980s several members opted for video as a less costly alternative to film, so WCS became Watford Film & Video Makers. The club survived several years then, sadly, hit the buffers – or rather the sprockets.
Lesley is the daughter of the late Ted Parrish, a local historian and documentary filmmaker. He wrote 96 nostalgic articles for the ‘Evening Post-Echo’ in 1982-83 which have since been published in ‘Echoes of Old Watford, Bushey & Oxhey’, available at www.pastdayspublishing.com and Bushey Museum. Lesley is currently working on ‘Two Lives, Two World Wars’, a companion volume that explores her father’s and grandfather’s lives and war experiences, in which Watford, Bushey and Oxhey’s history will take to the stage once again.