Encouraging participation

Almost two years ago I went along to a local group that meets every Tuesday evening for a couple of hours. I didn't know anybody else there, but people welcomed me and encouraged me to just join in and enjoy it.There were around 35 people of all ages and types, and everybody else seemed to know what they were doing, so I just pitched in, switching between observing what everyone else was doing and trying to do it myself. It was a great combination of daunting, exciting and totally absorbing.Some people in the group clearly knew very well what to do. Of these, some had a knack for giving an encouraging glance and passing on a tip or two. A few others clearly reveled in being in the know and grandstanding.The leader of the group made it very clear that the purpose of the whole thing was to enjoy it. New members weren't expected to know anything, and not worry about making mistakes - just learn by doing. Nobody criticizes or mocks anybody else, except very occasionally in good-natured fun.This group has been going for 17 years now. It started off as a bunch of friends, a sort of collective thing, and was fading away until Robbie, one of the young members (youngest son of the founder) volunteered to take it over and run it more professionally. Now it's thriving, making a living for him and several others, as well as now providing better value than it ever did before. Amazingly there are still plenty of people who were members before Robbie took it over and still enjoy it and support it. There's also a constant supply of new members.I don't know why I felt the need to share this right now ;)