by Rosella Garavaglia

In 1998 Chris Austin and I called for the inaugural meeting of the SLLA. The meeting took place in Venn Street Community Centre in Clapham Common. We were pleasantly surprised that many people came, some of mine and Chris’ adult education students as well as some from the Roehampton Institute. Also well known professionals such as Sally Bower, James Salisbury, Pat Kahn, Sue Cavendish and Anne Irwin attended.

At this meeting, I was elected Chairman; Euan MacGregor, Treasurer; and Jacquie Austin, Secretary. The society Constitution was proposed, discussed and voted on, and the SLLA was born.

An established committee

The first committee meeting I chaired included Newsletter Editors, Tone Goborg and Alan Dastrup, and, of course, my fellow founder, Chris Austin. He was the only member of the committee that had any experience of running a local society as he had been Chairman of Oxford Scribes: at that time, already a well-established group. We were meeting in Chris’s house at first, and the meetings were lasting well into the early hours with vivacious discussions on the direction and purpose of the society.

Our priority was education and interaction through workshops, social evenings, group projects and exhibitions, as well as the growth of our beloved group. We planned for the newsletter to be a means of exchange of ideas and information among members and a logo design for our visual identity became urgent. Committee members submitted their proposals and my design was chosen. I’m pleased to note that it is still in use.

David Longbottom soon joined the committee as Workshop Organiser, and Jacqueline Allwood became our Social Evenings’ generous and hospitable host in her large flat on the South Bank near the Oxo Tower.

Social success and major milestones

SLLA’s first Annual Exhibition took place in Southfield’s local library in a large bright space; it was very well attended, and largely a very encouraging success.

The first group project was also quite a success in terms of participation and scale. The SLLA designed and painted a large mural in a primary school in Forest Hill. The theme was the four seasons, and James Salisbury and I designed the alphabet for the inscriptions which letterforms and decorative elements were cut into stencils. The painting was carried out by many SLLA members.

Another major milestone for the society was in 2000, when the SLLA portfolio, containing 24 examples of members’ work — about half of the membership at the time — was compiled and sold at exhibitions.

A history of the South London Lettering Association

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