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HISTORY - a work in progress

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The Grips Branch and the position of grip, as we know it today, did not exist in the early days of filmmaking. The studios were unionised under the umbrella of NATKE, (National Association of Theatrical and Kine Employees). A grip in those days was nothing more than a nail basher and a labourer, an odd job man employed by the studios. With the closure of the studios in the 70s, such as MGM in Borehamwood, the grips would now have to make their own way by going freelance.

Grips, at this time were still thought of as part of the construction crew, who should return to the strike gang after principal photography was over, pulling out nails and burning wood on the back lot. These outdated views were hard to shift in some quarters, including the union.

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Gripping was taken to new heights of innovation and inventiveness by the early pioneers such as, Jimmy Dawes, Pat Newman and Dennis Fraser. As film makers became more and more ambitious, so did the means to achieve those more ambitious shots and a few of the most experienced grips decided to form their own branch.

How the Grips Branch came to be.

It was in the summer of 1984, (There had been several attempts over the years to break away from the old NATKE general craft branch and form a separate grips department). When a few of the grips got together and issued an ultimatum to the union. All they really wanted was the recognition they deserved, and the ability to set their own rates, terms and conditions.


The now considerable expertise they had and the contribution to the industry, now needed to be recognised. The first meeting of the new branch was held in the Wellington Pub, not far from the studios in Borehamwood. The founder members at the meeting were as follows. Colin Manning, Tony Rowland, Dennis Fraser, Jimmy Dawes, Brian ‘Ossie’ Osborn and Terry Kelly. Tony Rowland became the first branch secretary as he joked, he was the only one who could do joined up writing. So the decision was made to pull away from the union and the general craft branches and form a dedicated grip branch.

Tony Rowland, Colin Manning, John Flemming, Derek Russell and Paul Brinkworth, met with the Uxbridge general craft branch secretary Sid Thorley. It was a difficult negotiation but ultimately the power was in the hands of the grips. Finally after some persuasion they relented and agreed to recognise the grips in their own right.

From that point the first officially recognised branch meeting was held one Sunday morning early in 1985, at Grip House in Greenford. Leaflets were posted all round the studios to create a buzz and get the word out on the street.

There were only around forty grips working in films at the time, the TV guys were all still staff at this point. They titled themselves rather grandly, ‘The Grips Branch of Motion Picture and TV Commercials Grips’. This was quickly dealt with at the first meeting and changed to ‘The Grips Branch.’

The Chairman for the first meeting was Jimmy Dawes, the Branch Secretary; Tony Rowland, Treasurer; Terry Kelly and the committee as follows. Brian ‘Ossie’ Osborn, Colin Manning, Nick Pearson, Billy Geddes and David Cadwallader.

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