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How did it all begin? A trip back in time as art club marks 75 years

PUBLISHED: 09:01 27 October 2018

Members of the Hitchin Art Club discussing a piece of work at their club critique evening – Gwen Payne, Trica Scott, Dennis Hadley, Annette Glenn, Diane Chadbourne, Gerald Waggott, Terry Branston and Judith Wray. Picture: Hitchin Art Club

Members of the Hitchin Art Club discussing a piece of work at their club critique evening – Gwen Payne, Trica Scott, Dennis Hadley, Annette Glenn, Diane Chadbourne, Gerald Waggott, Terry Branston and Judith Wray. Picture: Hitchin Art Club

Archant

Hitchin Art Club’s annual exhibition is extra special this year – as the club celebrates its 75th birthday.

Members’ work went on display on Saturday at the Quaker Meeting House in Hitchin’s Paynes Park, and will continue to be open for viewing most days through to and including Saturday, November 3.

But how did the club get here? According to the earliest minuted book, the club was formed in the winter of 1943 – but its true beginnings were in the 1930s.

That was when Kathleen Johnson – art mistress at the Girls’ Grammar School, now Hitchin Girls’ School – began to encourage young artists by running classes at her home, Fig Tree Cottage in Taylor’s Hill.

She continued these classes – which initially saw her charge two shillings for a two-hour lesson – for many years and into the war years, when she organised an art exhibition at Hitchin’s Sun Hotel in 1943 to raise funds for our allies, the Free French Forces.

The exhibition was opened by a distinguished French General and the many artists and towns’ people who gathered for the occasion agreed with Miss Johnson that an art club be formed in the town.

The early meetings were held in the reading room at the old library, which stood on the site of the present library in Paynes Park – where there are still pictures painted by art club members purchased by North Herts District Council and the former Urban District Council in the town’s permanent collection of paintings.

The first club exhibition took place at the library in 1945 and continued as an annual event until Hitchin Museum was closed in recent years.

The club hopes to return to North Herts Museum, as it is now known, but this year has seen three outdoor exhibitions in Hitchin Arcade to mark the 75th anniversary.

Admission to the annual exhibition – situation next door to the multi-storey car park – is free, and all visitors are very welcome.

Viewing times are 10am to 4.30pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It is not open Wednesdays or this Sunday.

Hitchin Art Club meets every Tuesday evening during term time at 7.30pm in Kingshott School in Stevenage Road. New members are welcome – for more information just visit www.hitchinartclub.co.uk.

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