River Wissey Lovell Fuller


August 2011

Teressa put in a plea for support of the University of The Third Age (U3A)

Doctors advise us to use all our faculties to maintain the best possible physical and mental health. We are never too old to revive earlier past-times, to develop existing skills and to explore new interests. Here in West Norfolk there are so many exciting and enjoyable opportunities for us all.

I first heard of the "University of the Third Age" (U3A) over twenty-five years ago. The title was a bit intimidating but the idea sounded interesting and friends really enjoyed attending. When in 2009 I saw a local article proposing a U3A branch in the Downham Market area, I was keen to learn more and I kept meaning to do so, but didn't get round to it. Again, I was encouraged to attend by others. I have since discovered so much.

First conceived in France in 1972, the U3A is an international movement for retired and semi-retired people who wish to continue learning and sharing knowledge, as well as making new friends among like-minded people. The original idea was adapted in Britain and, sponsored by a Nuffield Foundation grant, the first group was developed in Cambridge in 1981. The U3A's self-help, self-managed cooperatives are now a nationally respected educational institution. Since September 2009 the Downham and District branch has been democratically co-ordinated by Mary Painter and a committee of other volunteers. Over 200 local U3A members now enjoy a diverse range of more than 30 educational and recreational groups. These are organised by voluntary group leaders and meet, during daytime on week-days, in members' homes or share the small costs of hiring venues in or around Downham Market.

These local U3A groups currently include Antiques Appreciation, Art, Art Appreciation, Astrology, Bridge, Basics of Buddhism, Carbon Conversations, Care in West Norfolk, Chess, Computing, Cookery, Crime Fiction, Current Affairs, Environmental Topics, Family History, French Conversation, Gardening, German, General History, Hieroglyphics, Jazz, Maths and Science, Meditation, Music Appreciation, Music Hall, Patchwork and Quilting, Petanque, Poetry and Play-reading, Singing, Spirituality, Tai Chi/Quigong, Walking and Writing for Pleasure. New groups are frequently being suggested and introduced. Full details of meetings, group leaders and venues are available from Joan Alfred (Group Leaders' Co-ordinator) on 01366 384673.

In addition, from 2.00 - 4.00pm. on the second Monday of each month, a varied programme of invited speakers entertain and enlighten members in Downham Market Town Hall. Tea, coffee and biscuits are available for 50p. during the interval. Annual U3A membership is currently £12.50. This allows members to attend any meeting or join any group activity, to receive regular local newsletters and the national U3A magazine delivered quarterly to their homes. Guests and visitors to the monthly meetings are asked to pay £2.00 which will be redeemed against future membership.

I have found U3A members friendly, welcoming and interesting to meet. There are so many groups and activities to enjoy the days are too short. The next monthly meeting will be -

Monday September 12th from 2.00 - 4.00pm in Downham Market Town Hall.

Do come along just to see whether the U3A is for you.

Teressa Waller

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