West Cumbria Photo Group (WCPG) originated in 1996, when the now legendary “Gang of Four” enthusiasts met for a pub meal to discuss ways of relieving their dissatisfaction with the formal, and hierarchical ritual of, weekly camera club meetings, where outsiders either award competition marks, or show their own work with reference to how “it had done” in competitions elsewhere. After local consultation, a small, informal, egalitarian Group, was set up to hold monthly get-togethers on a rolling programme of non-competitive picture assessments, discussion with invited outsiders, and practical trips to local venues. For example, group entries for “battles” and “championships” are chosen democratically – a strategy which has been surprisingly successful in encouraging members to participate in such competitions, and at the same time in gaining attention for the Group. This activity has greatly increased recently following affiliation to the PSA.
For ten years the Group used a variety of local halls, and felt its way with a handful of converts as well as a shifting population of people “having a look” before joining or deciding against it. Then the finances were eased by meeting in our Chairman’s attic, and abandoning regular visits by outsiders, and with this the Group acquired a firmer sense of direction by exploring two distinct outlets for it’s work, which continue to be its main external activities to this day. In ten years, acceptances to national and international salons have grown from a handful to the remarkable level of well over 3000 for this year (2012).
The Group soon outgrew the Chairman’s attic and moved to the village hall at Camerton, near Workington, a tiny building which barely held 25 people. This became the membership limit, not just because of the size of the hall but also to maintain a friendly, and jointly active, atmosphere consistent with the Group’s founding principles.
The Group stayed at Camerton for a while but eventually found a new, and much larger location at the Community Hall in Distington, also near Workington. This move allowed the Group to encourage more members to join, some of whom have been relative beginners, but they all soon found their prints being accepted in salons along those of the more experienced members.
For the 2012/13 season, and in order to foster personal commitment, Members have to produce four prints, all to a previously declared and specific theme, that will represent their level of skill, both to other members of the Group, and to the general public, at an annual open exhibition of the Group’s work to be held in 2013.