About Us

THE BELIEF THAT THE ARTS HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO ENRICH PEOPLES’ LIVES IS AT THE HEART OF EVERYTHING WE DO. WE WANT TO BE THE MOST INCLUSIVE AND INFLUENTIAL ARTS SOCIETY.

 

Our History

10 years ago Paul Moody and Claus Olesen founded our society, then called Gibraltar NADFAS , standing for the National Decoration of Fine Arts Societies and were finding their feet. We did formally form in 2010 and have been hosting monthly illustrated talks eight times annually since. 

In 2017 under the new chairmanship of Florian Schweizer The DFAS name changed to universally be known as The Arts Society

The Arts Society Gibraltar, has become part of a network of over 90,000 people worldwide – brought together through a shared curiosity for the arts and our artistic heritage. The Arts Society offers enjoyable opportunities to discover and support the arts of yesterday, today and tomorrow, wherever you are. Our events provide a warm welcome and are held at our historic treasure The Garrison Library – to hear excellent lecturers share their specialist knowledge about the arts.

PATRONS

Vice Admiral Sir David Steel | Governor and Commander-in-Chief | Office of the Governor | Gibraltar. We are delighted Sir David has agreed to be our patron and help and assist us in any way he can. We are very honored and grateful.

The Hon. Dr. John Emmanuel Cortes, MBE, is an ecologist, zoologist, Justice of the Peace and Gibraltarian MP, member of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party. He is Minister of Culture and always very supportive of our society. 

Trustees and committee members

Trustees
Jane Hart Simmons – Chairman
Eleanor Turpin – Vice Chair, Hon Sec & Programme Secretary
Adrian Tavares – Hon Treasurer
Claus Olesen – Sponsorship Secretary & Membership Secretary

Committee members
Julian Guilliano
Arianna Scavone
                        

Affiliation

We are affiliated to The Arts Society in the UK and almost all of the 400 global societies have a paid membership. The global membership is over 90,000. In Gibraltar we average a paid membership of 60-70.

We enjoy a special relationship with our sister Society De La Frontera. They hold their talks at the San Roque Golf Club. We share our speakers and special events and outings.

The Upper Reading Room, Garrison Library, in 1830, by Carter. (The portrait of Col. Drinkwater is still hanging in the same place)

The Garrison Library, Gibraltar

The Gibraltar Garrison Library is one of the most imposing buildings in Gibraltar. The present stone-built Regency building, with its surrounding gardens, was constructed between 1800 and 1804, but the Library itself was founded in 1793 at the suggestion of Captain (later Colonel) John Drinkwater, the author of the most famous eye-witness account of the Siege, who had suffered the boredom of having nothing to read during his service on the Rock during the Great Siege. When he returned to Gibraltar, he got to work: subscriptions were raised, 500 books were donated by officers of the Garrison, and rooms were rented (later described as “old and inconvenient”), probably in or near Convent Place.

By 1799 it was clear that new premises were needed, and subscriptions were raised, but these were returned when Prince Frederick, the Commander-in-Chief (the Grand Old Duke of York) had a chat with the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, who agreed that the Crown should foot the bill. The grateful Committee planned to erect a bust of Pitt, but this somehow never materialised, and an empty niche remains in the front wall of the building.

The building, designed by Col. Fyers, the Chief Engineer and for many years Librarian, was opened in 1804. For many years admission was restricted to officers only, who used it not only as a library, but held balls in it, and a billiards room and racquet court were also on the premises, giving rise to the local name for Library Ramp – Ball Alley (el Balali).

For many years (from 1801) the Library Committee published Gibraltar’s first and most important newspaper, the Gibraltar Chronicle, which had its first “scoop” when it reported the death of Nelson and the victory at Trafalgar, long before the news reached England. The Editor and Deputy Librarian for over fifty years was Charles Bouisson, a French emigré. The Chronicle was sold in 1992 to a Trust made up of its Heads of Departments. 

With the reduction in the military presence in Gibraltar, the Library was unable to survive financially, and a few years ago it was transferred to the Government of Gibraltar when the latter agreed to maintain it as a research library.

The Library, with its unequalled collection of books, has thus continued to be available to anyone who is interested in researching the history of Gibraltar or many other subjects. Numerous books and theses have been published based on work done using the facilities of the Library, which provides a unique resource for researchers. It is also a venue for the yearly Literary Festivals. It is open five days a week to all. The days of excusivity are long over.