Annual Report 2015

Chairman’s Report 2015

A year ago, little did I think that I would ever be compiling this report. As we all know, Sandra had insisted that after 4 years as chairman, it really was (again) time for her to stand down, and for someone else to take over. You will recall that, initially, nobody offered to stand for the post, and it was only a few days before the AGM in June that I was persuaded to put my name forward, and I remember saying to Sandra during our discussions, that I felt I could be a “safe pair of hands” for a couple of years. I have to say now, that I am very pleased I did. The last year has been a very interesting and rewarding experience.

But first, as we approach our 5th anniversary in June, let us remember, and thank, those “visionaries” who got together and set up Seaham Harbour U3A (too many to name, but you know who you are!). Without their foresight, hard work and determination, many of us would have a gaping hole in our lives. Yes, the stated aim of the U3A is self-help, learning and let us not forget that, but there are many other benefits of the U3A which Seaham Harbour provides in abundance – fun, friendship, and “family” – because that is what we have all become, friends and family. It is really a joy to see so much going on within our U3A, so much time given freely, so much organisation, so much participation and appreciation. So, a hearty “thank you” to each and every one of our founders. Your efforts have created something of which you can be justly proud.

But enough of self – congratulation! Where are we now? Where are we going?

Well, after 5 years, I think it is fair to say that we are a thriving U3A. We currently have 127 members; a waiting list of 50+ people; 24 activity groups covering all kinds of interests (but we are always amenable to new ideas for new groups). Our monthly meetings are extremely well attended, largely due to the exceptional standard and variety of speakers we are presented with by Jean Mayhew. At a recent U3A meeting in Seaham, our attendance figures were described as, “exceptional” by the regional chairman. But of course, this popularity does create its own problems.

Dow House has proved to be a wonderful venue for the last couple of years. But the numbers attending each monthly meeting, and the numbers on the waiting list, do mean that our committee will always have to be on the lookout for new premises which can provide us with the same, or better facilities. This is an ongoing problem, and has already, as we are all aware, produced some heated discussions – both in public and in committee. However, this problem has not gone away – it is only temporarily on the back burner.

The creation of a new U3A (the Seaham and District U3A ) may well take a good number of people from our waiting list, and would provide a partial solution. It would also, quite possibly, have other benefits of “cross participation” whereby an activity group in one U3A might have free spaces, which could be filled by members of the other U3A; similar arrangements might be possible on trips and excursions, in order to help “fill the bus” and keep costs down. Only time will tell. But again, a huge amount of time has been spent by Sandra and Jean Bradley in helping the new U3A get started.

During the year, Group Leaders have been extremely active in finding, booking, and organising all kinds of activities, ranging from the gentle stroll along the prom, to the more sedate trivial pursuit games; from flower arranging to the more active hikers; from the gourmets of the lunch club, to the connoisseurs of the wine tasting group; from the brand new cookery group, to the speaking French group,(perhaps I should join that one) and the aesthetic values of the art appreciation group and the theatre group and many more besides. Much time and effort has been put in on behalf of the membership, and I would like to thank all Group Leaders for their time and effort, but above all, for their continued enthusiasm.

Highlights of the year: can I suggest the following – the Christmas lunch trip to the treehouse at Alnwick Castle; the “Red Hatters” day out to Ladies Day at Newcastle Races; the Christmas buffet at Seaham Golf Club; the theatre trip to see “Warhorse”; the gardening club trip to Harlow Carr; and the upcoming trip to Austria comprising members from several groups.

Finally, I cannot finish this report without saying a great big “Thank you” to the members of the Steering Committee. This group of people work tirelessly on our behalf to keep us on the right track. It has not always been easy this year with the feeling about a potential move to new premises, but the committee has always remained positive, and attempted to work together, and not let personal views get in the way of the collective good. Many of them have served for 5 years on the committee in prominent roles and will be difficult to replace, should they decide to stand down in the future. Kath Crabb, has decided to step down as “Minutes Secretary” after 4 years. Her help, and efforts on our behalf, in particular her secretarial skills, have been highly valued, and meetings are likely to take much longer in the future. Thank you, Kath for your efforts.

Allan Gurney

May 2015