Hadleigh Suffolk




Sue Witham
This year has been possibly our most challenging in recent years. There are now well over 1000 U3A’s in the UK with many thousands of members. Worldwide the movement is even bigger. As a result, the U3A movement is now being taken seriously in the wider world. Thus, we have had to contend with the Charity Commission wanting more uniformity in its relationship with us all through the Third Age Trust. As a result, we found the Third Age Trust agreeing on our behalf conformity in the wording in the constitutions of all U3A’s. For an organisation founded on the principle of independence and autonomy this has not gone down well with all of us. Then we were faced with ensuring we conduct our business in accordance with the Data Protection Act. All this may appear somewhat distant from our local Hadleigh U3A activities but actually involved a considerable amount of extra work for those of us involved in matters of compliance.
Hopefully all this is now behind us, although I am still taking issue with the Third Age Trust concerning the creeping suggestion that we should be some sort of unpaid adjunct to Social Services to look after lonely old people. We recruit on the grounds of providing opportunities for retired people to expand their horizons and learn, laugh and live! We rely on new members who are recently retired with time and energy to now seek out new interests and challenges. The fact that so many of our members have then stayed on into later life, because they enjoy it, is I feel testament to sticking to our guns on this point.
On behalf of all our members I must thank our committee and treasurers for their hard work in providing for the ongoing financial stability of our association. Charity Commission rules preclude us from making a profit, so this is an ongoing balancing act. We have covered our costs this year and managed to keep our subscription unchanged for the coming year, although creeping increases in day-to-day running costs may make a small increase necessary next year.
On the committee itself, we have had a few changes in roles. John Daniels seamlessly took over the editorship of the Newsletter, to my enormous relief as I had done it since just after joining in 2012.
A new ruling from National Office meant we had to find a back-up administrator for our website, to cover technical eventualities and Kay Curtis stepped up and took it on, now working with our tireless webmaster Bob Smith. (Since the AGM Kay has taken over the job as Bob had to give up for health reasons.)
Alan Ellis had to take enforced leave for the duration of his operation and recuperation and Jeff Curtis cheerfully agreed to be co-opted into the back-up position for speaker co-ordination to ensure the smooth continuation of our monthly meetings. Again, these things don’t organise themselves and if it all seems effortless it is because they do their job so well. Thank you both.
And lastly our thanks go to Chris Gwinnell who is stepping down at the end of her term of tenure as membership secretary. We are lucky to have Louise Daniels who has agreed to stand for election to take over from Chris in due course.
Our Vice-Chairman Jill Owers and her Entertainments sub-committee and volunteers worked as hard as ever to keep up the variety and regularity of our external events and we had either a theatre trip or a visit to somewhere of interest every month on average in the past year. And of course there was the annual holiday, this year to South Devon which was enjoyed by 22 of our members.
These trips do not happen without major efforts behind the scenes, which deserves our thanks and appreciation. Anyone who feels they would like to help out on the entertainments committee would be most welcome.
Our special interest groups continue to thrive and evolve. A couple of groups have slightly changed their direction, having felt they had run their original course, others have amalgamated into one from previously having two on the same subject. There are currently ideas coming forward for a couple of new groups but they need leaders. I am sure we all appreciate the hard work put in by group leaders to keep them active, relevant and involving for their members.
And finally thanks to you all for continuing to support our U3A with such cheerful enthusiasm. Long may it last!