The National U3A
The U3A, or University of the Third Age, was conceived and introduced in France in 1973, its aim being to further educate and stimulate retired members of the community. Universities were directly involved, hence the University in the title, and the concept has now become worldwide.
However, in 1982 when the scheme was introduced into the UK the direct link with a University was not maintained. Instead it was acknowledged that many people retired with a lifetime of knowledge and experience which they should be encouraged to share with their neighbours. Branches were set up around the country and there are now 870 U3As and over 295,000 members. Group leaders with specialist knowledge run their own meetings on specific subjects ranging from Art to Zoology, over 300 are covered across the country. They aim to satisfy the widest range of interests: educational, cultural, recreational, physical and social. Membership for individual U3As can vary from 20 to 2000 people. Local U3As are self supporting charities run by elected committees and require a yearly subscription. There are currently 28 U3As in Essex. The head office, The Third Age Trust, is located in Bromley, Kent, and provides educational and administrative support to all UK U3As and their members, and assists in the development of new branches across the country.
The website address of the National U3A is http://www.u3a.org.uk/
The Burnham-on-Crouch U3A
The BURNHAM-on-CROUCH U3A was started in 1999 by Anne Woolfson with less than 30 members. Membership in 2011 has now reached 180. What follows is a potted history, produced to celebrate our 10 year anniversary in 2009:
One of the first letters from the The Third Age Trust and an item from the Maldon and Burnham Standard circa March 2000 give a flavour of those early days…. (click or tap image for a large version)
Has risen from around 30 in 1999 to a figure approaching the 200 mark in the last four years. If every member turned up for the monthly meetings we would be really embarrassed! (Interesting note: the subscription back in 2000 was £12 and it is still £12 in 2009!)
The life blood of the U3A is, of course, the groups. Back in 2000, the groups numbered a mere 11 but 2005 this had risen to the mid-30s whence it has remained until the present day.
More active members benefited from the start of an association in 2003 with St Peter’s Secondary School as this extract from the U3A News shows…..
109 members currently attend 29 groups.
The first copy of the Burnham-on-Crouch U3A Newsletter hit the news-stands in February 2002. It was edited (and produced) by Yvonne Charge. She did a sterling job for over 6 years and her last copy was the June 2008 issue. During that time we charged 20p for the Newsletter to cover printing costs but from late 2006 it has been free. Yvonne only managed the occasional page in colour during her editorship but when the mantle was passed to the current joint editors: Therese Davidson, Patsy Stringer, and Frances Gretton the Newsletter went to full colour (the committee finally relenting on the higher cost).
Remember the King’s Hall?
We survived there until April 2004 and then, as the article above explains, we outgrew ourselves.
We have been lucky enough to receive two grants over the years: one in July 2003 for £500, which was used to purchase two table-tennis tables…
The other, in April 2006, was spent on a computer, projection and audio equipment, mainly for use at the monthly meetings…
A few other notable events along the way
We became a charity in August 2003. This entitles us to a tax rebate on the £12 subscriptions.
The passing of time is not without its sorrows: Anne Harding (Woolfson), the founder member of the Burnham U3A, died in 2004. A bench dedicated to her memory was installed at Burnham Quay in January 2006.
Five ladies proved an inspiration to us all when, in the Summer of 2004, they undertook the St.Peter’s Way Walk. They liked it so much they wrote a book about it complete with 40 colour photographs.
On the Web
In 2007 we went On-line. Under the auspices of Geoff Charge
In our ten years we have probably listened to close to 90 speakers. These are usually professional or semi-professional people although we have been known to draw upon our own members’ experiences on occasions. Some speakers are so popular that they have been invited back several times. You can’t please all of the people all of the time but I think that our track record is pretty good.
A reminder of some of the diverse subjects covered over the years:
A Japanese living in England – Working in Radio – Homeopathy – Jack the Ripper – Guide dogs for the Blind – Antarctica – Witchcraft – Postcards of Burnham – Household Cavalry – Town Crier – RSPB – Desert Governess – Noel Coward -The Tower of London – The Weather – The Theatrical Costumier – Music from the Shows – The Funeral Director – Trading Standards
to name but nineteen.
A branch the size of the Burnham-on-Crouch U3A does not run itself. Tribute should be paid to all the past and present Group Leaders for the considerable amount of spare time that they allocate to researching and conducting their meetings.
Likewise the dedication of all the Committee Members from 1999 to the present day who are listed below:
Ann Pennington Legh
This is a very potted history and doubtless there are items we should have included but have not, and for that we apologise. Material has been limited and has by way of necessity been mainly sourced from newspaper cuttings (luckily, and with many thanks to past press officers, our coverage has been very good!). Here’s to the next ten years!
David Gipson and Peter Finch