The idea bubbled up over a glass of wine at a Christmas party.
Isabel Blincow met Eric Gregory and his wife, Rosie, at a neighbour’s house in Lodge Moor.
“They were new to the area and were interested in painting,” said Isabel. “We said ‘Wouldn’t it be good to start an art group?’”
A postcard in a newsagents window drew an instant response, and numbers rose quickly at meetings in the new hall of Hallam Community Association. The foundations were laid for Hallam Art Group, which holds its 40th anniversary exhibition this weekend.
These days membership is restricted for practical reasons to around 70 and there is a waiting list.
“The core principle of painting with friends is still very satisfying,” says Isabel, still a member along with Rosie. “We have had a very inclusive policy from day one. You didn’t have to prove you can paint and you never offered advice to somebody. But if they wanted it, they could have it.”
Members meet once a week at Hallam Community Hall - and such is the demand for places that if they don’t attend at least 12 meetings a year, they are out.
“Sheffield has quite a thriving amateur arts community, which is borne out by the Great Sheffield Art Showing growing to be one of the best in the country,” said David Rowley, who waited four years to join the Hallam group, which is part of Hallam Community Association.
Membership is kept local, and artists choose their own work for the three main exhibitions every year. There is no selection process.
Landscapes are a particular favourite, given the location on the edge of the Peak District.
“Some people come to read magazines or watch instructional videos or to sit next to somebody to pick their brains,” said Isabel, who was the driving force behind the Great Sheffield Art Show. “There is a very good social element.”
Volunteers are key. At least 25 are involved the organisation of the spring exhibition in Hallam Grange Crescent on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 5pm (admission free). “We have been fortunate in that there have always been people willing to put their hands up and say ‘We’ll do it’,” added Isabel.