Participation in U3A Summer School

October 14th, 2013Comments Off on Participation in U3A Summer School

On July 15th some 150 members of U3A branches from across the UK assembled at HarperAdamsUniversityCollege in Shropshire for one of the two U3A national Summer Schools of 2013.  They were there to study subjects including Art History,  Roman History, Archeology,  Design and Current Affairs (my choice). There were also some 40 members of a Recorder group  (playing the instrument, not writing things down)-of varying levels of accomplishment, I was told by the member of our group whose accommodation was uncomfortably near to their practice room.  The weather was glorious for all our 3 days of residence, which made it a delight to stroll across the college campus and to use the swimming pool after the afternoons’ discussions.

The topic areas within our 10-strong Current Affairs group included the Surveillance Society,  UK engagement with Europe,  Devolution within the UK,  the role of the House of Lords and MPs salaries.  Our tutor Tim had done excellent work in preparing briefings on the historical context of these topics, which both informed us and shocked some of us by showing how poor was our recall of events in our lifetimes.

Almost needless to say we failed to reach agreed conclusions on any of these subjects, but it was fun trying-“Herding Cats” was one of Tim’s kinder reflections on how to get the group to achieve consensus. The feedback presentations of sub-groups made PM questions at Westminster seem very tame by comparison!

Given this cheerful intellectual chaos, I will not attempt to summarise any of our discussions; but highlights of the group sessions which will stay in my memory include:

The group member who mentioned that the photo on her bus pass made her look like a Moors Murderer, and who was of course addressed as ‘Myra’ for all the rest of the sessions…..

             The member whose hero is Norman Tebbitt and whose response to challenge was to accuse his critics as being self-evidently part of the subversive BBC listeners/Guardian-readers worldwide conspiracy…….

             The member who both looked and sounded like the late John Mortimer, and whose pithy challenges and summaries put the more verbose of us to shame.

All in all it was good fun and I much enjoyed my participation. The venue and its facilities were good, the organisation and the help from the local volunteers was excellent; and it was good to realise just how many vibrant U3A groups cover the country and all seem to be thriving.  I would certainly attend again.

As a Postscript, having learned that many U3A branches do have Current Affairs groups, I am finding out how they are organised and will offer to try to facilitate such a group here in the Stewartry if there seems to be interest.

MIKE LAWTON

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