After 50 years the Waikanae Arts and Crafts Society is going stronger than ever.

Holding their inaugural meeting on February 12 1968, the group was chaired by Jack Humm, prompted by Nan Simms and Bab Gibbs in association with Betty Clifford, a well-known artist and longtime Waikanae resident.

Starting out with 30 members, mostly painters, the group had expanded to 200 people by 1998, causing a need for extension of their current premises on Elizabeth St.

Speaking to Kapiti News at their 50th anniversary celebration, the common theme was how the society has played a crucial role in welcoming new Waikanae residents into the community.

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Life member Alyth Darwin, one of the longest standing members, said, "For me one of the loveliest things about the group is the way it incorporates new people that have come to Waikanae into the community.

"It allows them to pursue something that interests them and make friends and have lots of fun and laughter along the way."

Current president Anne Bellamy said, "The society fulfils a need for third age people who need to do something worthwhile with their time.

"People can spend time with people of like interests and enjoy their company.

"The good thing is that when you pay your subs you can go to any of the groups. Lots of people start in one and finish up in another."

Annie Sullivan, who is part of the embroidery group, said, "We could all do this at home or pick up a book and find out how to do it but there's inspiration and encouragement from seeing what other people are doing.

"The beauty of joining a group like this is that more experienced members are very willing to share their knowledge and skills with newer and less experienced members."

Over the years the groups have included painting, embroidery, spinning, pottery, felt-making, weaving, spinning, porcelain painting, crochet, card making, a miniaturist group and a 'round tuit' group for all those people who have projects sitting around in their cupboards that they haven't gotten around to doing.

The society welcomes new members who have an enthusiasm for arts and crafts with groups meeting at many times throughout the week.

They would like to thank the council, Waikanae Community Trust, Waikanae Baptist Trust and Fibre Flair for their generous grants and support.