u3a - News at the Third Age - October 2017

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The u3a movement is available for comments, case studies, interviews and information. Please email the Communications team or telephone 020 8466 6139.

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Third Age Matters our national magazine

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Conference and AGM

More than 400 members attended the 2017 U3A Conference and AGM at the East Midlands Conference centre in Nottingham. Chairman Pam Jones opened the three-day event with the announcement that the U3A movement had now reached over 400,000 members.

For the very first time, the final day of the conference was live streamed on YouTube, allowing those who had been unable attend to watch the important AGM. This included the presentation from the NEC working group on proposed changes to the way the U3A is run nationally, following a year-long consultation with members. The final changes will be put to an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of the Third Age Trust next Spring.

If you missed the live stream, you can still watch by visiting our YouTube channel.

We are grateful to our Conference guest speakers Jo Coleman (charity lawyer with Bond Dickinson) and Professor Chris French (Goldsmiths University). Both gave witty and engaging presentations on their respective subjects.

Well done also to all those who worked very hard in delivering workshops covering a wide range of topics from Accessibility and Inclusivity, to the International U3A – the feedback from those who took part in them was overwhelmingly positive.

You can read about the conference in greater detail in the latest edition of the U3A magazine, Third Age Matters.

Lifelong Learning

Are you interested and involved in research? If you are, we would love you to come to a meeting taking place at Carrs Lane Conference Centre, Birmingham at 11am on Friday 10th November 2017. The purpose of the meeting is for the NEC and the National Office to discover what is happening in the field of U3A research, to listen to discussion and ideas and to assist in facilitating all aspects of U3A research to go forward. If you wish to attend please contact the Chairman, Pam Jones.

Carrs Lane will also be the venue for the West Midland Region’s first Research Workshop which is taking place the following week – 15th November from 10.30am to 3.30pm. The workshop will be an interactive day with a guest speaker. U3As will have the chance to share current progress and learning opportunities related to research and projects. You can register your interest in attending by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Elsewhere in research this month, the U3A movement was represented at Westminster University’s Symposium on ‘Ageing & Metabolism in the Human’ led by Dr Bradley Elliott’s Translational Physiology research group. Rona Hodges (Canterbury & District U3A) was a guest speaker at the event.

The day-long workshop in London brought together different aspects of ageing physiology with expert presentations including ‘Ageing Research in vitro’ and ‘Clinical & Real World Impacts’.

Thanks go to Rona who concluded the event, representing the U3A movement as a passionate advocate of collaborative research projects. Rona, who is the Research Co-ordinator for Canterbury & District U3A, said, “This is a fascinating area of science. The series of lectures explored the effects of changes in our physiology as we grow older.

“I hope I was a reminder of the important real-world impact of the work that the scientists were doing. I spoke about how U3A wanted to be proactive, not just passive recipients of research”


u3a old royal naval collegeU3A members photographing the restoration of the Old Royal Naval College's Painted Hall

There are many successful Shared Learning Projects taking place across the country.

Please do take a look at the history project Citizen 800, to which U3A research volunteers have been making a number of super contributions. Well done to U3A member Barbara Lister for her article on Henry Hetherington and the Paper’s Press. You can read it on their blog here

And well done to U3A member Michael Pitfield for Dig-in Doris Saves an Acre.

The midway point has been reached in a unique Shared Learning Project with the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, who have embarked on a major conservation project of the Painted Hall  supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Old Royal Naval College is cleaning and conserving the Painted Hall walls and ceiling to return clarity of colour and vibrancy to Sir James Thornhill’s 300 year old masterpiece.

Eight U3A photographers, selected from London U3As, have been recording in pictures the volunteers, staff, contractors and members of the public who are involved in the project as it happens. The Painted Hall is open to the Public for ceiling tours from 21st October until summer 2018.

