November 2015 marked the 10th anniversary of Stone U3A. In the first of a series of events planned over the next 12 months over half of the original Committee joined up with the current Committee, together with the six Group Leaders who have led groups throughout the ten years, for a celebratory dinner held at Stone Golf Club.
Chairman, Gwynyth Hart opened proceedings with a brief account of the origins and history of the U3A movement. The idea originated in France in 1972 and the branches were actually attached to local universities but, when Cambridge University academic Peter Laslett suggested bringing the concept over to the UK, he didn’t want to follow the continental model and instead thought that branches here should be self-governing and offer a wider ‘education’ including social and leisure pursuits. Three branches were established in Cambridge, London and Huddersfield in 1981 and from these small beginnings has grown the organisation which now has approximately 970 branches and around 360,000 members in the UK, under the umbrella of the Third Age Trust.
Gwynyth then presented a special certificate to Bruce Evans who has recently been entered on the Third Age Trust Roll of Honour in recognition of outstanding service to the U3A movement in the UK. Bruce’s remarkable contribution has involved him being an ever present committee member and Secretary since 2006. In addition, Bruce has run photography groups throughout the decade. He has also been a Regional Volunteer for several years and for the last 12 months, a Regional Deputy Trustee.
Deputy Chairman, Carol Keogh, then outlined the development of Stone U3A. In August 2005 an item appeared in the ‘Stone Newsletter’ inviting people who were interested in starting up a branch of the University of the Third Age in the town to attend a meeting at Walton Community Centre. That first meeting resulted in 63 people signing up on the day and a Steering Committee was formed to work towards launching the new branch in November 2005. After much hard work with almost-weekly meetings and some assistance from both Cheadle U3A and the National Office the target was achieved – and within two months we were up and running. Now, ten years on, over 1,000 members can choose from nearly sixty groups and the value of the organisation to the local community has been demonstrated again and again.
Guest of honour, Tony Randall, the West Midlands Trustee, proposed a toast to the founders of Stone U3A. This was received warmly before everyone enjoyed a fine meal, congenial company and lively conversation. The photos below show members of the original Steering Committee and the stalwart Group Leaders.
Stonefield Park Display
Largely thanks to the efforts of committee member Elaine Hunt, the floral display in Stonefield Park next summer will feature the U3A logo. It should make a fine visual reminder of the anniversary milestone which will also be celebrated early in 2016 by a gathering for the 55 current Group Leaders and later there will be a full-day event (still at the planning stages) for all members to attend.
The New Year is an ideal time to join up, so to find out more about all the activities on offer at negligible cost, do contact Gywnyth Hart on 01782-633179 or visit the web-site, www.stoneu3a.btck.co.uk