In early 1968 two Oadby artists, Mr. Robert Lodge and Mr. Leonard Smith felt that it was time that the talents of the local artists should be brought together into an organised body. This came about when the Oadby Community College (known as Beauchamp College) invited them to join the college as an affiliated society. Robert and Leonard advertised in the Leicester Mercury for local artists to submit paintings for an exhibition at the Oadby council offices in order to raise funds for the Oadby Social Centre scheme. They proposed to offer the paintings for sale with 10% donated to the Social Centre Fund. There were sufficient members exhibiting 60 works of art forming the first annual exhibition in December 1968 which was enough to form a society.
The second exhibition in 1969 was again held at the council offices with only 22 exhibits. That year the annual general meeting was called and a committee formed in the hope of resurrecting the society which was somewhat in the doldrums. Mr. Frank Boardman was elected chairman, Mr. G. Bass (the original chairman) was elected treasurer, Cynthia Deakin was elected secretary and Mrs. Betty Caine the assistant secretary. Betty Caine started the society's album (which was taken over in 1972 by Cynthia Deakin). Other members of the original committee were Mrs. Peggy Boardman, Lady Goddard, Robert Lodge and Mrs. Joan Tricks (also a member of the Leicester Sketch Club and Women's Art Club). Frank and Cynthia borrowed a book from the library on how to run a society as neither had any experience in this area.
With the new Committee's efforts the 3rd Annual exhibition in 1970 was a very grand affair, held again in the Council Chamber of the Council Offices. Invitations to a Sherry Party at the Preview and Opening were sent out to members and their guests (price 5/-). The ladies on the Committee wore evening dresses. The Chairman of the Oadby Council opened the exhibition of 75 exhibits. He commented on the very high standard of work and said "Art added quality to life and Oadby was well to the fore in bringing art to the people". Ronald Moore, the then Leicester Mercury Critic came on his bicycle to view the exhibition. He was always very kind to us with excellent criticisms and did his best to get them printed in the newspaper before the end of the exhibition (we opened for a week in those days). The Leicester Mercury Photographer and the Tatler Photographer were in attendance. Great publicity and all for free! The 4th and 5th exhibitions came and went in much the same way and now we had a full membership of 65 members.
The next year 1973, a former member, James Alvey, made a suggestion that the viewing public might become involved at the annual exhibitions by choosing the exhibit they liked best. The owner of the most popular exhibit would be presented with a trophy to keep for one year. James designed and handmade the trophy in polished aluminium in the shape of a palette and brushes. This proved to be a great success, it created more interest for the visitors who spent more time at the exhibition to chose their favourite exhibit. The total number of sales was 23, the highest yet.
For the 7th exhibition in 1974 the Oadby Council moved its Offices to Wigston, which gave the society the problem of finding a venue for the exhibition. Geoffrey Herrickx, a member who joined the society in 1970 and was the minister at the Church of Christ in Rosemead Drive Oadby, came to the rescue. He had obtained the approval of the deacons of the church to allow the society to hold the exhibition in the church. This proved to be a good venue much to the relief of the committee and continued to be so for the 8th, 9th, l0th, 11th and 12th exhibitions.
A new member joined the society around the time of the 11th exhibition and submitted two nude studies which were accepted by the committee. They were hung tastefully with the other exhibits and after the preview and opening Geoff informed the committee that there had been a complaint by a member of the church congregation. It was then realised that the nude studies had been hung in full view of the congregation during the church service. A bit of rehanging was quickly made and the nudes were placed on the back of the screens against the wall of the Church.
In 1971, the Librarian of the Oadby library invited the society to hang a permanent exhibition there with a change of paintings every month. Each member had the opportunity to exhibit for sale three times a year. Sales were very good and the society profited from the commissions. Peggy Boardman and Cynthia Deakin were in charge of the changing and hanging of the paintings. It was sad that this wonderful "shop window" for members had to be discontinued in 1991 due to the continuing thefts of works exhibited there. Herbert Thompson was one of the members whose work was stolen from the Library. He remarked "isn't it marvellous that someone liked my picture enough to want to pinch it!"
The Tea Pot café opposite Stretton Hall Gates on the A6 towards Great Glen (it is bypassed now) was sold to Colin Riley around 1971, he and his wife changed the name to La Teira Restaurant and invited the society to hang an ongoing exhibition changing the paintings every 3 months. This too was a popular exhibition with many sales and continued for some 13 years.
In June 1970, the first out of doors painting day was arranged. It was through one of the members, Herbert Thompson - quite a character who was full of ideas for the benefit of the society. He often sketched out of doors and would find a large estate house (not quite a stately home), knock on the front door and request permission to sketch the house and grounds. Sooner or later a maid would appear with lunch on a silver tray and so Herbert would try out these kind of venues for society days out. Burton Overy village was one venue where half the members chose as their subject a derelict, rusting corrugated farm building. The society was asked to exhibit their works in the village hall but they were surprised to find the villagers were quite disgusted that some of the members had chosen, of all things, the eyesore of the village. The society was never invited there again.
In November 1972 a competition was launched for a Logo design which Mr. J. Cooke won. A simplified version is still used today.
In 1988 the society's 21st anniversary was celebrated with an exhibition of 54 exhibits in the foyer of the Leicester Mercury offices. The opening speech by Leicester Mercury's then managing director, Mr. John Aldridge, confirmed that at last the society had "arrived" and was a recognised and respected art society.
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