SLP project coordinator Roger Mead said, “This is a very interesting project because we are not looking at the ceiling but at the workers making the project happen, capturing the moments, the hard work and commitment of everyone involved. The photographers are also learning much about their art from taking on this project. We are working towards an exhibition next year”.

Educational Resources

The Third Age Trust, SCE (Standing Committee on Education) and U3A volunteers will be working together over the coming year to enhance the free educational resources that are available to members including signposting good quality free online courses. A taster of online courses starting next month include:

Opera historian Flora who is based in the Music Department at King’s College London has created a new free online introductory course about opera in partnership with the Royal Opera House and the Victoria & Albert Museum. The course launches online on Monday 9 October and runs for four weeks, though participants may work through it at their own pace. Registration is open here, where you’ll also find a trailer for the course: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/inside-opera.

A free online course has been produced by Lancaster University and the Royal Institution of Great Britain about the chemist Sir Humphry Davy starting 30th October. 'Humphry Davy: Laughing gas, literature and the lamp' needs no prior knowledge to study just an interest in Humphry Davy or early nineteenth century Literature, Science or History can sign up at http://www.futurelearn.com/courses/humphry-davy.

The U3A resource centre has many non-book material available for all U3A groups to borrow free of charge, except for the cost of return postage.

U3A Events

This month saw the conclusion of the National Summer School programme 2017.

The third National Summer School took place this month at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester. It followed two other well-supported Summer Schools held in Cirencester in August and Harper Adams University in Shropshire in July.

Hundreds of members of the U3A from across the country attended the national Summer Schools with a range of over 20 study courses on offer, including subjects such as Cryptic Crosswords, France Globalisation, History, Creative Writing, Drama, Music, Poetry and many more.

Members meet colleagues from other U3As, share good practice and ideas, socialise and most of all – have fun. This September, for example, U3A members who took part in a Creative Writing for Radio course had their work broadcast on local radio – Corinium Radio Cirencester.

Summer School organiser Julie Travers said, “This has been a wonderful programme over the last few months with members benefiting from a wide choice of subjects. A lot of thought and work goes into the summer school programme and it promotes the very best in peer to peer learning. The feedback has been positive: Summer School tutors deliver the courses to a very high standard, with lots of input and interaction from the members attending”

The North West Regional Summer School 2017 was held at the end of August at Newton Rigg Agricultural College near Penrith. This popular event saw 109 members from 54 different U3As across the region. The nine courses on offer included a wide range from Medicine in the 21st Century, Beginners’ Ukulele, Digital Digging for Archaeology and Geology. The Ukulele group who started as beginners were able to give a well-received performance at the end of the event.

News from the U3As 

There have been many events taking place from our U3As from across the UK. Highlights have included:

Wales U3As – the first U3A members from across Wales taking part in the first U3A Welsh National Table Tennis Championships run by Sport Wales at their National Centre in Cardiff Well done to everyone who took part especially Pembrokeshire U3A who came out on top with Graham George and Gaynor Evans beating 16 other teams to be crowned Welsh U3A Champions 2017. Many new networking connections were made between groups during the event with the likelihood of future friendly matches between U3As.

Weston Turville U3A, Bath U3A and others took part in the 30th Ironbridge Coracle Regatta. U3A members won 4 of the novice heats including Damian Campbell and Michael Whitehead – with Damian going on to win the final.

U3A National weekend of Pétanque

The second national weekend of pétanque has taken place at Hayling Island arranged by pétanque Subject Adviser, Andrew Lloyd (Malmesbury & District U3A) a national petanque player, coach and manager of over 20 years’ experience.

u3a petanque

Andrew said, “There are over 100 pétanque teams in the U3A movement. Pétanque is one version of the generic grouping of games of ‘boules’. It involves throwing a ball to a jack intending to score more points than the opposition.

“The weekend went very well. This year, there were 175 players in 52 teams from 16 different U3As. We had one large group of ten teams from Stanford-le-Hope, 6 from Richmond (Surrey) and teams came from as far away as North Devon, Guernsey, Nottinghamshire and Cheshire. It was a progressive two-day competition.

