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Hostory logoAlan by Alan Spargo


MWA officially began in 1989, but its true beginning was a little earlier.

Some years before, Mike Cripps, now a professional wood turner, had been given an old wood turning lathe and a few tools. After a few hair raising experiments, he began to discover the art of turning. Wood turning became his major hobby, and before long, Mike could be found demonstrating and selling his products at local craft fairs . He also gave talks and demonstrations to local craft based organisations. In the course of these activities he met other people who were interested in wood turning, some of whom were already well established turners. Mike organised informal meetings at Ickenham Cricket Club in Middlesex, where interested people could meet and enjoy a pint or two while discussing their hobby. From time to time, proficient turners would be invited to present short demonstrations, using Mikes lathe which he brought into the club house from his house nearby. There was always a display of work by members of the group, which was usually the subject of good natured and constructive criticism.

At that time, the AWGB had just been formed. Mike joined it and took a significant part in its early development, so it was an easy step to suggest that the informal group meeting at the Cricket Club should consider becoming what was in those days known as a Chapter of the AWGB. There was an enthusiastic response. I cannot now remember exactly how many of us signed up, but it was probably in the order of 12 - 15 enthusiasts, most of whom already belonged to the AWGB. Of those early enthusiasts, only 2 or 3 remain members of MWA,, and just one remains on the Committee!

The room at the Cricket Club was small, and the group was outgrowing it. Also, in the Cricket Season, it was for obvious reasons not available to us. We needed larger premises, and moved to Southlands Arts Centre, in West Drayton near Uxbridge. Membership rapidly increased as more people took up wood turning, and we soon outgrew the Arts Centre and moved through a succession of local schools. The last one, a community school, suffered from a high level of vandalism, and despite our equipment being padlocked into an enclosed trolley, much of it was stolen or damaged. What was left was sold off, our insurance covered our losses. For a while we tried to operate with a much smaller lathe which could be taken home after each session, but it was soon obvious that it was not large enough to service the needs of the demonstrators. The last straw came when the school organisers let the room adjacent ours to an extremely loud pop group. It was time to move.

Through the efforts of one of our members, we were able to rent a room, together with a space in which we could safely store our equipment, at the Gaelic Athletics Club in West End Road, Ruislip, Middlesex, where we still meet.

A Poolwood 1000 lathe was purchased, which after modification continues to give good service, followed at intervals by a basic video camera outfit using two large screen TVs and a borrowed video camera. A wireless microphone system was also purchased. The weight and bulk of the TVs raised serious safety considerations, and so as soon as funds permitted, they were replaced by an excellent video camera and digital projector.

During the early days, the annual Middlesex County Show was a successful annual event. MWA had a large stand at the show where members’ work was displayed and sold. Live demonstrations were mounted throughout the Show. MWA won the Best Stand in Show Cup so often that in the end it was awarded permanently. (It is in my custody at present). Sadly, the Middlesex Show was financially not viable, and was closed. MWA exhibits regularly at the Chilterns Show, and at the Cow Byre Gallery in Ruislip, and also is invited to other shows from time to time.

Throughout its history, MWA has enjoyed the membership of several professional turners of some renown, who have given freely of their knowledge and expertise, thus ensuring that members have always produced work of the highest standards. Stuart King is currently President, and with Gary Rance, they cover a wide range of approaches to the craft.

It is worth noting that MWA has been closely associated with AWGB from its earliest days. Founder member Mac Kemp was in the early years an able Chairman of AWGB, and Mike Dennis, another founder member of MWA, has served in many essential capacities greatly contributing to the success of AWGB and its renowned Seminars. Today, Adrian Needham, a more recent member of MWA is has taken over major responsibilities with AWGB including the mounting of the biannual Seminars, while MWA has provided Regional Representatives in recent years, and also the current Secretary. In recent times, MWA has taken responsibility for the AWGB stand at the Woodworking Exhibitions at Alexandra Palace.

Alan Spargo 2011