A Brief History of Retford Art Society.
In October 1968 there was a meeting held in the lecture room at the Denman Library to reform Retford Art Society. There had been a previous society which had closed before the war. Percy Laws of the Photography and Art shop in Carolgate was a member but I don’t know any details. (Retford Times pre 1939 might have information).
I was young then (33) compared with the chief speakers and I didn’t know any of them personally. As I remember Margaret Teasdale, Vera Peace, Jack Penrose, Percy Laws and Sid Wright seemed to have plenty to say. It was decided that premises should be found and in April the following year we moved to the old Wharf Warehouse by the canal. It had been a fire station and mortuary during the war. By now a new fire station had been built but the doors on the old building were still painted red. The building was cleaned up. Someone provided new curtains and heaters (no central heating) and various odd tables, chairs and carpets were donated by members. We occupied the upstairs area and The Samaritans the downstairs. The entrance was grim and eventually was decorated by the Samaritans.
We stayed there for 28 years (left l997) and had some happy meetings, exhibition and workshop evenings and afternoons there. We shared the room with Retford Photographic Society for a few years before they found a more suitable place. Of course, they shared the cost of rent and electricity and when they left we had to pay all the costs. We had a grant from the council for a few years but eventually the rent rose, the grant was not given and we could no longer afford to stay there without an astronomic rise in subscriptions.
We searched for premises in town but could not find anywhere that could be ‘ours’ to leave art work and equipment. Sid Wright found us some farm buildings at Babworth where we stayed for a while but there was a dispute about the tenancy so we moved again. We left there in March l999.
This time we were back in Carolgate in part of the Percy Laws Studios. It had been a fitness studio for a while prior to our moving there. It was appropriate that we should be in that room, north facing. Was Percy Laws watching over us? The premises were administered by the Rotary Percy Laws Trust and part of the floor was rented by The Conservative Association and we were their sub-tenants. It was a good central studio but steep access stairs meant that some members were unable to negotiate them. Eventually the Conservatives decided they could not afford the premises and with advanced technology their office in Newark would serve both areas.
We were again in a similar position to the one at the Wharf where we could not afford the whole rent without raising the subscriptions to extreme levels and we left there at the end of January 2005.
Again we looked around the town and came up with a room at Ghyll Hall in Rectory road. This building, an old barn, had just been vacated from being a dance studio so was clean and available at the right price. Though too small for demonstration evenings and exhibitions it is suitable for workshop sessions and it was ‘ours’ to leave equipment in.
Written by Val Moore - Life President
In 2008 we moved into our present studio in Carolgate. The room was a function room for the Swan Inn which was an old coaching Inn, hence the name Swan Studio. We were fortunate to find a good central location. The landlords Dennis and Mavis Smith were firm friends of the Society and enjoyed visiting the Friday afternoon group for a chat and to admire the work being done. The Society lost two great supporters when Dennis and Mavis died within weeks of each other, 2015/2016.