The NAO roots trace back to the national festival which began holding the Accordion Day annual competitions in 1935, the first event being at the Westminster Central Hall, London. There was a forced hiatus during the war years from 1938 - 1948, however the Accordion Day competitions resumed again in 1949.
As this great revival in the interest of music making gathered impetus and more and more accordionists rallied together, the NAO gradually took shape under the provisional leadership of Messrs. Black, Bridger and Meyer. They were soon joined by many others who wished to see a powerful association for accordionists founded on a sound and democratic basis.
In 1949, the first formal meeting of The National Accordion Organisation of Great Britain was held, the original Memorandum of Constitution was confirmed, rules were formulated and adopted, and officers and committee elected. Mr. Toralf Tollefsen was elected the first President, Dr.Otto Meyer was elected Chairman, Mr. H. J. Bridger the Treasurer, and Mr. Jimmy Black the Hon. General Secretary. From the outset, provision was made for a specialist section for teachers, and Mr. Graham Romani was elected Organiser of the Accordion Teachers' Guild.
The NAO is a truly National Organisation which caters always for the main body of British accordionists and numbers almost every well-known name in the accordion world among its members. In January 1950, the the NAO was officially admitted as a founder member of the Third Constitutive Assembly of the Confederation Internationale des Accordeonistes (CIA) and it therefore follows that those who join the NAO also become members of this international brotherhood of accordion players.
The newly formed NAO continued holding its annual festival in London until 1963. From 1964 to 1970, the event was held in Leicester under the direction of Francis Wright and since then the UK Accordion Championships have been held in various locations including: Southampton (1971), Perth (1973), Brighton (1974), Margate (1978), Troon (1981), Buxton (1984), Blackpool, numerous years in Scarborough and most recently at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool.
In 1987 the NAO changed its name to become The National Accordion Organisation of the United Kingdom to include competitors from Northern Ireland.
The founding President, the late Toralf Tollefsen, was born in Glemmen, Norway. Tollefsen made contact with Recording Companies and was offered work with the BBC and soon became a household name throughout England. He returned to England after the war for a series of very successful concerts at Royal Albert Hall and a tour to the United States and It was during this return that Tollefsen became the NAO Honorary President and continued to hold the title until his death.
In 2001, Jack Emblow was appointed the Honorary NAO President in honor of his contribution to the accordion in the UK.
The NAO has hosted the prestigious CIA Coupe Mondiale on five occasions. These being held in Brighton - 1955, Leicester - 1968, Folkstone - 1984 London - 2001 and most recently Glasgow - 2008. For many years the NAO Founding Secretary Mr. Jimmy Black served as the CIA Secretariat and in August 2009, the longest serving NAO Chairperson Raymond Bodell was appointed to high honour of President of the Confederation Internationale des Accordeonistes (CIA) – an office he still serves.
In 2013, the NAO became a Founding Member of the newly constituted European Accordion Forum (EAF) – its focus – the promotion of Accordion Orchestras throughout Europe.
Currently, the NAO Executive Committee continues to make many advancements and the UK Championships is currently experiencing good times. It has never been in a position to welcome so many international stars and has established itself as the premiere accordion festival in the UK.