Battle Photographic Society

Ken Clarke and Battle Camera Club - a History

Ken Clarke, who died on 1st December, 2015, was the founder member of Battle Camera Club. He suggested the idea of starting a photographic club in Battle because, being the manager of Boot's The Chemist in the High Street for many years, he was in regular contact with many other amateur photographers in the area who bought their film and had their film processed and prints produced by Boot's.

When I was a member of the Battle Camera Club for approximately 20 years, from 1967 to about 1987, Ken and I worked together on many photographic projects, particularly the Club’s famous PHOTORAMA public shows, which Ken also first suggested and which we developed using increasingly complex and more sophisticated equipment for both sound and vision, as the years progressed.  We also made several movie films.  Ken loved to make animation films using plasticine figures and each year I would create a movie introduction film to open each Photorama show, using either actors or other devious methods. In fact I still have some of those old movies, plus the special sound synchronising equipment to show them. These films usually followed a story theme leading up to the main title of the show PHOTORAMA 1970 or whatever year we were in at the time.  So 1970 was the blast off with Apollo 11 with the mighty Saturn V rocket that took man to the moon, but in our case the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) landed an astronaut in front of the Gates of Battle Abbey.  Imagine filming all that with massive sound effects, plus all the smoke jetting out of the rocket motors at take off, it really was a blast, which nearly asphyxiated some of us, but luckily as Ken was a fully qualified chemist, he was able to advise us as to how to generate massive amounts of smoke under high pressure with chemicals, which created the desired effect which looked really great on the big screen.     


For several years, Ken also produced and edited a movie NEWSREEL or latterly an AV slide sequence, showing all the major events in and around Battle during the previous year, and of course these were always a popular part of the Photorama programme.  Ken and I worked on these shows as the main producers and projectionists for ten years and I can tell you it was all jolly hard work, but really great fun and of course we all learned a tremendous amount about photography, sound sequencing and synchronisation, as well as how to put together and operate a full public photographic event, which each year would run for three consecutive nights, each of which would attract an audience of about 200 people each evening in Langton Main Hall.  Of course we also had a team of usually about 20 other club members, some of whom loaned slide stories which Ken and I turned into full audio visual sequences, with synchronised sound tracks and automated pulsed slide changes.  Other members were recruited as actors for our films or ran music during intervals, sold tickets, set-out chairs, provided refreshments for the intervals, ushered people into the hall, recruited new members for the Club, plus all sorts of other essential jobs, to help create a smooth running professional programme each evening.   These shows generated a substantial regular income for the club and also enabled us to purchase more sophisticated equipment which all members could use.


So over the years, Ken really did generate a lot of fun and enjoyment for a lot of people in the Battle area in the form of photography and he went on to get highly involved in the twinning connection with the town of Saint Valery sur Somme in France, mainly because his late wife Jane had a University degree in French language.


Ian Rumley-Dawson
3rd December 2015.