Link & Learn Research Project

Seaham Harbour U3A

Research Project

Intergenerational, International, Lifelong Learning.

Seaham Harbour U3A  Research Project Intergenerational, International, Lifelong Learning. It all began in 2013 when 5 members of Seaham Harbour U3A submitted a research bid to what was then RITA (Research in the Third Age). This was a Northumbria regional initiative linked to Newcastle University at the Centre for Vitality and Learning. Our bid aimed to examine and compare inter-generational lifelong learning opportunities in the twinned towns of Seaham, UK and Gerlingen, Germany. Seaham Harbour U3A was awarded third prize of £250.

We gave ourselves a group identity … the name …. Link and Learn. A working definition:

To bring together people from different generations and countries in purposeful, mutually beneficial activities. To work together to gain and share knowledge and values. Promote greater understanding and respect between generations and countries. Research into best practice began in Gerlingen which then unexpectedly led us to Stuttgart and Chemnitz. After much hard work and persistence we had links with Andrea Löhle in Gerlingen. Seaham’s twinning programme was invaluable in opening doors for us here. Then by various other methods (shy bairns get nowt!) links were forged with Professor Roland Schöne at Chemnitz University of Technology Seniors’ College and Dr. Edith Krober and Research Student Lilian Sophie Maier at Stuttgart University. And so we began the process of sharing inter-generational projects. We found the two German universities very receptive and helpful with our proposals for which we were most grateful.

Alongside this 50 residents from Gerlingen visited Seaham Harbour as part of the twinning programme. The Link and Learn Group produced a dual language pack to inform the visitors about our research project and what we were hoping to achieve. They were most interested in our ideas  and invited us to go to Gerlingen to see their inter-generational opportunities. Also at this time we identified key people in Seaham Council and Seaham High School. We presented our project to them with an invite to join us. Seaham High School were very enthusiastic especially their Language Ambassadors and so they too were now on board.

Next we asked Seaham and District U3A if they would like to work on our research. We were delighted when 3 of their members agreed. By this time our initial planning group size had increased from 5 to 7 plus now 3 from Seaham and District.

Regular communication with the links we had established in the UK and Germany was vital throughout. We needed to ensure they too remained committed to the project.

One of our next targets was to take up the offer to visit Gerlingen. This we self funded as we wanted to hold the £250 prize money in reserve for developmental work. The planned date was September 2016 as this coincided with the timing of the the twinning exchange. Although visiting at the same time we devised a different Link and Learn programme to meet our specific focus. That said there was overlap on occasion which proved beneficial.

So what did we do …

We visited and participated in activities at three purpose built inter-generational learning centres in Gerlingen. Should we be so lucky to have such centres? Perhaps having Mercedes, Porsche and Bosch as ‘local’ businesses who support community ventures is an advantage … if only! Gerlingen does not have a U3A but the Mayor expressed much interest in the possibility of introducing such a model to complement the centres they have for inter-generational programmes … another area for development?

Professor Schöne offered to travel from Chemnitz to Stuttgart University to present inter-generational/international programme’s … Erasmus/Project Partnership as well as Seniors/Student combined lectures initiative. Many of the lectures are attended by up to 700 people. Plus he gave us details of lifelong learning conferences held annually in Germany and much further afield. Dr. Krober and her research student Lilian presented their models for inter-generational learning including the IgeLus Project … Connecting Brains. I gave a presentation on behalf of Link and Learn detailing our developing model and how U3A was managed in our locality. The whole experience at Stuttgart University was excellent.

Back in Gerlingen we were invited to have a stall at the annual Stadtfest. We used this opportunity to promote U3A including the Link and Learn Project through photographs, information handouts, displays of interest group work etc. Since many of the stalls served food from around the world we were encouraged to do the same. So we ended up making over a 100 cup cakes ( seemed like thousands to we amateurs) along with Pimms . Dressed in our Red Hatters attire … it was a sell out. On reflection I tend to think the attraction was the Pimms!

As well as broadening our knowledge on cross generational lifelong learning we made many friends in Germany. We were also able to embrace the culture and architecture of our near neighbour. Concern was expressed by the Germans that Brexit might prevent us working together …. we gave our assurances that from our point of view it would not!

On our return to the UK we decided to hold a day conference which we called Link and Learn Across All Ages.  The purpose was to share inter-generational lifelong learning opportunities between the UK and Germany. We coincided the date with the time of the twinning exchange to the UK .. April 2017.

