M.E. How did the West Midland Woodturners come to be?
G.L. Early in 1989 a seminar was held at Avoncroft Museum, Bromsgrove, hosted by Reg Sherwin, the resident professional woodturner. Amongst the attendees were a group of five, who, over lunch, discussed the idea of forming a woodturning group. As the five were mainly from the West Midlands area (Dudley/Birmingham etc.) it was to focus its activities in the Birmingham area. One of the group volunteered to be the contact, (chairman/secretary/treasurer) and so the seed was sown from which the West Midlands branch (or CHAPTER as it was known then) was born. Because the AWGB was formed initially on the American Association of Woodturners lines, most of the British groups were called CHAPTERS.
M.E. Where did the first WMT meetings take place?
G.L. We were very fortunate to have a professional woodturner and woodcraftsman, Spock Morgan, among the five and it was at his small workshop in Alum Rock that our first meetings were held. However, membership increased and this venue became inadequate, so a move to a hall above a church in Alum Rock Road became our second home. This was a much larger hall and we were able to accommodate more members. But it did have its problems, in so much that lathes and other machinery had to be manhandled up and down some rather narrow wooden stairs. Imagine carrying a Graduate lathe up and down for each meeting when a lathe was required. This venue served us pretty well, but the congregation did complain of the noise and distraction our activities caused to their services. Car parking also became a headache, both to our members and to the church congregation. Not all the meetings were at the church. We did have visits to various wood related locations (country crafts, chairmaking, steam bending, and even a visit to a commercial woodturning company).
Membership continued to increase and as contact between members was by letter or telephone, (no text or E-mail) it became necessary to share some of the administration load, and as a result yours truly became Newsletter Editor and Secretary. Due to membership numbers rising and the unsuitability of the church venue, a move was made to our third home at Water Orton Church Hall, which offered much better facilities. By this time the group was put on a more formal footing, and a committee was formed consisting of Chairman/Secretary, Treasurer, Events Organiser, Newsletter Editor and general committee helpers.
The National Association was gathering momentum and at this point our Chapter became a BRANCH. The format of the meetings was similar to what it is today, Professional Demos, Hands on events, challenges (or projects as we liked to call them!!!!) inter club activities and participation in local village horticultural shows. Contact between members was still by snail mail and telephone, both of which were time consuming and expensive. The branch enjoyed its time at the Church Hall but for whatever reason we had to make a fourth move which was to our present home of Water Orton Junior School. Again fortune shone on the righteous, in as much as the wife of the Treasurer at that time, was a teacher at the school and was a great and useful contact with the school management. Who will forget the sit down lunches she used to provide on the occasion of the all day demos? There was an excellent meal prepared for every one attending - served on tables with cloths and serviettes!!!
M.E. What shows/events did the Branch attend or compete in?
G.L. The first show we attended was Marston Green Horticultural Show, followed by the Kings Bromley Agricultural Show, both of which had competition and display sections. Coombe Abbey was another wood related show where we demonstrated and competed.
M.E. What involvement did you have on the National Committee?
G.L. The West Midlands Branch was one of the first woodturning groups in the region. During 1991-92 I was invited to join the National Committee and became the West Midlands Regional rep. In the autumn of 1992 the National Exhibition Centre hosted the National Woodturning and Woodworking Show, and the West Midlands Branch became the kingpin in organising and setting up of the AWGB involvement at this show. lt was quite a logistical effort in collecting and collating exhibits and stand equipment from various locations throughout the country. Stewards had to be organised, and were drawn from regional clubs which had now started to spring up, namely Heart of England, Mid-Staffs, Worcestershire, Cheshire and North Staffs. Still no text or E-mail, so all arrangements were by letter etc. The NEC proved to be a popular show and was well supported by the woodworking public in general and in particular by woodturners. This show continued for 10 years until costs became prohibitive and ended in 2002. The involvement of the West Midlands Branch at the NEC really put us on the map and to this day I feel that we are still well respected as a Branch within the Association, and that when called upon we can deliver the goods.
M.E. What of the future?
G.L. The West Midlands Branch has always been run informally, making it a friendly welcoming happy club to visit and belong to. The present committee follows this ethos and because of this the future can only look bright. Here’s to the next 25 years, and let our motto be :- STRIVE FOR PERFECTION BUT SETTLE FOR EXCELLENCE.
Click here to return to previous page