Local u3a group sees post-lockdown surge

Membership boost for Kings Norton community group.

As the country progresses out of the Covid crisis, the Kings Norton & District branch of the u3a, the lifelong learning organisation, is experiencing a surge in membership enquiries. It is taking part in a national campaign to promote the unique benefits of membership for senior people, especially those who have experienced increased isolation and are apprehensive about resuming social contact.

Founded in 1982, the u3a is a national organisation which enables people who have retired from full time work to explore new ideas, skills and interests in a sociable environment. It is beginning a major national publicity campaign on Wednesday 2nd June to publicise its activities and the benefits of membership, using its slogan of Learn, laugh, live. Membership is currently £14 a year and entitles members to join any of the interest groups available within their local group.

Individual groups, including the Kings Norton & District u3a, are undertaking their own initiatives to promote local awareness. “This last year has been a great challenge for so many, especially those who have needed to shield or live alone.

“As the Covid restrictions are slowly being lifted u3a will provide an ideal opportunity for senior people to start meeting again, enjoy learning and having fun,” said Lorna Brown, acting chairman.

“Kings Norton u3a provides a great way to gently return to social activities. It is very easy to join, it’s low cost and you can choose to take part in any activities.”

In June, the Kings Norton u3a team is offering a series of on-line Zoom coffee mornings at which people interested in learning about the benefits of membership can watch a presentation and talk to committee members. The coffee mornings will take place from 11.00 a.m. on Saturday 5th June and then at the same time on Saturday 12th, 19th and 26th June. Those interested should email knu3anatday@gmail.com in advance to register: they will then be sent details on how to access the event.

The local group has some 40 normally vibrant interest groups, for many of which activities have been significantly curtailed during the past year. Some have managed to sustain their activities on line, but those whose interests involve visits to such establishments as theatres, museums, gardens and stately homes have not been able to operate. However, since the latest lockdown began to ease and opportunities to gather together have been re-established, a transformation is taking place.

“Everyone is looking forward to our monthly meetings re-starting, many members get together for tea and a chat and to hear a speaker give an illustrated talk. Some of the outdoor interest groups have already started to meet,” adds Lorna Brown.

A prime example of this situation is the u3a’s Travel group, which enables members to develop and share the costs of visits, normally of five days (Monday to Friday), to areas of mutual interest around the country. Now that such activities can be organised and booked with confidence, there has been a substantial growth in interest from current members. Capacity for the three events planned so far for this year, which is normally around twenty people, has had to be extended: even so, the groups are now almost full. The visit programme this year includes Llandudno (7th June onwards), Torquay (July 10th onwards) and Northumberland (3rd October onwards).

“It’s been very pleasing to see so many members realising that our Travel group gives them a ready-made series of opportunities to visit places which, because of the impact of Covid, they may have become apprehensive about visiting on their own,” says Carole, the Travel group facilitator: “A number of people who are coming with us this year are new to the group, including some who have joined the u3a specifically to experience our relaxed, sociable trips.”

Founded four years ago, the Kings Norton & District u3a has flourished, with membership now running at around 250. It has developed a remarkable and very broad range of interest groups. “All senior people in the greater Kings Norton area are very welcome. We particularly look forward to seeing new members who may have felt very isolated recently,” says Lorna Brown: “Non-members can come along to the monthly meetings as guests, to see what we do.”

For people interested in the Coffee Morning events, and in group activities and in membership generally, there is more information on the Kings Norton & District website and on Facebook.