At this time Wessington U3A were approached to see if they would join forces with us in planning and participating in the conference.  We were exceedingly pleased when they said yes. Through Margaret Welsh’s contacts at Beamish Open Air Museum they agreed to let us use it as a conference venue which proved to be excellent. Thank you Margaret and Wessington U3A.

Fund raising started to top up our £250 to enable us to run the conference. We were able to raise £1,000 thanks to the endeavours of members of our U3A many of whom were not even directly involved in Link and Learn. Andrea Löhle from Gerlingen arranged to cover any financial cost for her party. The gift of Gerlingen apple juice brought to the conference was certainly an unexpected bonus. Representatives from four U3As (Bishop Auckland included) were involved in planning/ delivering the conference as well as Seaham High School, Kynren, Newcastle University and Gerlingen young and ‘best agers’ as we are called in Germany. Particularly impressive were the youngsters from Seaham High School and Gerlingen who delivered in dual languages. See separate programme for details and Wessington U3As account of the day.

There were approximately 140 attendees including 50 from Gerlingen. The added value of using Beamish as a venue was that members of the public who were visiting for the day were able to access all the displays and activities as well as talk to participants.

So what has happened since the conference …

1. A combined U3A review has been held to analyse data from the conference. It will be used to inform future planning. It has also enabled us to extend our contacts list.

2. Local networking of U3As has been increased.

3. Improved communication between The North of England and Germany with technology providing a wide range of options.

4. German Speaking Group established.

5. German Christmas Market to be held at Seaham High School in December 2017.

6. A pupil/teacher exchange is at the planning stage.

7. Volunteering offers have been made to Beamish.

8. Four of us are planning a visit to Chemnitz University (we have been asked to present a paper detailing our Link and Learn Project) then onto the International Seniors Fair in Dortmund … May 2018.

9. A network of U3A members are arranging a visit to Gerlingen in September 2018.

10.DVD of events produced thanks to George Fairweather.

As with any effective project it has to be constantly evolving if it is to remain vibrant and interesting. There is no longer a single Link and Learn Group. Pop-up groups have emerged and are developing their own area of interest related to Inter-generational, International, Lifelong Learning.

The project has provided the opportunity for much creativity and expansion of entrepreneurial skills. It has been and still is exceedingly hard work but it has opened up a whole new world.

I wonder which country next …..

Sandra Wilkinson. Founder/Former Chair of Seaham Harbour U3A.


Double click on images to enlarge







 The Link and Learn group are to visit Gerlingen covering their own costs 100%.This visit is to assist them in their research of looking at opportunities for retired, semi-retired and youth in Seaham and comparing them to similar groups in twin town Gerlingen. The ultimate aim is to share and enhance life experiences in both towns. When visiting they will be taking one of the stalls at the street festival to promote Seaham Harbour U3A.  

 To help cover costs, they are arranging a few venues, hoping for support from our members and any money left over will be handed to the Treasurer for our U3A funds.


 On Saturday, 19 March 2016

a Social Evening will be held in the Masonic Hall

7.00p.m. for 7.30p.m.

 Buffet             Scarves and Jewellery Sale

Music             Raffle




 If you would like to attend or make a donation for the Raffle or Scarves and Jewellery Sale, please contact Jean Mullen.


Updates will be given at the monthly meetings.

Seaham Harbour U3A Link and Learn Project

Seaham  twinned with Gerlingen

Verlinken und Lernen

Seaham Harbour U3A (Universität des dritten Lebensalters) ist eine lokale Gruppe von Freiwilligen, die einer weltweiten Organisation angehört. Das dritte Lebensalter ist die Zeit im Leben, in der Vollzeitbeschäftigung aufgehört hat. Unserer Mittglieder sind entweder im Ruhestand oder Semi-Ruhestand. Ziel ist es, lebenslange Lernen und damit das körperliche und geistige Wohlbefinden zu fördern.


Wir existieren schon seit fünf Jahren. Von einer kleinen Gruppe von Gleichgesinnten wuchsen wir zu einer Mitgliedschaft von 130 Personen und einer Warteliste von 50 weiteren Personen. Auf Grund des großen Interesses Teil dieser Gruppe zu sein, wurde beschlossen eine zweite U3A in Seaham ins Leben zu rufen. Wir sind nun damit beschäftigt das in die Wege zu leiten.


