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Finding my Feet

My eight years at Oxford High School did nothing for my confidence and I left not knowing what I wanted to do. I was sent off to stay with family friends in Lyons. My host, a wealthy chocolate maker, had all the latest Leica equipment, I had a simple £1 box Brownie, yet I seemed to be able to get good results. I loved taking pictures of the old part of the city and people walking the cobbled streets. When Monsieur Balay saw them he said: ‘Ah, you ARE a photographer!’

Perhaps there was something I could do. When I came home I got a job in a photographic shop as a sales assistant. I loved it. I could take someone thinking of buying the latest expensive camera across the road to Christ Church Meadows to try it out and when the photos came back from the printers they invariably ended up making a sale.

Eighteen months later my boss launched Oxford Film Productions and took me with him as his script, continuity and stills girl. We made promotional films for Blenheim Palace - I was able to play this organola in the library during the lunch-break - Frank Cooper Marmalade, the construction of the Chiswick flyover, films of Olympic hopefuls, even bedding material called Cowlay. There is a funny story about that because when we wanted the cows to use the plastic mats instead of straw they wouldn't. We had to employ a vet to give a cow a shot to make it drowsy so that we could film it lying down. My job was marvellous because I had to take stills of every scene and go to the recording studio in London to cue in the voice-overs, which were usually done be someone like Richard Baker.

All good things come to an end. After a couple of years we overreached ourselves with new equipment going from 16mm to 35mm film and too many staff and we went bust. I found a job at the Oxford Mail as a dark room assistant where I learnt what made a good press photograph and met Don, my future husband, the paper’s feature writer and theatre critic. I hoped I might join the eight photographers when the next vacancy came up. But no one left so I did to become a colour camera girl at Butlins in Bognor.

A colour camera girl

It was an enormous enterprise. It catered for 6,000 full board families in chalets and employed 1,500 staff. In those days very few campers had cameras. Half a dozen boys were taking the black and white photos, which were displayed along walls each day for ordering. But I was taking money from people for sight unseen colour pictures which were then posted to them. I mooched around the boating and swimming pools looking for punters and went into the ballroom and the theatres to take contests like fancy dress, glamorous grandmothers, knobbly knees and talent shows. My lovely friend Anne joined me for the month of August because I was so busy. They had overestimated my commission and I dare not tell my black and white photographers how much I was earning. At the end of my six months I had made enough to buy one of the first Mini Coopers and gained the confidence to become a Press photographer.


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Oxford Film Productions - script, continuity and stills girlat Butlins in Bognor - a colour camera girl
Maps & WalksLocal Covid ResponseEynsham Venue HireEynsham News