The Arts Society City of Chichester was founded in 1995 when there were so many people who were waiting to join the Chichester society it was decided to open a new society to accommodate the numbers. Both societies continue to flourish and there is still a waiting list which underlines the enthusiasm to engage with the arts.

It was Patricia Fay, a Buckinghamshire housewife, who met with friends in 1965 and formed a group which became Chiltern Decorative and Fine Arts Society. Within two years there were seven societies, and in 1968 the National Decorative and Fine Arts Society (NADFAS) held its first meeting in the Victoria and Albert Museum for eleven societies. HRH The Duchess of Kent became its patron. Patricia Fay was awarded the OBE, but sadly died in 1979 aged just forty-six. However, societies continued to spring up and now there are over 360 societies in UK and Mainland Europe with more than 91,000 members. There are also societies in Australia and New Zealand. In May 2017 NADFAS was retitled The Arts Society and an extensive re-branding project was launched.

Each local society has close ties with The Arts Society but is financially autonomous.  The societies are represented in The Arts Society Council by Area Representatives who, in turn, keep in touch through Area meetings when Society Chairpersons meet to share ideas.

Membership of The Arts Society City of Chichester automatically confers membership of The Arts Society, with benefits including the quarterly magazine The Arts Society Review. Members are also able to participate in activities organised by the The Arts Society Sussex Area.

Who we are

The aim of The Arts Society City of Chichester is to bring together like minded people through regular lecture meetings, day visits, UK and overseas tours and a number of volunteering activities.

Our exciting and varied lecture programme covers a broad spectrum within the Arts and is delivered by highly accredited Arts Society lecturers. Subjects over the last few years have included Antiques Roadshow expert Eric Knowles on ‘Charles Rennie Mackintosh’, lectures on ‘Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes’, ‘Thomas Heatherwick, British Designer of the Moment’, ‘Van Gogh and Gauguin’ and ‘Eighteenth Century Fanny Burney from her diaries and Letters’. There is no shortage of diversity in the nine lectures we offer each year.

Equally, our day visits have included Wren churches in a City of London walk, Thomas Hardy country, Hampton Court Palace, Dulwich Picture Gallery and Eltham Palace, the Isle of Wight, the Bombay Sapphire Gin distillery and Glyndebourne. In recent years we have had tours to Amsterdam and The Hague, Bologna and the Northern Italian Courts, Provence, Suffolk, Sicily, Vienna, Madrid and in the UK, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Chester. These visits and particularly tours often forge lasting bonds of friendship.

Our volunteering activities aim to stimulate interest in the arts locally within the community. One example is our membership of a highly successful Church Recording team made up of members of the three local Arts Societies. The churches of Sennicotts in the parish of Funtington and St Mary the Virgin in Apuldram – to name but two – have been extremely grateful for the delivery of comprehensive records of their churches provided by the painstaking work of the team. Work is now well advanced on St Peter and St Mary at Fishbourne.

Equally, our Young Arts programme aims to inspire our local young people with a lasting enthusiasm for the Arts. To that end we have sponsored arts projects in various local Primary Schools – an artist in residence at Chidham for one day, a clay project for a new welcome sign at Birdham, help with the production of the Lion King at West Wittering school and the Funtington Footprints project. We were part of a combined project within the three Chichester Societies, sponsoring students from local schools to visit the Cass Foundation. We continue to take part in an Area sponsorship of a West Dean student and are sponsoring various musical activites in schools in association with West Sussex Music. 

Last, but not least, the Society has always provided a very sociable and inclusive milieu which, over the years, has been a wonderful catalyst for creating and cementing friendships. Terry Carlton, a past Chairman and President of the Society, still speaks of the Society opening new windows in his life, after ending a demanding career and moving to the Chichester area with his wife, Diana. He discovered totally new areas of interest, new challenges and made contacts and friendships within and through the Society. His experience is mirrored by many of our members in all different stages of their lives.

Join The Arts Society City of Chichester and find out for yourself!