Jeden 2. Donnerstag pro Monat wird eine Vollmitgliederversammlung abgehalten. Dies bietet die Möglichkeit Kontakte zu knüpfen, Vorträge zu hören und sich vor allem mit den 23 Interessengruppen, die das ganze Jahr über tätig sind, zu verbinden. Die durchschnittliche Anwesenheit an den monatlichen Treffen ist 85%.


Die Interessengruppen (siehe Liste im Anhang) sind ausschlagebend für den Erfolg der U3A. Die Bandbreite der Themen und Aktivitäten, die angeboten werden, werden von den Mitgliedern selbst beschlossen. Alle Gruppen finanzieren sich selbst und werden von Mitgliedern geführt. Es gibt keine Beschränkung hinsichtlich der Anzahl von Gruppen, denen eine Einzelperson beitreten kann.


Der Erfolg dieser Initiative und ihre Auswirkungen auf die Lebensqualität in Seaham kann an der großen Zahl der Interessenten gemessen werden, die Beitreten wollen und auch am Feedback das uns erreicht. (Siehe separates Blatt). Hinweise finden Sie auch auf unserer Website.


Wir würden eine Erweiterung unseres Horizontes durch die Verknüpfung mit unserer Partnerstadt von Gerlingen sehr Willkommen zu heißen. Die Zusammenarbeit und der Austausch von Ideen aus beiden Städten hat das Potenzial zu einer spannenden Unternehmung für Menschen in ihren dritten Lebensalter zu werden.

Link and Learn.



Seaham Harbour U3A (University of the Third Age) is a local voluntary group which belongs to a world-wide organisation.  Third age is defined by that period in life in which full time employment has ceased. Our members are either retired or semi-retired. The aim is to encourage lifelong learning and in so doing promote physical and mental well-being.

We have been in existence for five years. It has grown from a small group of like-minded people coming together, to a membership of 130 and a waiting list of 50. Such is the interest in being part of this group that it has been decided that a second U3A is needed in Seaham. We are in the process of facilitating this.

There is a full membership meeting on the second Thursday of each month. This provides the opportunity to socialise, listen to a speaker and most importantly link into the 23 interest groups operating  throughout  the year. We average 85% attendance at the monthly meetings.

The interest groups (see attached list) are vital to the success of our U3A . The range of topics and activities on offer are decided by the members. All groups are self-funded , organised and led by members. There is no restriction on the number of groups any individual may join.

The success of this initiative and its impact on the quality of life in Seaham can be measured by  the large numbers of residents wanting to join as well as feedback – see separate sheet. Reference can also be made to our website.

We would welcome the opportunity to broaden our horizons by linking up with our twin town of Gerlingen.  Working together and sharing ideas from both towns has the potential for an exciting venture for those in their third age.

 Groups have their say


What kind of things do you do?


Play ten pin bowling once a month in teams of up to 6 people per lane.


Afternoon tea at Lumley Castle, River boat trip Durham, Ghost hunt Crook Hall Durham.

Lunch at Jamie Olivers York, Ladies Day Newcastle Races, Curry train Corbridge.


Walk and talk coffee sometimes.


Short strolls in the Seaham area. Coffee and socialising after the stroll. Much talking and banter.


Members take it turns to buy 4 different wins for tasting. Wine assessed for colour, smell, taste and appeal. Cost of wine shared amongst the group members present. A social evening of fun and chat.


We sing a variety of songs using CDs, tapes, guitar (played by a member), keyboard (again played by a member). We have our own song and enjoy singing for pleasure.


Visit gardens and occasionally have a speaker. Visit garden centres and have demonstrations. (Christmas wreaths)


Exercise – gentle.


Ballroom – Salsa and Cha Cha Cha


We have 2 meetings 1st and 3rd Mondays each month. 1st Monday we have an outing to take pictures and the third we review the pictures we took with constructive comments.


Learn French from CDs and books (Breakthrough French). Watch French DVD films.


Fabric Crafts- quilts, cushions, workbags, shopping bags, wall hangings, flower pounding, visits.


Cinema- this group is not functional at the moment, interested parties just contact one another.


Play 12 hands of whist as per whist card. Held in various houses but we have the option of hiring a hall if we had more players.


