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Celebrating 50 years of the Arts Society

In 2018 The Arts Society celebrated a milestone in the organisation’s history; its golden anniversary. The Society marked its fiftieth year with a series of events that embraced one overriding theme; enriching lives through the arts.

This ethos dates back to the very beginning of the organisation, when in the 1960s, a group of forward thinking young women, eager to be educated about the arts, set up the first Society. The Arts Society approaches its fiftieth year with the same spirit of these early pioneers, with the ambition of opening up enjoyment of the arts to all.

Over the last 50 years the activities of the local Societies have grown to encompass lectures, grant giving, volunteering in historic houses, museums, galleries, archives and gardens, making comprehensive records of the country’s churches and organising arts projects for the youngest, oldest and most vulnerable in their communities – making significant impact at a local level.

The Arts Society is a leading arts education charity with a global network of 385 local Societies and 90,000 members in the UK and overseas, keeping our arts and heritage alive for future generations. The Arts Society works to create a better, healthier and more connected society bringing people together through a shared curiosity for the arts. Our events provide welcoming places – locally, nationally and globally – for everyone to hear expert lecturers share their specialist knowledge about the arts.

The anniversary year kicked off with a major exhibition Rhythm & Reaction; The Age of Jazz in Britain at Two Temple Place, a magnificent Neo-Gothic mansion on London’s Victoria Embankment, from 27 January – 22 April 2017. Produced in partnership with The Bulldog Trust, the exhibition marked 100 years since jazz reached Britain and brought together painting, prints, cartoons, textiles and ceramics, moving film, instruments and the all-important jazz sound to explicitly examine the influence of jazz on British art, design and wider society.

Other activities and initiatives included;

• A major new international Arts Award.

• A series of lectures in Newcastle-Gateshead to coincide with the Great Exhibition of the North in the summer.

• A new grants scheme to award an extra £50,000 during the jubilee year.

• A highlight of the anniversary year was the celebration of the arts at Westminster Abbey on 16 May 2018. The commemorative service was attended by 2000 guests, comprised of members of the public, members of The Arts Society and leading figures from the arts world. It was an opportunity for the Society to thank members and volunteers who are at the heart of the organisation.

• Over the course of the jubilee year, the Society’s Chief Executive committed to complete fifty, ten-kilometre runs, to highlight the Society’s activities taking place at grass roots level and raise money for its charitable projects. Along the way he took in important sites such as Shakespeare’s Birthplace, the Angel of the North, the potteries in Stoke-on-Trent, The Scallop in Aldeburgh, Conwy Castle, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and The Rock of Gibraltar. To date he has raised over £50,000.

• Local Societies held their own celebratory events. In the spring Arts Society Wolverhampton took part in ArtsFest – a rare opportunity for the Society’s members to show off their artistic talents. In May we held a celebratory lunch at the South Staffs Golf Club with Will Farmer from Antiques Road Show as our guest speaker. Aileen Boyd, our President, won a National Arts Society Award to acknowledge all the wonderful work she has done as Past Chairman and over her time in the Arts Society.

• In June Arts Society Wolverhampton celebrated with ‘Tea and Birthday Cake’ following our monthly meeting.

For those who took part in the activities it was truly memorable year.