The Formation of Wells U3A

A Personal Account

It was in July 1992 that I first heard about the University of the Third Age on Radio Bristol and I decided that Wells could do with a U3A! After making inquiries from both the National Office and locally from Strode U3A, I set about publishing the notion of the U3A by distributing posters in key locations in Wells including the library, CAB, the Post Offices as well as four local churches. I also contacted the Wells Journal who issued a press release and as a result of these efforts about six interested people came forward. Undaunted, we formed a working party which produced an Acting Treasurer, Acting Secretary, Social Secretary together with four Group Leaders.

Our first Open Meeting took place on 21st January 1993 at the Blue School Annexe in Portway when eighty people squeezed in to hear about this ‘new organisation especially for the over fifties’. We were overwhelmed with the enthusiastic reception - but it was also very scary!

I welcomed everyone to the meeting and after a short explanation about the U3A I handed over to Norman Richards, Vice Chairman of the U3A National Organisation and member of Thamesdown U3A, who gave us background information about the U3A, its formation, aims and objectives. He emphasized the importance of retaining a positive attitude towards retirement, the needs of ‘third agers’ for active involvement in continued learning as well as the importance of development of individuals through an exchange of skills using the concept of ‘self-help’. Prospective Group Leaders then came forward and each spoke about their particular interest after which membership enrolments took place.

By the beginning of February our Acting Treasurer reported 53 signed up members and we registered with the U3A Trust on 12th February 1993. At our Inaugural General Meeting on 29th April membership had risen to 81! Yes, Wells definitely did want a U3A!

Over the past twenty years Wells U3A has continued to grow and I am told that membership now exceeds 700. Wow!