Meet once a month to discuss set book. Also outings to Literary Lunches and discussion about literary events, new books and authors.


Visit regional flower demonstrations. Durham Cathedral flower show. Chelsea flower show. Hampton Court flower show. Harrogate flower show.


Trivial Pursuit- have a laugh at the knowledge we think we have. It is very interesting we always finish a little wiser.


Poetry reading and discussion on a monthly theme. Trying to promote writing new poetry.


Individuals do their own local history research and feedback to the group. They also supply photocopies where they feel members wish to have them. We also go out on local visits with and without speakers. The group Leader also provides background information and generally keeps the “flow of ideas” on track. We have been studying Old Seaham – individuals, buildings, clothes/fabrics linked to Georgian England.


Visit Theatres and Community Halls.


Visit galleries, attend talks, go for coffee and lunch.


Meet for lunch 10 months (not August or December).

Have your say ….

What is good?


Friendly and fun. Well organised. Uplifting makes you feel good. Interesting – great presentations. Catalyst for forming new friendships. Life enhancing due to social events.

A good variety of groups. A way to meet people. It’s easy to find out what is going on in the groups. Clear  introduction at the start of the meeting. Good variety of interesting speakers.

Making friendships. Welcoming and good atmosphere. Hard working group leaders.

The friendship and company. Interesting speakers. Visiting places.

Friendly. Expanding interests. Excellent organisation. Receptive to suggestions.

Everything. Good friends new and old. Very educational. Always something good to do.

Well organised. Good variety of groups. Good variety of activities. Friendly.

Varied interests catered for with groups. Very friendly.

Meeting new people and old friends. Regular activities. Learning new things.

The fun, the unexpected and the “choss” young speakers. It gets you out and is comforting and welcoming.

Have your say 1 continued …

Brings local people together. Good variety of groups. Interesting talks. Good level of enthusiasm.

Meeting new people. Friendliness of groups.

Meeting new people. The unexpected. Fun.

Good range of interesting groups.. Friendly and fun atmosphere. No pressure to partake in activities. Chance to meet people and make friends. Morning meeting times. Good range of expertise among members.

Meetings are always enjoyable and sociable.

Well organised excellent social gathering. Groups cover lots of activities. Very friendly U3A. Good range of speakers.


Lots of choices – things to do. Meeting new people and making friends. Seeing U3A friends when out and about.

Good fun. Meet new people make friends. Develop new interests.

Meet new people. Learn about different places and new skills. Really friendly atmosphere. There is something for everyone.

Really friendly atmosphere. Good range of classes with excellent leaders. Opportunity to socialise and learn new skills.

Diversity of interests. Relaxed atmosphere. Not being excluded from other group activities.

Lovely regular meetings. Opportunity to meet lovely people. Excellent leadership – warmth, humour mixed with appropriate discipline! Excellent variety of groups.

Have your say 1 continued …

The camaraderie with lots of interest.

Monthly Meetings – variety, interesting topics and speakers. Meet different people. The “characters” in U3A. Variety of clubs and interest groups. Very friendly and welcoming.

Excellent committee and group leaders. Friendly fun atmosphere. Openness to new ideas. Variety of groups

Lots of choice of groups to join, very friendly.

Meeting new people. Interesting speakers. Friendliness. Excellent organisation. Humour.

Meeting old and new friends and sharing interests.

Companionship. Variety of activities. Group outings.


Pam Burke

Sarah Gurney

Jean Mullen

Jean Watson 

Sandra Wilkinson

Malcom Wilkinson



Link and Learn Project.

Five members of Seaham Harbour U3A are involved in this research and development project. Our initial idea was recognised by Newcastle University when we were awarded third prize in a regional competition.

We are aware of the value of lifelong learning especially where mental and physical wellbeing is concerned in later years. With this in mind the first stage of our project was to carry out in-house research. This enabled us to ascertain members perceptions as to the advantages of being actively involved in the wide ranging opportunities on offer through U3A (data available). The results were exceedingly positive and are being used to inform future planning.

The second stage is to broaden our research by meeting some of the Gerlingen residents from our twin town in Germany. This is due to take place in April 2015 in Seaham.  The intention is to begin to share ideas/approaches from both towns. We hope to make a reciprocal visit to Gerlingen in the autumn.

Working together and sharing approaches across two countries has the potential for an exciting venture for those in their third age.


Sandra Wilkinson.