A photography archive project in Hebden Bridge has been recognised for its work with a prestigious national award.
The After Alice Project collects contemporary images from all over Yorkshire, and has already amassed an extraordinary wealth of material and has a dedicated online following through social media.
It takes its name and inspiration from local photographer Alice Longstaff, who, when she died in 1992, left behind not only the complete photographic record of her own 70 years behind the lens in the Calder Valley, but also the near-complete archive of her predecessors, Ada and Crossley Westerman, thus preserving over a century of local and social history.
It has won the Best New Community Archive and Heritage Group award from the Community Archives and Heritage Group (CAHG) - the equivalent of the Oscars for community-based museums and local interest collections.
After Alice has a membership of more than 30 people and two volunteer archivists working at its base at Salem Mill.
H Gregg, a member of the steering group, said of the award: “It’s extremely important and it was an enourmous achievement for us.
“It means the project will start getting national recognition as an established archive and community resource.
“I’d like to say a massive thank you to all the volunteers who help - it’s a real community effort by the people for the people.”
Mr Gregg explained how the group got started: “I’m part of a photography group in Hebden Bridge and we were sitting in the pub on one night and got talking about preserving photos.
“We came up with the idea, publicised it and said we wanted people’s help.
“People just came out of the woodwork and all these cameras suddenly started flooding in to us.
“Alice Longstaff took photos of everyday life in the area up until 1992 but then all that stopped, so it’s a continuation of that really, starting from last year.”
In its first year of existence, the project has amassed and exhaustively catalogued over 9,000 images, with many hundreds more in the processingpipeline.
“Anyone can join - children and adults - and all we ask is that people make notes on where the photo was taken, when and who is pictured,” said Mr Gregg.
“We don’t think there’s another project like it in the rest of the country.
“We’ve got over 120 cameras now and everything we’ve got has been donated by local people, who have realised how important the project is.
“We’ve received small grants from Hebden Royd Council, which paid for a computer and a printer.
“We’re a membership-based group and that generates some income, although it’s less than 50p a day.
“Our intention is to get premises in Hebden Bridge so we can store the archive, and have a gallery.
“By November we want to put the whole lot in an online searchable database, with an interactive map, so that people can type in a term such as an item of clothing, someone’s name or a location, abd get results relating to that search.
“We’re not just making this archive for now - we want to make tomorrow’s old photographs so that a century from now people can find out what their ancestors did, or take a walk down a 2016 street.”