Founder-member John Smart writes: In 1987 Tony McCormack, an Open University graduate who had taken early retirement, became interested in the then University of the Third Age movement while recovering from an operation. He decided to see if a U3A could be set up in Southend and wrote to the National U3A office for the names of any Southenders who might have made enquiries about U3A.
Already teaching Art part time at Southend Adult Education Centre, Tony then wrote to the enquirers, inviting them to a series of lectures at the Beecroft Art Gallery. Six people replied; and after their first meeting in early September, a brief mention in the local newspaper brought in one or two others.
Roz Stratton, a retired librarian, became the first secretary. Vi Herrick, who lived close by the gallery, offered hospitality for committee meetings and led the ladies who provided tea and biscuits at the members' meetings.
By that November, there were sufficient members to formally institute Southend U3A. Because of the small numbers, early meetings were held weekly, unlike many other U3As, and weekly meetings have continued. Poor attendances in August led to a close-down during that month.
In 1989 Headquarters suggested all U3As should seek charitable status. We were reluctant; but after a formal instruction was issued, we achieved that status in 1994.
The first Annual General Meeting took place in January 1989 and I was elected the first chairman. Eventually meetings were moved to the Quaker Meeting House in Leigh, for extra space and proximity to bus routes. In 1991 Southend adopted the "model constitution" proposed by Headquarters.
We moved to our current venue in 1996.