The Disabled Photographers' Society is taking legal advice after a row that erupted following its controversial decision to close its national studio.

Photographers’ studio closes amid cash crisis

Disabled Photographers Society studio imageThe Disabled Photographers’ Society (DPS) is taking legal advice after a row that erupted following its controversial decision to close its national studio.

NEWS UPDATE 9 JUNE 2009

The society shut down the studio, which is based in Bristol, telling AP that it cost £6,000 a year to run and was used by a ‘disproportionately small’ number of its 500 members.

Acting chairman Tom Molloy said the studio brought in just £1,000 a year, a situation he described as unsustainable and one that put the ‘future of the society in jeopardy’.

‘In the current financial climate, like all charities we are suffering. The studio was not financially viable? It would have made us bankrupt,’ said Molloy, who claims that only around 15 members used it.

‘If we didn’t close the studio we would have had to curtail all our other activities.’

The DPS is now consulting lawyers following comments about the society, which it claims may be libellous, made on external internet forums following its decision to close the studio.

The society was formed in 1968. Its first members were three ex-servicemen who had an interest in photography but, owing to their disabilities, were unable to use conventional cameras.

Molloy said that the DPS focuses on adapting camera equipment for use by disabled people and claimed the studio was an ‘added bonus’ to the society’s activities.

But the move led to the departure of then chairman Shirley Britton who had campaigned to keep the studio, based at the Vassall Centre in Fishponds, open.

Betty Billingham, who resigned as editor of the society’s in-house magazine, told us: ‘Shirley Britton received, by registered post, a summary dismissal from her position as chairman. Shirley has done more for the society than anyone else I know and has not only made membership grow but also brought in, through her efforts, a lot of money and publicity for the society.’

Molloy claimed that Britton offered her resignation which was accepted by the committee.

Page 2: Members ‘heartbroken’

Betty Billingham, former editor of the society’s magazine, told us that the DPS was in a better financial state than it had been for years.

‘Shirley [the former chairman] had hoped that, given a bit more time, this studio would have been the forerunner of others in different parts of the country where volunteers to run it could be found,’ she said.

One angry member, who says he worked as a volunteer for the society, wrote on a photography forum last month. ‘It is clear that the so-called board have no intention of pushing the DPS forward as they have literally obliterated the Bristol studio and its members, of which many have been left heartbroken by the decision.’

In a statement the society said: ‘It was decided that the most cost-effective option would be to run studio days for DPS members in various locations around the country, utilising local facilities and that this would be a more cost-effective way of helping an even greater number of our members.’

Billingham claims disenchanted members who objected to the move have been barred from using the society’s internet forum.

The society is due to hold its AGM in Buckinghamshire on 19 July at which members are expected to elect a new, permanent, chairman.

Shirley Britton could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.