HACCA is the annual competition, usually held in, or around, November time. There are some that say it was started by Alan Snare of Watford Cine Society. You may find disagreement, and find the name Peter Wernham as the originator. Either way, HACCA stands for Hertfordshire Amateur Cine Clubs’ Association. It really got under way shortly after I joined this club in 1968, although I gather the idea was in existence before then. The original impression that I had of it, was not only were there going to be exciting things, such as chartering aeroplanes to visit the Netherlands, and film the Dutch bulb fields etc; but also an annual film competition. To date, it has only been an annual film competition. Some of the original member clubs no longer compete, such as Watford Cine Society and The Company Of Ten. Sadly, it appears that Watford’s club is no more. Whether it will ever be back, who can say? But The Company of Ten still survives. However, this is not strictly a film organisation, but a very well respected amateur drama group which operates in St. Albans. Its film making activities were, at the time, an addition to the excellent stage productions that were presented.
All aboard the 6-5 Special!
At the end of the swinging 1960’s, all was ready for the first competition. Although in future all productions had to be new, ie completed within the last twelve months, it was decided for the first event, this rule would not apply. But it was, either way, to be a knockout. This meant that the public show would be the final round. Prior to this, it would be private viewing and judging. Irrespective where the pre-judging was held, 1968 or 9, the first public show, with the announcement of the winners, would be held at a hall near Bushey and Oxhey railway station. If my memory serves me correctly, it was the then current meeting place of The Watford Cine Society. They even had a guest of honour, for this grand occasion. This was Josephine Douglas, a well known television personality, whose greatest moments of fame were spent co-hosting the BBC’s 6-5 Special programme in the 1950’s. So all was ready. With projectors on, the films commenced having their images illuminating the screen. The evening ended with the judges comments and marks. All of our entries had got to the finals. They were, from memory, The Car-Key Stocking Gang, Fishy Tails and a film by David Harrington, Summer In The City. It was this film which caused embarrassment to the Judges. A judge stated that the maker of the film had read his mind by shortening the film, since it was shown at the preliminary heats. David Harrington immediately pointed out that he had not touched the film at all! Oh! Red faced Judges! I also remember some of the other films. One was about baking cakes, another was about passengers travelling on a disused railway line and possibly a film set to music called Beyond The Blue Horizon.
The Evening Echo wins
However, the winner was a documentary made on Hemel Hempstead’s industrial estate about a newspaper called The Evening Echo. Oh! Dear! It was not made by us, but by Waford Cine Society. With regard to the passengers on the disused railway film, this has turned up in recent years on a local history video tape about St. Albans. Before I continue, I had better mention that St Albans has a club which is separate of The Company of Ten, called St Albans Movie Makers. I am not sure if they were original members or not, or even existed. But we do share membership with at least two members. Maybe they will confirm.
Films on the silver screen
The second HACCA competition was held in a disused cinema in Radlett. Films were actually projected on a silver screen. The hosts this time were Boreham Wood Cine Society. At the end, comments were read out and so were the results. The results were inside an envelope which was opened by Miss Boreham Wood. She had difficulty in reading who won, so someone helped her. The top films were a film about a river or canal, a film set to a Cliff Richard record about a child leaving her home, and a science fiction film about a flying saucer, which was made by The Company of Ten. This film had the comment read out that it was the best film of the evening. The results placed it third. The waterway film came second and the film set to a Cliff Richard record came first. In the wake of the competition, I gather there was some controversy at the HACCA commitee meeting, according to our then representative Harry Rewell. Particularly as the judges were not present. It was then decided to insist that judges must be present on the final night in future.
The Kodak Strike
Nineteen seventy three posed problems due to the Kodak strike. The Kodak mangement refused to recognise a trade union. Some workers wanted it to be recognised. An industrial dispute ensued for a few months here at Hemel Hempstead’s industrial estate, where there was a Kodak processing laboratory. I submitted two satirical joke cartoons to our club magazine, then edited by John Baldwin. He accepted the one about President Nixon visiting our club giving a talk on trick tape recording (remember Watergate?) but refused my one about the Kodak strike. I took this one to the Evening Echo who published it in their readers’ letters column. It consisted of three people carrying banners. I WANT NON RECOGNITION, I WANT RECOGNITION and I WANT MY FILM. My favourite letter published in the same column was speculation if Kodak wanted a theme tune, perhaps they should consider SOMEDAY MY PRINTS WILL COME. The backlog of still and cine films was tremendous. So much so, that HACCA decided to wave the rule concerning new entries.
As years have progressed HACCA has somehow survived. Gone are the preliminary judging aspect of the competition. Allotted screen time has been introduced. (In fact, I have heard that someone did time everything by a stop watch to the second.) I am not sure how many members it started with, but today it consists of the film and video clubs from Borehamwood*, St Albans, Potters Bar, and of course, us here at Hemel Hempstead.
However, one club I did feel sorry for was Borehamwood. For whatever reason they had never won a HACCA competition. However, one year which commemorated HACCA’s 25th anniversary, they did win. Hooray! One of the judges was the celebrated actress Helen Cherry. I think I shall end on this happy note.
PS: Useless Information: If my memory serves me correct, our first HACCA winner was a film made by the late Bob Richards called ROCAMADOUR. Unless you know otherwise. Further useless information: I have visited Rocamadour.