It was a chance meeting of three people sitting together over lunch which inspired a new movement for people in the ‘third age’ in the Preston District exactly 10 years ago.
Encouraged by ideas shared at a lifelong learning U3A conference at UCLan, Judith Porter, Russell Porter and Felicity Stockwell decided to turn their seed of an idea into a reality and create a branch of their very own.
Recently the trio cut the cake to mark the tenth anniversary of the Preston branch and celebrated with a lunch at Preston North End with more than 150 members.
Since the founding of the group in 2007 and the set-up of an active programme, the ‘university’ has helped bring together 600 retired and semi-retired people in the pursuit of new interests.
Current chairwoman Penny Craig said the anniversary was the perfect occasion to celebrate all the achievements of the branch, she says: “We owe a huge thank you to Judith, Russell and Felicity who in 2007 thought that it would be a good idea for Preston and District to have a U3A and are so pleased that they turned this thought into a reality – one which we now all enjoy 10 years on.
“Judith and Russell started the first music group and Russell lent his computer skills whilst Felicity set up a very well appreciated Art Appreciation Group.
“They were the perfect role models as to how the U3A should operate on an each one teach one basis and a huge amount of enthusiasm coupled with an all hands on deck approach.”
Founding members Judith, Russell and Felicity all attended the celebration dinner.
Initially there were fewer than 30 members but such was the development of that early programme, today hundreds of local people are taking advantage of classes, workshops and social events from arts and craft, to flower arranging, creative writing, to drama, cycling and walking, bird watching, yoga and even new languages.
There are more than 50 activities on the social timetable, meeting on different days either once monthly but some more often. The regular meeting spot for the Preston branch is St Cuthbert’s Church Centre, Lytham Road in Fulwood. Most sessions cost as little as £2.
The U3A has a ‘university’ of members who draw upon their knowledge and experience to teach and learn from each other but there are no qualifications to pass – it is just for pleasure.
Penny adds: “From that little acorn and a little help from the Lottery, Preston and District U3A is now able to offer over 600 people in their third age a variety of experiences from art appreciation to walking and many more groups besides such as languages, dancing, crafts, music and history.
“Many of the original members are still running groups for the U3A and continuing the ethos of each one teach one.
“The majority of our meetings are held at St Cuthbert’s and our monthly meeting, which we encourage all our members to attend, is held at PNE.
“We celebrated our 10 Year Anniversary with a lunch at PNE for 150 of our members. We had live entertainment, quizzes and games and were so pleased that our three founder members were there to share those memories of early days and to cut our celebratory cake.
“Our membership continues to grow and proves that Preston and District is here to stay for another 10 years and beyond offering education and friendship to our cities growing older population.
“There is always someone to help with anything, you only need to ask.”
If you wish to join the U3A you can download an application form from the website https://u3asites.org.uk/preston Send the completed form with your cheque for £15, made payable to Preston and District U3A.