Arun Valley U3A celebrates 25th anniversary

Peter Basset, one of the early members, cutting the decorated anniversary cakes
Peter Basset, one of the early members, cutting the decorated anniversary cakes

The 25th anniversary of Arun Valley U3A was celebrated at the annual garden party, held near Petworth, in a member’s garden.

Strawberries with cream and homemade scones were the order of the day, followed by the celebratory cutting of decorated anniversary cakes by Peter Basset, one of the early members.

As well as the membership, the structure of the U3A has changed over the years.

From a small beginning with a little group of enthusiastic members, Arun Valley U3A has increased to more than 20 independently-run groups operating under the common banner of U3A, which stands for University of the Third Age.

It is part of the Third Age Trust, the national representative body for more than 900 U3As in the UK, which supports the U3A movement by providing a wide range of services, including the legal backing for all the groups, insurance, Public Performance of Music Licence, Recorded Music Licence, DVD and Video MPLC Licence, Copyright Licencing Agency Licence and Creative Commons Licence for Digital Images, making it simple for groups with a common interest to function efficiently and cheaply.

The low annual membership cost of £10 covers administration and a few groups have a small fee to cover hall charges.

Graham Martin, publicity officer for Arun Valley U3A, said: “It helps retired people expand their interests, skills and learning in an informal friendly atmosphere.

“It’s never too late to try something new. You can meet people with similar interests.

“Recently, You and Yours on Radio 4, and BBC1 TV, presented programmes aimed at retirement activity. The advantages of U3A were promoted as a means of keeping mind and body active, and as an antidote to loneliness.

“People join U3A to continue their passion for learning or simply keep their minds active and enjoy the fellowship of like-minded people and make new friends and have fun.”

Membership allows for joining any group, as long as it is not full. Most of the groups meet in the members’ homes, which is the main factor affecting group size, but this could be between five and 30, or more in a hall.

Originally, the university link was important and U3A is straight translation of the original French title. University is used in its original sense, of people coming together to learn, not in its academic sense. It is a collection of people devoted to learning with members not students, all of whom are in their third age, which refers to the time after full-time employment.

The approach is learning for pleasure, with no accreditation or validation, and no assessments or qualifications. It is self-help learning and mutual aid, relying on the experience and enthusiasm of the members.

The U3As are self-funded, operationally-independent organisations which exist to provide a wide range of activities.

Arun Valley U3A covers Petworth, Pulborough, Billingshurst, Bury, Storrington, West Chiltington, Coldwaltham and surrounding areas. Other U3As in the area include Midhurst, Horsham, Steyning, Chichester and Arun West for the Bognor area.

Its independent groups include arts and crafts, archaeology, ballroom dancing, ballet and dance appreciation, a book circle, coffee and conversation, craft and embroidery, film appreciation, flowers and gardens, French conversation, history and discussion, two luncheon groups, music appreciation, natural history, poetry, science and technology, table tennis, Spanish conversation and two walking groups with short and long walks.

New groups are easily formed if the demand is there. There are also events and visits, a Christmas dinner, and a summer garden party.

One motto is ‘retired but not retiring’ as U3A is a chance for older people to keep their minds active.

It is not a substitute for adult education classes, a school or college, or a passive audience needing a leader to instruct them.

Visit www.arunvalleyu3a.org.uk for more information, email the membership secretary at memsec@arunvalleyu3a.org.uk or telephone Graham Martin on 01798 865528.