Seaham Harbour U3A Annual Report 2011

We are all so fortunate to live by the sea in an exceedingly successful regeneration area.  As part of the programme for change Seaham Harbour U3A has been established during the past year.

U3A is a learning co-operative for people who have completed full time employment but want to share educational, creative and leisure activities.  Seaham Harbour U3A is now one of over 700 U3As in the country.  Some of you may even have family or friends who belong to U3As abroad.

I had heard about the U3A organisation whilst working and was impressed by the structure which allowed people to socialise whilst participating and learning through leisure activities

When I retired I was disappointed to find that Seaham did not have a U3A whilst places such as Sunderland, Peterlee, Easington and Durham had.  I decided to approach some friends and neighbours to see if they thought there was any value in trying to set one up in our town.  Luckily for all of us they agreed although I am sure they did not realise what they were letting themselves in for!  This initial group of like-minded people now form the Steering Group along with some very welcome volunteers.  At the present time we have 15 steering members.

I would like to try to give you a flavour of what has been achieved so far:

  • March 2010  June 2010.  Planning meetings to prepare to launch the idea to Seaham residents.  Those involved would agree, these, at times, were not only daily but hourly! Telephones certainly never seemed to stop ringing.
  • June 2010  Public meeting at Martino’s (skilled negotiation by two of our members secured the venue for us – remember we were starting with nothing.)
  • July 2010   Inaugural Meeting at The Masonic Hall
    • Membership 30
    • Steering Group established – monthly meetings
    • Interest Groups – ideas and leaders identified
  • September 2010
    • First monthly meeting held
    • Speaker programme for the year in place
    • Interest Groups meeting regularly
  • October 2010 – March 2011
    • Full monthly meetings – second Thursday of each month
    • 9 interest groups – meet monthly
    • 6 more interest groups ready to go
    • Steering Group – meet monthly
    • 2 successful financial bids
    • Members attend regional events and meetings
    • Links developed with other U3As
    • Membership 66

The group activities are central to our success.  They have been decided and developed by you the members.  The idea behind the groups is that they are ever changing and expanding to meet members’ needs.  My belief is that the more varied the activities offered the more likely subject satisfaction will grow and so will our membership.

An impressive range of interests are already in place including:  Art Appreciation; Basic Computing; Book Club; Local History; Patchwork; Singing for Pleasure; Theatre; Walking; Whist; Basic French; Drama; Creative Writing; Travel Club; Digital Photography; Luncheon Club.

All the hard work of volunteers and the active participation of members in activities has, I believe, in a very short time produced a vibrant Seaham Harbour U3A.  A membership of 0 to nearly 70 and 15 Interest Groups in less than a year is no mean achievement.  Seaham Harbour U3A is now known locally and nationally.  Where will we coastal folk be in 2012?   Perhaps an international U3A.

Sandra Wilkinson