Many people may have heard of the University of the Third Age (U3A) movement without actually knowing what it’s all about- me included - which is why I went along to one of their meetings to uncover the truth.
It’s not some sort of secret, underground group as you may have thought but an organisation for people who simply want to continue exploring what life has to offer.
Hucknall’s U3A has been running for six years and was founded when the Ashfield group became oversubscribed.
It has grown from that initial start-up of 100 members to now reaching almost 400 and can boast of a waiting list as others are eager to join.
The U3A movement is described as ‘a unique and exciting organisation which provides life-enhancing and life-changing opportunities for retired and semi-retired people to come together and learn together’.
Its members come from all walks of life to share their skills and life experiences and learn new ones. Some may join as widows or widowers, as couples, friends or alone - but they won’t feel lonely for long with so many new frinds and opportunities on hand.
“There is something for everybody at the U3A,” said speaker secretary, Sue Stanley. “It’s a self-help group for people to share skills, network, make friends and take part in social events.
“We have a meeting each month and try and offer a variety of speakers that we hope will interest the group.”
There is an annual membership of £15. Some goes towards the national organisation and the rest to help pay for the speakers who visit the meetings at Hucknall Leisure Centre - the only venue large enough to accommodate the members - who come from across Hucknall and the surrounding villages.
As well as the main meeting, there are interest groups that members can join. These vary from theatre and music to science and language clubs.
The group was recommended to Lauren Armstrong by a friend, so she went along and joined the club.
“It’s a great way to meet different people with a varied amount of activities that you can take part in or not,” said Lauren of Hucknall. “It also gives you the chance to do something you have never done before.
“I have joined the choir and started to learn a language. I really enjoy it and keep coming.”
Retired Sylvia Cocker praised the organisers of the group: “They have great organisational structure and present some interesting speakers.”
Valerie Nattrass joined three years ago and has never looked back.
“A friend introduced me and now we come together,” said Valerie. “My husband likes to bowl so I come here independent of him.
“I have joined the lunch club and love the trips. We have been to Ascot, visited stately homes and many places of interest.
“But you don’t have to commit yourself to everything, you can just take part in what you fancy.”
David Curtis is retired from the coal industry and is a member of the science club. This has taken him to the Toyota factory, a power station and treated them to a talk by a neo-natal hospital professor.
“It gives you access to places you wouldn’t normally go to, especially as an individual,” explained David. “Holidays are also offered as part of an organised group which gives discounts and makes it less daunting for people on their own.
“There is bound to be at least one interest group you can get involved in.”
During my visit, the members were preparing to welcome their next guest, Roxanne Dinsdale, who has been a professional belly dancer for nearly 30 years. She travels the country doing weddings and theme nights sharing her skills, which also include snake charming and fire eating.
As Roxanne started to gyrate to the hypnotic tune in her beaded body-stocking costume and veil, I left the U3A members watching the display and wondering if there really was a snake in the basket.
For more information about the Hucknall U3A contact Sue Stanley on email: email@example.com.