Alton U3A – For the Young at Heart

January 24, 2012 in Features, Lifestyle, U3A

One of the busiest events of our year will take place on Friday Aug 17. It has the mysterious title “Registration Day of Alton U3A”, and is at the Community Centre from 2.00 to 3.30pm.

What is the U3A?

It’s the University of the Third Age, which we admit is a bit confusing. First, it is not a university – there are no entry qualifications, and no exams! No degrees are awarded. And the “Third Age” means being retired or semi-retired. The first two ages are growing up, and then being busy with work, family etc. Our year runs from August to the following June giving everybody a summer break.

So what do we do?

We provide educational and social activities, mostly run by the members themselves. Many are enthusiastic and knowledgeable in a particular field, and they run classes in anything from dancing to biology. The range is impressive – there are more than 45 groups including chess, French, the history of psychoanalysis, bridge, rambling, philosophy, computers, Australian history, painting, keep fit and economics. Some meet every week, others just once a month, and for the annual subscription of £31 you can join as many as you like.

Other activities include a choir, a lunch club, coffee mornings, excursions and visits to classical concerts, plus talks by visiting speakers.

“Registration Day” is when members descend on the community centre to sign up for their chosen courses after the summer break. It’s a chance to quiz group leaders about their groups, and for newcomers to join up. Anyone who is interested but doesn’t want to wait until the 17th should ring our membership secretary Elaine Constable on 01962 772279.

The U3A story

The U3A was founded in France in 1972, when it did have close links with universities. It reached England ten years later, and is now running successfully all over the world. There are more than a quarter of a million members in the UK alone. The U3A idea arrived in Alton in 1993 when it was greeted with enthusiasm at a crowded public meeting. A steering committee was set up, publicity was organised and soon there were 100 members under the caretaker chairmanship of Gerald Davies.

Our first “proper” chairman was David Davis, who ran the archaeology group for many years and is still a member. He was followed after his three-year stint by Morris Hopkins, then Peter Goodrham, Tom Arnott, Henry Robb and now Barry Lees. We were helped in our infancy by Farnham U3A, who gave us a loan, and by the Community Centre, who gave us free accommodation for six weeks. Membership has grown steadily over the years to reach over 500, but there is no limit to the number we would like to join us.

U3As are very much of their time. This is the first period in history when so many people have had the health and income in retirement to seek new challenges. Alton U3A is here for those who would like to take up a new interest, for those who would like to meet new friends, and for those who simply want to know more about what is going on in the world. The general rule is that U3As attract those who are young for their age. One chairman even commented that his members were 10 years younger than non-members of the same age. But that was in Darlington some years ago . . . we can’t actually promise the same in Alton!

PS If anyone would like to join and then want to run a course on a subject we do not already cover please contact John Stanton on 01420 362066