The Arts Society – 50 Years


THE ARTS SOCIETY, in 2018, is celebrating becoming fifty years old. It has 364 societies in the UK, 69 societies in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, and more than 91,000 members worldwide. This astonishing success began very simply in England, the brainchild of Patricia Fay assisted by a few women friends.

Patricia Fay was a young wife and mother living in Buckinghamshire. For women in their 30’s and 40’s in the 1960’s, attempting to be a good wife and mother were still priorities. Her generation of women had not been encouraged to go to university or plan for a career.

In 1965 Patricia invited a few friends to her home in the Chilterns for coffee, and to talk to them about an idea she had for starting a group which would occasionally visit Stately Homes, and possibly arrange interesting lectures about art and antiques.

From this cosy chat has developed a society which, after 50 years, has grown to have more than 91,000 members all over the world. How has NADFAS (National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies) adapted and thrived during enormous changes in the economy, society, and culture in those 50 years?

Largely because the early days of NADFAS were marked by ladies of strong character who were often outspoken, feminine but not feminists, and all worked tremendously hard in their different ways to give NADFAS its firm foundation.

They were not dilettante women trying to fill in their time – one had been in the Belgian Resistance during the war, another was a business woman who ran two travel agencies and a minor airline; another was a trained pilot with a degree in medicine.

Words June Rendle/ Photography courtesy of The Arts Society

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