February news update

Well, it’s been an interesting month. We took delivery of a major donation – a motorised lens and mirror housing custom built for a camera obscura and worth £1500 – which forced us to revise our plans. And we’re going to tell you all about it!

First the lens housing. It was donated by Tim Norgate who was building camera obscuras in Birmingham a decade ago and had similar plans to establish a permanent one in the city. His didn’t come to fruition but he did commission the lens and mirror setup from Beacon Hill Telescopes and used it in temporary cameras in Cannon Hill Park.

It’s a fantastic piece of kit and we’re unbelievably grateful, but because it’s designed to be used in a room the lens has a throw of 10ft. Our camera will be about a metre tall. So we’re going to need a new lens.

We phoned Beacon Hill and spoke to the lovely Barry Watts, a 76 year old telescope builder and camera obscura enthusiast. While talking we discovered the guy he gets to make lenses is the only person in the country who serves the hobby market (the rest do scientific grade lenses which cost thousands) and he’s moving studios soon, so won’t be able to work quickly.

In short, because the throw we need is so short, the new lens is going to cost £550 and it probably won’t be ready before the summer. We hadn’t expected it to cost that much, so that was an interesting moment.

We’ve dealt with this by shuffling the budget around. The lens housing has upped the game substantially and means we’re going to have professional standard optics. But it does mean some of the things we’d hoped to do will be postponed, specifically the fancy wheels, focussing mechanism and paint job. These will be good enough and we’ll look to making them fancy in 2016.

We’ve decided the important thing is that Birmingham has a world class camera obscura. Thanks to Tim’s donation we can do that now. It just might take a little longer to get all the pieces together.

Most importantly the delayed lens won’t slow us down. We’ll be using the same cheap lens as last year (£7 from ebay!) in the interim so as soon as Matt the carpenter has built the box we can be on the road!

Here’s the revised budget:

Rewards: £627.00
Carpentner & Wood: £870.00 
Lens: £550.00 
Wheels / base: £150.00 
Lens housing extras: £100.00 
Contingency: £50.00
Painting: £50.00

Total budgeted: £2,417.00
Total raised: £2,291.44

That takes us £125 over budget, so we’ll be doing a bit of extra fundraising. This shouldn’t be a problem though as we’ve already had an extra £100 since the Kickstarter from people who missed out and wanted to contribute. And we have merchandising plans. So it’ll all be fine!

In Other News

We’ve confirmed an installation at the Flatpack Film Festival in March. We will be making lots of small camera obscuras which we’ll be hanging in the window of Home Deli on Church Street. We’ll also be doing workshops where people can make their own. More details once they’re completely ironed out!

We are now a Community Interest Company! In the short term this doesn’t mean much but in the long term it helps us ensure this project is for “the community” and not just us.

The summer program is starting to come together. So far we’ve confirmed the CoCoMad festival and the Family Fun Day at Edgbaston Cricket Ground. If you’d like us to come to an event you’re involved with, or have ideas of places we could take the camera, please do let Jenny know!