A Brief History of South Staffs Bonsai Society

The society was started in 1988 by Kath and Malcolm Hughes at the Youth Centre, Aldridge, in the southern part of Staffordshire, thus the name “South Staffs”.

Within two years, the venue became too small and the Society moved, via a few trial venues, to Sutton Coldfield Town Hall where it remained until refurbishment and change of use some years later sent us to the Fellowship Hall, South Parade, Sutton Coldfield. This remained our venue until 2014 when the closing of Fellowship Hall sent us to the Walmley Community Centre, where we are currently located.

Over the years, we have had a multitude of Chairmen and hard-working committees. Past Chairman include both Kath and Malcolm Hughes (more than once), Richard Ellis (now deceased), Peter and Ann Mudie (now leading the Hamilton Bonsai Group in New Zealand), Kim Turton, (now secretary to the National Bonsai Collection), Barry Walker, (currently Chairman of the National Bonsai Collection)

The club has had its’ ups and downs, with its maximum membership at around 60 with a waiting list, down to a mere 20 a few years ago. Membership is now once again increasing and the Society again flourishing.

Over the years we have presented shows in a range of different venues and displayed our trees to a multitude of people. Venues include Sutton Coldfield Library (old and new), Lichfield Guildhall, Canwell Show, Newlands Nursery, Hollybush Garden Centre, Melbicks Garden Centre, Curborough Craft Centre and of course, many times at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens as part of other bonsai events as well as our own Annual Show. Last year, for the first time, we are as a club, exhibiting at the NEC as part of the R.H.S. Gardeners’ World Live event. In 2016 we again exhibited at this event and this time achieved a prestigious platinum award.

The trees belonging to members have improved dramatically over the years, starting as we all did with mere twigs in pots and now reaching the standard of exhibiting trees internationally, with members trees exhibited regularly at the R.H.S. Chelsea Flower Show.

Throughout our existence, we have had speakers and demonstrators from all parts of the world including most major British bonsai artists, some unfortunately no longer with us – Peter Adams, Harry Tomlinson and Paul Goff are all a major loss to British bonsai. We have learned from Marc Noelanders of Belgium, Chase Rosade (USA), Colin Lewis, (now in the USA), Lindsay Bebb from Australia – in fact, most names in the bonsai world have visited South Staffs Bonsai Society at some time.

Many workshops have been held both in halls and at the home of Malcolm and Kath Hughes, encouraging members to raise the standard of their trees. Under the leadership of Malcolm quite a few of our members have become involved with the work of The Federation of British Bonsai Societies  and The Friends of The National Bonsai Collection.