THE TRIDENT CINE GROUP ( 1960-1976)
It is not often that a collective enterprise is sparked off by only one person but, in the case of the Trident Cine Group, that is exactly what happened. It was on 7th September 1960 that the late Arthur Hodge called together an informal gathering of BPA members who had leanings towards cine photography and, by dint of his enthusiasm and encouragement, persuaded the sixteen members present that a cine group within the BPA was essential for the full development of their intended hobby. In no time at all, the new group was formally constituted with Arthur Hodge as Chairman, assisted by a secretary and treasurer.
At first, meetings of the new group were held fortnightly but later, when things got into their stride, these were increased to weekly. The group relied mostly on its own members for the first year or two whilst feeling its way, but as it grew in membership a regular syllabus of talks and visiting speakers was arranged. Also, whereas in the beginning it was the usual thing for members to produce their own home-made films, this practice by degrees gave way to the making of group films whereby a number of members would combine to create a joint production, possibly shot on location and involving each other as film crew and players. As this idea developed, outside actors were brought in, and when the BPA moved to Clifton Road in 1970 it proved very fruitful to make contact with the Birkenhead Dramatic Society who had their quarters in the same building.
This liaison between the two societies was unquestionably a happy one and led to a great deal of mutual pleasure – and amusement – when putting on joint productions. A diverting little illustration of this comes to mind. The Dramatic Society had asked the Cine Group to film a sequence during a horror play they were rehearsing wherein the macabre scene to be filmed depicted a darkened room with an open coffin resting on the centre table and a wizened old man keeping vigil in a chair alongside. As the clock struck mid-night the corpse, clad only in a white shroud and with an expressionless stare in her eyes, was seen to rise slowly out of the coffin into a sitting posture. Then, all of a sudden, everything went wrong; the corpse, unable to keep a straight face any longer, burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter, the old man fell off his chair with fright, and the art director uttered some very naughty words at having his scene ruined. But the Cine Group weren’t worrying; they had on film the best bit of tragi/comedy it was ever their good fortune to capture.
These were great days. During the move to Clifton Road the group did a grand job by providing and installing a completely new projection screen with proscenium surround and motorised curtains, loudspeakers and control box. A further step forward was made when the group became affiliated to the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers and was able to take part in a special I.A.C. symposium at Burton Manor College. This provided an extremely informative and interesting week-end.
At other times meetings were arranged with neighbouring cine clubs and, occasionally, trips were organised to suitable outside locations for a variety of filming exercises which, in the main, had a wide appeal. One of these was an excursion to Llanfair Caereinion, near Welshpool, to film the narrow gauge railway there. Due, however, to the leading car forging ahead and failing to keep contact with the main party, the latter got lost in a network of by-lanes and ended up in a farmyard up to their axles in mud. Very little filming was done that day it is feared.
One of the most successful of the cine group’s events was the Christmas party organised each year by Glynn Jones. This was a most enjoyable and well attended function; the lady members would always put on a wonderful spread of good things to eat, the wine flowed freely, and more often than not the President and a goodIy number of members from the main Association would come along and join in the fun.
The culmination of the cine group’s many accomplishments was reached in 1970 when the group was asked by the Girl Guides Association, through their local branch, to make a documentary film of their Diamond Jubilee Year activities in various parts of Cheshire. Realising that this was going to be a daunting task, the group pressed into service every able bodied member it possessed. It was a hectic year involving a vast amount of organisation; there were three separate camps – at Peckforton, Cholmondeley and Royden Park, Frankby – and each had to be extensively filmed. As Princess Margaret was to visit each camp in her capacity as President of the Guides Association, the cine group’s three photographers had to be security screened and issued with press passes. Filming was also done at the Ranger Camp at Thornton Manor during the visit there of the Chief Guide, Lady Baden Powell. Altogether, a lot of film was exposed and, after weeks of hard work editing and putting it all on a sound track, the final production was condensed into two reels each of 400 feet. The premiere performance was held at the Williamson Art Gallery in the presence of the Mayor and Mayoress of Birkenhead and other civic dignitaries, including Lady Leverhulme who presented the group with a commemorative plaque which now hangs in the BPA clubrooms.
With the passage of time the group unfortunately lost members; some died, others moved out of the district. Indeed, all cine clubs on Merseyside were experiencing membership problems. The group tried by all means possible to encourage more members to join but without success. It was therefore with extreme regret that in May 1976 regular meetings had to be suspended, not without a lingering hope however that a fresh start in the future might be possible if renewed interest could be generated.