‘It’s been a privilege photographing Melton news and sport for 26 years’
You would find him posing up photographs at the town’s Victorian Christmas Fayre and Paint The Town Red festival, taking pictures of celebrating students on A-level and GCSE results days and snapping away on the touchline at Melton Town FC matches and the boundary edge at Egerton Park Cricket Club.
These are just a few of the assignments Tim covered for the paper, of course, but everywhere he made friends, putting his subjects at ease with a warmth and good humour.
His work as a freelance photographer diminished as camera phones allowed people to take their own photos, although never to the standard that he was always well known for.
But Tim has now decided to retire from the profession which has been his life for so long and is moving to a village where he grew up, near Rugby in Warwickshire, and has a new career lined up as a local gardener.
We couldn’t let Tim go without a special tribute to the work he has done for our newspaper so we’ve been speaking to him this week about his memories and his favourite photographs. This is a flavour of our conversation:
NICK RENNIE: You’ve been photographing news and sport for as long Tim but can you remember taking your first picture for the Melton Times?
TIM WILLIAMS: It was a photo of the Mayor at the time, Councillor Tom Netherton, on an exercise bike, funny as it sounds. The reason I stayed in the job so long was from being given such a warm welcome by people as a new face in town. Most of the job has involved taking photographs of people during their social lives, whether it was sport, amateur dramatics or public events. I’ve enjoyed covering all the local events such as the old Melton Day, Long Clawson Conker Championships and the village fetes, with some memorable occasions being the Queen’s visit in 1996, the flooding of the town centre in 1998, and Melton Rugby Club’s two County Cup wins in 2016 and 2017.
NICK RENNIE: Ho did you first get into newspaper photography?
TIM WILLIAMS: I started supplying out local newspapers in the Rugby area in 1983 and then became staff photographer for the Northampton Post and all it’s regional editions for seven years. The highlight of every year was covering the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. After a brief spell working on a Caribbean cruise ship, I returned to Leicestershire as a freelance photographer supplying the Harborough Mail and Leicester Mercury, before covering all the news and sport for the Melton Times from 1996 0nwards. Although I had worked for other newspapers before arriving in Melton, I was extremely grateful for the advice I was given by established local photographers Derek Whitehouse, Jim Harrison and the late Stuart Payne.
NICK RENNIE: A lot of your work has involved snapping happy events and people celebrating achievements but what was it like attending more serious incidents?
TIM WILLIAMS: I have strong memories of being one of the first members of the media on the scene at the helicopter crash at Tilton-on-the-Hill in 1999 which killed three army servicemen. We were there pretty much after it had just happened but of course we could only cover everything from a distance. Reporter Tim Healy and I went to the pub and we got more of a story there by talking to locals about how the village had reacted to it.
NICK RENNIE: The newspaper has changed so much over recent years with the development of new technology and more people reading their news online but what was it like working for the Melton Times when you started out?
TIM WILLIAMS: When I started in the 1990s the Melton Times was a buzzing newsroom. There were around 10 journalists and a busy advertising team and reception desk. Some of us would go to the pub at lunchtime which was the culture back then in most offices. It was before the internet then and long before the advent of of camera phones so I would usually be the only person with a camera at most jobs. It was always a thrill seeing your best pictures in print every week on a Thursday morning.
NICK RENNIE: How has the job changed for newspaper photographers compared to the 1990s?
TIM WILLIAMS: When I started out we were still using film in cameras. They were black and white images we had to develop in the dark room. When colour came in that was a big change and we started processing the films at Boots. When digital newspaper design was brought in I had to adapt with digital cameras and downloading pictures onto a computer. It was scary at first. When we stopped having to put film in the camera you would go out on a job and not be certain what you would come back with. There was a golden period when we got used to digital cameras and they were too expensive for the general public to buy and it was a lot cheaper not having to develop photos from films. But as cameras became more affordable I got less busy and then phone cameras came in which changed everything.
NICK RENNIE: What have been the most enjoyable aspects of being a photographer for the paper?
TIM WILLIAMS: Making friends and seeing familiar faces. I have been covering local cricket for so long I started snapping the sons of players who had been their age when I first started taking their photographs. I often enjoyed benefits while out on assignments, people would be happy to feed you and a give you a drink at jobs.The two events I never wanted to do was the General Election results night every four years in the early hours and the New Year’s Eve celebrations in town. I usually came up with good excuses not to do them.
NICK RENNIE: You will clearly miss a lof of friends in the Melton borough now you are off to pastures new?
TIM WILLIAMS: I may occasionally be spotted at a local cricket or football match in the future to catch up with old friends but my’man about town with a camera’ days are over. My 26 years covering local news and sport in the Melton area have been an absolute pleasure and a privilege, and I wish the Melton Times all the best for the future in these challenging times.
Among the many locals paying tribute to Tim this week are the following:
***Ian Bitmead (local footballer): “I just want to say a big thank you from everyone at Holwell Sports football club. I would also like to say to a big thank you from myself personally. The photos you have taken of me over the years take pride of place in my scrapbook, and I’m sure it will give me great joy when I look back in years to come. Enjoy what ever you do next and keep in touch.”
***Melton Town FC (in a match day programme this month): “Melton Town would like to take the opportunity to thank Tim Williams for his service to the club and to Melton sports over the decades. You’ve been a pleasure to work with and we thank you for everything that you’ve done for the club. We wish Tim all the best for the future and hope to see him occasionally at Signright Park in years to come.”
***Phil James (local sports enthusiast and fellow photographer): “I’m going to miss shooting the sports and drinking the beers with my mate Tim. The best photographer in the business. If you’ve done something special in Melton over the last 26 years, Tim’s been there.”
***Nick Rennie (Melton Times chief reporter): “It’s been a pleasure going out on stories with you Tim since I returned to the paper a few years ago. Particular memories were the challenge of covering exam results day across multiple schools and still finding time for a breakfast break. We always found time for a pint at various events like the Fatstock Show and pub jobs when it never felt like work. You’ve been the face of the Melton Times for so long and we will miss your contributions to the paper and your unique sense of humour.