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Surrey flower arrangers - Join the club

PUBLISHED: 12:25 02 November 2011 | UPDATED: 15:54 20 February 2013

The National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies Surrey members

The National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies Surrey members

Celebrating its golden anniversary this year, the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies (NAFAS) is just as popular as ever. Here, we meet Gail Bearman from the Surrey Area to find out more about this thriving group

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine March 2009

Celebrating its golden anniversary this year, the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies (NAFAS) is just as popular as ever. Here, we meet Gail Bearman from the Surrey Area to find out more about this thriving group

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When was the club set up?

The National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies (NAFAS) was founded in 1959, and since then, it has become a unifying and guiding mainstay to thousands of men, women and juniors whose love of flowers has opened up a whole new world of creativity.

The Surrey Area of NAFAS is one of 21 areas across the UK that were set up to co-ordinate the work of existing local clubs. We now have 54 clubs in our county alone that meet regularly for flower arranging demonstrations, talks and practical sessions.

Some come just to watch the demonstrations and enjoy the flowers; others are keen to learn how to do it.

How often do you meet?

At local level, clubs have memberships ranging from 30 to around 100 and most meet monthly for demonstrations, talks, workshops and get-togethers.

What's the best thing about being a member of the club?

Our unofficial motto, 'Fun, Friendship and Flowers', says it all. We enjoy the company of others and have fun with flowers!

Do you find being surrounded by like-minded individuals inspiring?

We compete hard at various events nationally, at area level and locally; while this is only part of what we do, it does generate enthusiasm and excellence. In addition, club and area meetings bring us together. Education is a key element of our remit and workshops are a great way to learn, meet people and have fun.

How many members do you have?

The Surrey membership is 3,029 and the national establishment totals over 72,000. The worldwide number is hard to collate but we have members in more than 30 countries.

What is the age range of the group?

We have members right across the age spectrum with active junior groups, from eight to 16 years of age, in addition to the general membership. Interestingly, the club attracts people of all backgrounds; some will spend out on florist's flowers and go to great expense, where others achieve equally impressive results from their gardens. This makes for a great cross section of people and, while it is predominately made up of women, we do have a number of men.

And do your members tend to meet socially outside the club as well?

Generally, we have a lot in common and that has caused us to be part of the association in the first place and this also spills out into other activities between the members.

Do you have any famous members?

The late Mary Pope OBE was our founder and a very prominent advocate of the association for many years. Meanwhile, Julia Clements OBE has been at the forefront of the flower arranging world for over 60 years and is a prolific author of books on floral design and a contributor to many magazines and papers. Even now, at the age of 103, she continues to remain a leading figure in the world of floral art and horticulture. Also, Judith Blacklock is a well-known teacher who runs a successful flower school in Knightsbridge and is editor of the Flower Arranger magazine (the official NAFAS publication).

What's the most interesting story from the group's history?

The Area was very proud to be asked to stage 'Florimania' by Hampton Court Palace in 1996. The palace's festival is held every year over the Mothering Sunday weekend and this is our eleventh year of arranging flowers for them. In recent years, we have also arranged flowers in the 'Erddig Vases' in both the King's and Queen's Apartments.

Also, since 1990, the Surrey Area, in association with the Royal National Rose Society and later with the Royal Horticultural Society, has organised the Floral Art Competitions at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Finally, in 2003, Surrey was asked by NAFAS to represent them at Chelsea, where they won a gold medal.

...and the funniest?

The Surrey Area has not only talented flower arrangers among its members but also some great entertainers! One event that stands out is 'Surrey Skylarks' at the Dorking Halls, where a group of the more mischievous members got together and presented themselves as the 'Roly Polys' and performed a risqu sing-along and dance in front of a very surprised audience who were expecting something more serious. The group had them in stitches and the event has gone down in the club's archives!

When is your next event that is open to the public/potential new members?

You have just missed our Area show, 'Straight from the Heart', which was held at the City of London Freemen's School.

If you could describe your club in five words, what would they be?

As mentioned earlier, our unofficial motto is 'Fun, Friendship and Flowers', and that sums up what is really good about NAFAS - though that's four words!

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