Fairford and District U3A

The area covered by Fairford and District U3A includes the two ancient towns of Fairford and Lechlade, four miles apart. It is a lively association, open to anyone in their third age who is not in full-time employment. There are no age restrictions. University is used in its original sense of a group of people coming together to learn. We have no exams, but enjoy working, playing and learning together.

Inaugural committee

In the Beginning
Fairford and District U3A began in late 1994 when Guen Taylor put a small insert in ‘What's On’ in Fairford and Lechlade asking for anybody interested in starting a U3A in Fairford to contact her. There was a healthy response, and she set up a meeting of interested parties at the Poulton Village Hall in January 1995. About forty people turned up and volunteers were invited to form a steering committee. The first meeting of the Steering Committee was on February 13th and consisted of Guen Taylor Chairman, Peter Maslin General Co-ordinator, Mary Sharp Treasurer, Eileen Ferguson Membership Secretary, Roy Sharp Programme Secretary, and Joyce Deane Newsletter Editor.

Moving Forward
Prospective members were asked to offer their services as Group Leaders. The initial response was six: Barney Rowley for Beginners Bridge, Geoff Bishop for Walking with a Pub Lunch, Margaret Bishop for Intermediate Bridge, Humphrey Gillett for Poetry, Guen Taylor for Keep Fit and Dorothy Grobecker for Philosophy.  Many of our original groups continue to run very successfully; Geoff Bishop still runs the Walking with a Pub Lunch Group and Margaret still runs her Intermediate Bridge group with Geoff teaching beginners Bridge from time to time.

Tenth anniversary cake

When the Steering Committee met in March 1995, Joyce Deane was made Vice-Chairman and Evelyn Cumiskey joined as Secretary. Bill Moore was approached to produce a regular newsletter and joined the committee as Editor. He produced the first 41 newsletters to a very high standard. The first monthly speaker was June Lewis in April 1995 with a talk about the History of Fairford. Attention was turned to producing a Constitution, and preparations were put in hand for the Inaugural General Meeting which was held in July 1995.

Forming a Committee
The main business of the inaugural meeting was to elect a Committee. Most of the Steering Committee retained the same positions but Ellen Millard became Programme Secretary to replace Roy Sharp and two new positions were established, namely Group Co-ordinator Gina Richardson, and Hall Manager Tony Taylor. Membership by this time had increased to 60, and there were ten active groups. The first AGM was held in May 1996. It was not until this meeting that the U3A constitution was finalised after consultation and presented to members for formal approval.

Present and Future
Since those early years the Fairford and District U3A has continued to expand and now has over 300 members and about 30 groups. None of the original Committee members are still in office. The committee meets once a month in the Fairford Community Centre to plan future activities. We are a registered charity and as a result benefit from government gift aid each year.

We have a speaker meeting that starts at 2.30 in the Palmer Hall on the first Tuesday of each month. We have had some first class speakers to entertain us and this is followed by tea or coffee and biscuits served in rotation by different group members.

10th anniversary poster

Since 1997 Fairford and District U3A has been a member of the Cotswold Link, which has now grown to a network of 16 U3As from the area between Malvern, Evesham, Fairford to Ross on Wye. The Cotswold Link meets twice a year to discuss topics of mutual benefit. It also participated in the Cotswold Link Millennium Celebrations held on June 14th 2000 at Cheltenham Town Hall. Each U3A takes turn to host Cotswold Link meetings; Fairford hosted the Spring meeting and AGM in 2010. You can follow the Cotswold Link activities through the link on our website.

More recently, the Fairford and District U3A has become a member of the South West region of U3As and this group meets twice a year. The Region fills the gap for many U3As who don’t have the benefit of belonging to a network like the Cotswold Link, but it also provides an additional support network for all SW region U3As. Because it is so widely spread geographically, the region’s meetings have been split into 2 to avoid U3A committee members travelling so far.

Each U3A is autonomous. We are not managed by the U3A headquarters in Bromley, Kent but we pay a capitation fee to Bromley each year to help fund their office expenses and other costs. We gain benefits such as insurance, as well as the quarterly magazine and Sources booklet each year. You can read more about the national U3A’s role through the link on our website as well as find information about a diverse range of subjects including on-line courses.

The U3A gives members an opportunity to keep their minds active, keep interests alive, develop new skills, explore new horizons, meet new friends and share skills and experience.

JB January 2011 2011 Fairford & District U3A