A photogenic side to bookkeeping

Allen Edwards Oasis? June 1986

A large chunk of my working life, and some voluntary time too, has been around charity finance, with a focus on Lambeth and Southwark community and housing groups followed by senior roles at a couple of national charities. This seemed like quite a natural evolution from my first ‘regular’ bookkeeping work in 1984 {1} with Oasis Children’s Venture, a play charity in Stockwell, south London {2}.

Figure work is rarely a source of interesting visuals, but I did take photos for a couple of their open days. The resulting set of images gets a passing mention in the ‘Digitising the 1980s‘ blog from April last year, prompting a check for current charity details. It was good to see that they are still going strong, approaching their fiftieth anniversary. As a small local organisation with much on their plate they haven’t got round to celebrating quite yet, but have got in touch to get digital copies to print up.

The photos also prompted some recollections of my own, and the thought that at the start of my involvement I was probably a better photographer than bookkeeper. I largely learnt the tricks of the trade whilst working at other clients, for instance discovering the joys of extended trial balances when presented with one to sort out at Southwark CVS {4}. Not something you see nowadays in the fully computerised world! Attempts at SCVS to put all its accounts on a PC, via “massive” spreadsheets, rather revealed the limitations of the tech at the time {3}.

I look forward to hearing more about the anniversary celebrations and perhaps getting to London to take part.


  1. First actual experience of bookkeeping was back in Easter 1978, as ‘relief’ for Friends of the Earth’s regular guy who had gone on an extended break to India. I had already been volunteering with FoE so wasn’t expecting payment, but something like a £30 cheque appeared at the end of several weeks – probably arranged by star admin Sue Steward. I also did some early ‘troubleshooting’ exercises for the likes of Rockingham Community Association, thanks to various Waterloo connections, but any records are too well buried!
  2. I can’t remember quite who introduced me to the charity, but definitely one of those Waterloo community bods. The work was initially arranged on the same basis as Oasis sessional workers. First payslip was October 1984 – the payments were juggled in such a way as not to make a mess of benefit claims, alongside other temporary work. There was also a short interruption due to an operation for a detached retina. Self-employment started October 1985.
  3. The main spreadsheet attempted to keep a cash/bank record and also provide full analysis of the expenditure (and income?). Unbelievably now, it took about 45 minutes to calculate (bog standard IBM PC probably) – no instant updates! It was fun finding things to do while waiting, in case there was an error – usually easy to locate if there was, but then harder to keep busy during the next calc.
  4. First invoice to SCVS was Feb 1986 – the ETB would have been a few weeks in to the engagement. I had to prevaricate for several hours so I could take the offending paperwork home and reconstruct it using SuperCalc on the Amstrad PCW. Probably one of the most difficult ‘constructive prevarications’ undertaken, but certainly not my last.

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