Exhibition celebrates history of social club

Crowds at The Share exhibition launch at Woodhorn. Picture by Jason Thompson.
Crowds at The Share exhibition launch at Woodhorn. Picture by Jason Thompson.

A new exhibition celebrating the people, history and heritage of Guide Post Social Club opens at Woodhorn Museum & Northumberland Archives this month.

The Share tells the story of the culture and history of social clubs through a collection of original memorabilia – from the ledger started at the club’s first committee meeting in 1901 to a current membership pack including club rule book and share certificate – alongside new work from artists in residence and members of Guide Post CIU.

Curator Andrea Hawkins said: “The Share has two meanings – when you become a member you buy a share in the club, but it also describes how this project would not have been possible without the people and artists who’ve shared their time, their stories and their skills.

“Members’ voices come through in letters and memorabilia, as well as in the work they’ve created with our artists in residence.

“Working with artists is an interesting way for people here to think about who they are, their identity and their relationship to the club.”

Andrea has been working with the club for 18 months.

She first pitched the idea at a meeting with around 20 CIU clubs in the Blyth district asking for volunteers to offer arts activity in partnership with bait, which aims to support more people living in South East Northumberland to create and take part in inspiring and high quality arts experiences as part of the national Creative People and Places programme.

Guide Post Club treasurer Joyce Watts and Chair John Watts came forward and since then the club’s committee of volunteers has been working with Andrea and artists including ceramicist Emilie Taylor and photographer Mik Critchlow to make a difference in their local community.

Andrea said: “I wanted to help the club re-energise and become sustainable and Joyce saw this as a chance for the club to thrive once more, using art and cultural actives as a way of engaging the community.

“Clubs have a fascinating history – set up in the late 1800s by Henry Solly, they were owned and run by their members, not controlled by their employers, which was quite revolutionary at the time.

“There were lots of links with the workers’ associations, unions, suffrage - getting the vote for working classes. From the beginning, clubs saw arts and culture as essential to members’ lives, the history of these places is incredible.”

Ashington-born social documentary photographer Mik Critchlow has been in residence at the club for ten months, getting to know people and capturing the day to day life of the club on camera.

His photographs form part of the exhibition, alongside club members’ own work produced in a photography project with the Ladies Darts Team led by Mik and at workshops with local artists Natalie Frost and Louise Bradley.

Ceramicist Emilie Taylor worked with the Over 60s Bingo Club to create a series of drinking vessels – each telling the story of the member who made it – and a bingo board reflecting personal memories as well as the history of social clubs.

“There’s something in the process of craft and making that brings out personal experiences; the method, repetition and making really opens people up. This project is all about the idea of community, sharing and sociability - people coming together.”

Alongside archive material, original objects and photographs and contemporary art work, research by Dr Julie Crawshaw from Newcastle University will give a brief history of social clubs from 1862 to the present day and visitors will be able to sit on genuine club chairs to listen to interviews including ex-Committee members recalling what the club was like at its peak to a Club Singer who has worked in the clubs across Northumberland.

The Share: A portrait of Guide Post CIU and the cultural life of a community is at Woodhorn Museum until October 11.

Visit www.experiencewoodhorn.com for more details.