We owe a great deal to John Upton who had the vision to create a club that would facilitate the cultural needs of the Penrith area. In the late 60’s there was a lack of space where groups could meet to give effect to their hobbies, whether they were in the form of a theatre or camera club or sporting activities.
John Upton was finally made a Life Member in 2009 in recognition of his outstanding contribution.
As a member of the ALP and secretary of the Kingswood branch he was able to sell the idea for the need of a club and connected the idea that culture was not just for the elite but also for the working class to enjoy. (In those days the perception of class differences was more apparent then they are now.)
“Behind the club were two driving ideas – that culture nurtures our humanity; and that self expression through the arts lifts our spirits and liberates us as individuals, and so the arts should be practised by all, not just an elite.”
Between 1968 and 1975 through the many troubles, tribulations and pitfalls and working bees by ALP members was created the foundation for the club to which we are now the inheritors.
The early inner clubs comprised of:
- the theatre
- camera club
- chess group
- classical record group,
- choral and folk singing groups.
Sport clubs were encouraged and a tennis club was formed. It is interesting that when the club premises were open for use, the camera club was the first to use it as its venue. Prior to being open, groups met in private homes. The theatre had its’ first meeting in Ron Mullock’s solicitors office in Penrith.
The club’s name had a number of changes starting with “Kingswood Cultural and Labor Club”, then “The Henry Lawson Club, Kingswood” to “The Henry Lawson Club Ltd”.
From the original five acres of land, a portion was sold to Caltex to generate funds for paying the expenses in the early negotiations for financing the club.
In recent times the club has leased an area for communication towers for mobile phones and the funds generated will be the basis for the redevelopment of the club into the near future.
Over the years the club has grown but still retains its intimate atmosphere and is distinct from other registered clubs. The growth of sporting clubs has been a wonderful development, ranging from golf, soccer, rugby league, cricket, softball, darts and fishing.
The theatre has grown in strength and is now producing more productions with a larger database of patrons highlighting that live shows are an important service in the community. It should be noted that the Henry Lawson Theatre was the first theatre in the Penrith area even before the Q-theatre came to Penrith.
The camera club with its long history is still with us and is continuing its involvement with the Penrith Show Photography competition. One of its new area of involvement has been the connection with Penrith Library where Luciano Vranich has placed many photography exhibitions since 2003.
Over the many years of its existence the club has gone through many difficulties at the board level. Some of these difficulties were internal ALP matters spilling over into the running of the club. Other threats came from some attempts to make the club just a sporting club.. Secretary Managers came and went in quick succession until Harry Toorneman brought stability to the club. Sharon Tassell is the current General Manager, having started in April 2014.
These notes were compiled by Luciano Vranich from John Upton’s book “The Henry Lawson Club a personal memoir” and from his knowledge of the club as a member of the board of directors for over a decade.