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from nadfas to arts society

Submitted by Jon Barker on

40 years since the creation of Truro NADFAS

In October 2022 The Arts Society Truro was 40 years old – isn’t that amazing? – and it is still part of the wonderful organisation that started up in 1972 as the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS).

patrcia fay

Patricia Fay (above) 
All this sprang from an inspiring lady called Patricia Fay, who in 1965 started “The Chilterns Antiques Group”, to encourage her friends to learn more about antiques and art, and have some fun!  (She insisted that we must always have fun – what a great idea!).  This grew, and was copied all around the area, until by 1968 there were eleven societies, and Patricia Fay started NADFAS, to encourage and assist the formation of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies, to guide, help and advise, and to build a directory of skilled lecturers. 

The belief that the arts have the potential to enrich people’s lives is at the heart of everything we do -

So it was, and so it is, all these years later, when there are nearly 400 societies all over the world, part of The Arts Society).

Founder Members
Even more special, the founder of the Truro society, Sally Hooper, is still a member, and so are others who set to work and formed a group with Sally, to start up the first NADFAS society in Cornwall, Truro Decorative and Fine Arts Society (Truro DFAS).  The first lecture took place on 8th October 1981 at Penair School, a smart new school opened by Prince Charles in 1980.  What an exciting evening it must have been for the committee, who had been working hard all year to organise everything!  The National Chairman Mrs June Fenwick came down for the occasion, with a lecture by Mr John Cushion about The World of Porcelain.  The Chairman Mrs Lally Croggan welcomed 205 newly signed-up members.  And even better, by Christmas the membership had grown to 220 (with a waiting list of 20), so clearly Cornwall was ready for this wonderful society, for people interested in learning more about every sort of decorative and fine art, with lectures, and visits to museums and houses with art collections, time for study days on interesting subjects, and volunteering opportunities in art conservation. 

Of course in those days the lecturers, chosen from a confidential list of experts kept up-to-date by NADFAS, would show slides with their talks, so the Truro society set the membership fee at £8 for eight lectures a year, which allowed them to pay the lecturers, and Penair School, and also save enough to buy screen, slide projector, and so on, for the society.  I am sure the lectures were quite as entertaining and informative as the modern equivalent Powerpoint presentations we see now.

In no time, the first committee was busy arranging visits for members to all sorts of local historic houses and special art exhibitions, sometimes led by a local expert or NADFAS lecturer.  The first visit was to Trerice Manor, with a lecture about the Arundell family, and a private tour. How many fascinating exhibitions and little-known historical places in the UK and abroad have been visited by lucky members since then?  We have had some memorable experiences, and learned so much, sharing time with each other, and being inspired by art of every sort, sometimes to our great surprise and delight! 

At the same time, back in 1981, the committee was working hard to make contact locally with the National Trust, Museums, Libraries etc, to find opportunities where the members could volunteer their skills in photography, cataloguing collections, needlework repairs and conservation, and book conservation. Since then, many thousands of hours of skilled volunteering have given all sorts of organisations and historic houses in Cornwall a huge amount of help.  And volunteers would all say that those hours of learning, sharing, and working with one another, have been enormously fulfilling, and great fun!

Young Arts
Early in the 21st century, NADFAS began to focus on the importance of enthusing young people in the arts, and Truro DFAS started to work with local schools and colleges, encouraging students in exhibiting their work, giving financial help, and working with NADFAS to ensure students were informed of national opportunities and competitions.  Truro and Cornwall are extremely rich in art traditions, so there is no shortage of hugely gifted teachers and students around – what a joy it has been for the society to play a tiny part in watching them grow and achieve!

The Arts Society Truro
So, thank you to Sally Hooper and friends, and all the chairmen and committee members through the years, who have worked so hard to organise Truro DFAS, now The Arts Society Truro – we have indeed learned so much, and - without a doubt – we have had lots of fun!