“The Championship winners who came out top in the Gold main competition were from Kings Hill U3A in Kent who beat a team from Torridge U3A (North Devon). The winning team are all aged over 80. Thank you to Chief Exec, Sam Mauger who came to support us on the final day.”

Sale U3A ­– Two friends from Sale U3A in Greater Manchester who share a love of antiques have become TV Stars after appearing in two BBC TV shows winning on both occasions. Jose Anderson and Nicole Smith have over the last few years appeared together on day time TV in the quiz shows – For What It's Worth and Bargain Hunt (Bargain Hunt was hosted by Anita Manning and aired this March).

u3a bargain hunt

Jose, who is one of the founding members of Sale U3A which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, said, "Nicole and I had a brilliant time and we are thinking about applying for another show – so watch this space – we may make it a TV winning hat trick!

Hertford and District U3A – Well done to Ian and Sue Nash who have embarked on a long research and interviewing project and produced a 64-page booklet for Hertford and District U3A as part of the 25th anniversary celebrations.

Finally, congratulations also to all the U3As who celebrated landmark anniversaries. This month that includes Llanelli U3A who celebrated their 25th anniversary with a special lunch and an exhibition of photos and memorabilia. Similarly a quarter of a century was celebrated by Southampton which was captured in an article in the Southern Daily Echo.

NEC News

The NEC welcomed five new regional trustees this month after the retirement of those who had served their three-year term. Congratulations to John Bent (London), Bob Duckmanton (South East), Jill Nicholls (South West), Auriol Ainley (West Midlands) and Sue Stokes (Yorkshire and the Humber) We wish them well and hope they will enjoy the experience. Congratulations also to Ian McCannah, formerly the regional trustee for London, who succeeds Marion Clements as national Vice Chairman.

Other News

We are delighted to be featured this month on the Voluntary Arts Scotland website.

Media Requests

This month, BBC Breakfast News is looking for people who have turned or are turning 70 this year for a special live audience broadcast in November. If you are interested in taking part please reply ASAP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BBC One programme ‘Holding Back the Years’ is a new magazine type programme due to broadcast during the daytime next March and will look at a range of issues affecting the over 50s/60s. One of the issues the show will cover is divorce and marriage.

The show’s producers are looking for couples aged over 60 to share their story: either a couple who have been married for over fifty years or more and can share their secrets to happiness, or a couple in their 60s living in the UK who thought of divorce but found a way to work through their differences and are now happily together? Maybe you have even renewed your vows? If you are interested please contact Irina on 02890 338463 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Shiver Productions are developing an exciting new television programme for a major broadcaster and are looking for outgoing grandparents who want to spend more time with their adult grandchildren (who must be over 18). The programme will allow grandparents to share their knowledge, advice and practical help while learning more about the lives, hopes and aspirations of their grandchildren. Please call Shiver TV on 020 7157 3599 or email at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you do take part in any shows don’t forget to mention U3A! and keep National Office in the loop on how its progressing.

Individual in Focus


u3a individual in focus michele“I was a headteacher in a large primary school in West Sussex and when I took early retirement, I relocated and moved back to Southampton. I hadn't even thought about what retirement would be like. I ended up drifting about for a couple of years really doing very little which for me, was very depressing.

“Thankfully I met someone who introduced me to the U3A and 6 months after attending my first meeting I joined the committee! Now I’m in my second year as Secretary. I belong to many groups including Spanish, Eastern Dance and Scrabble. I am taking part in activities that I would probably not have considered before - I am going Segway riding! I am staying active both physically and mentally and once again I have the opportunity to share knowledge and skills.

“When I retired, having no structure and plan sounded great at first but it didn’t work for me. U3A means I keep my brain active and am learning new things, making friends and having fun. I have met some truly special, supportive people. I really feel as if I 'belong' somewhere again”.

Look out for upcoming events.