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Oct 29

In The Loop – the National Chairwoman of the U3A reflects on the 2013 Annual Conference

There are many ‘starts’ to a new year – 1 January comes to mind as a natural New Year, 1 April is the NEC start to a new financial year, but it is September that, for me, feels like the start of a new U3A year. And with the start of a new year the anticipation and excitement of new adventures, new possibilities.

The kick-off to this September ‘new year’ was our National Conference and AGM from 13-16 September in Nottingham. We look to this event to be a platform, a showcase for what your NEC will be working on during the coming year. For the first time, our Standing Committee for Education (SCE), Development Sub-Committee (DSC) and Communications Committee had displays to explain their aims, activities and the resources available to support U3As. Online Learning, Research, the Resource Centre and the National Office all presented valuable up-to-date information for delegates to take away. Also capturing attention were our new website, U3A authors’ table, ‘Talking Justice’ and intergenerational debate projects. Around every corner something beckoned!

          Meanwhile there were workshops which tackled such perennial challenges as:

  • Encouraging a Culture of Participation
  • Talking to the Outside World
  • Communications – where is your weakest link?
  • Crisis, What Crisis? (growth)
  • Study Groups’ Co-ordinators, the hub of your U3A?
  • 10 Things your Members Should Know,
  • Diversity/Social Inclusion
  • Shared Learning Projects
  • U3A-ery and Education
  • Not in my Subject
  • Making Your U3A Welcoming and Friendly
  • Inter-generational activity.

And in the spirit of our Conference theme of ‘Learn, Laugh and Live’ we added

  • Get More Fun out of your Ukulele
  • Break into Song
  • Practical Drama.

While not everyone can come to Conference, we want to make sure that everyone is included and no one misses out! So, all the handouts and mini-surveys can be found on our website:  Go to the Conference 2013 icon on the home page. And while the handouts will give us all much to consider this year, we also recorded The Right Honourable John Bercow MP’s keynote speech ‘The Modern House of Commons’- his erudition still has me running to the dictionary! Be sure to catch it on our website.

And, and, and – we are also producing a DVD for you to get the overall flavour, camaraderie, and fun that Conference gives to U3Aers from all parts of the UK . We ‘Learned, Laughed and Lived’ – not a bad way to start this new U3A year. If we did not see you this year at Conference, I hope you will put 9/10 September 2014 in your diary NOW. We will build on this year’s success and I look forward to seeing you at Cirencester next year.


Barbara Lewis, NEC Chairman

October 2013