The hall was bustling with people, and the chairs which were usually laid out in formal rows, had instead been placed around large circular tables in a much more informal and friendly arrangement.
Our chairman welcomed everyone to this special anniversary meeting and commented that whilst he was putting together a PowerPoint of photographs taken over the last twenty years, he was amazed at just how much West Wolds had evolved and grown.
Steve then welcomed the guest speaker Pam Jones who is the previous chair of The Third Age Trust. Pam remarked that it was a joy to behold such a vibrant group and, that she always tries to find some sort of connection to where she is visiting; in our case, she revealed that her husband’s first posting had been to RAF Hemswell and they had lived in Gainsborough for a while. She then proceeded to give a brief history of U3A and how and why it was set up. Many people might be surprised to hear that U3A was originally conceived in France however, when the idea reached the UK in the early ‘80s, it was significantly modified into a national network of learning groups aimed at encouraging older people to share their knowledge, skills and interests in a friendly environment.
Pam’s one concern is that she still meets people who don’t know what it is despite there being 1039 active groups and 425,000 members nevertheless she says, the movement continues to go from strength to strength because it is unique. She went on to thank the West Wolds founding members, some of whom were seated behind her and, commended us on our fantastic range of interest groups which has now reached 51. Her final task was to cut the cake with Steve so it could be distributed amongst the members.
On the stage in pride of place atop a table covered in the special tablecloth made to commemorate the organisation’s first ten years, sat a beautifully decorated celebratory cake. As our tables were also adorned with cloths and plates with serviettes, we knew that it would not be long before we would be enjoying a slice of the said delicacy.
As the cake arrived on our tables, some of the founding members took to the mic to share their memories of how the West Wolds U3A came to be, their particular involvement in it, travels and highlights over the years. The old adage ‘mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ perfectly describes the development of West Wolds U3A. It was started by a handful of like-minded people getting together some twenty years ago to plant a seed; little did they know it would grow into being such a very successful group with 360 members.
As a mere fledgling member compared to some, Steve rounded up the morning’s festivities by reflecting on his involvement in it over the past four and a half years and, how it had supported him personally through sad times. He then went on to praise the membership for coordinating the wide range of self-help groups, meetings and social activities on offer and, reiterated that this is only possible because of the teamwork and willingness of members who offer to organise and run groups and events for the benefit of everyone.
Long may it continue.