Leeds U3A The University of the Third Age

The canal gardens, Roundhay

Bulletin and Annual Report

U3A Leeds Bulletin

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Chairperson's Report for 2016–17

As this is my third and final report as Chairperson of U3A Leeds I'd like to formally put on record my sincere thanks for your support throughout my term of office and let you know that it has been an honour to have served as your Chairperson. For me, the last three years have been interesting, positive, productive, exasperating, despairing and happy by turn but they have also gone by remarkably quickly. Apart from the alarming incident in 2015 when we came perilously close to losing U3A Leeds for lack of a viable Committee, my time as Chairperson has mostly been enjoyable. I believe that following that crisis in 2015 and with your support we drew back from the brink of extinction resulting in a healthier, stronger and more cohesive organisation.

In my first report I set out four goals I hoped to achieve as Chairperson. They were:

  1. to make U3A Leeds more inclusive, welcoming and convivial;
  2. to widen the choice of subjects/activities on offer;
  3. to encourage membership participation;
  4. to keep U3A Leeds growing, vibrant, relevant and interesting.

You must decide for yourself whether I have succeeded but the Committee and I have worked hard to achieve those goals. We have also brought forward a number of improvements along the way, for example:

  1. setting up Bank Transfer arrangements allowing members to send monies direct to U3A Leeds;
  2. registration with the Gift Aid Scheme generating income from HMRC through which we have been able to defray rising costs;
  3. the replacement of outdated U3A equipment for groups and the purchase of a dedicated U3A laptop on which to keep our records; the purchase of digital projectors for use at our each of our main venues as well as new display boards;
  4. a revamp of the way groups book and pay for the hire of rooms in line with the requirements of some venues;
  5. producing business cards and a new leaflet specific to U3A Leeds enabling our Publicity Subgroup to carry U3A Leeds to a wider audience.

Membership growth has remained steady reaching a healthy 511 at the end of December 2016. The number of groups and activities available has also shown a healthy increase as, alongside new groups starting, some of the more popular groups have divided in order to accommodate members on waiting lists. We now have a total of 39 groups with more being added on a regular basis.

Your committee has sent delegates to the Yorkshire and Humberside Regional U3A committee meetings to forge closer links with fellow U3As throughout the region. The YAHR Summer Showcase was attended by U3As from all around the Yorkshire and Humberside Region who gathered together to celebrate. We hired a bus and a number of members travelled to Askham Bryan for a full day out at the event. The weather was glorious; there were speakers, choirs, displays, activities and group demonstrations not least of which was one by the U3A Leeds' Card Making Group. Members also enjoyed guided trips round the Horticultural College's gardens as well as an opportunity to buy plants.

We sent two delegates to the U3A National Conference in Nottingham in 2016 allowing us to cast our vote in the election of officers to the National Committee. It was an ideal opportunity to meet with delegates from other U3As in the UK and discuss our ideas, shared interests and experiences. It was announced at the Conference that a milestone had been reached and there are now 1000 U3As throughout the UK.

In April 2015 we celebrated our 30th Anniversary and hosted party for all members which was very well attended. One hundred members enjoyed a small buffet tea organised by the newly formed catering sub-committee and it was during that party it was suggested that we might cater our own cold fork buffet for the Christmas lunch. The formal Christmas Lunch at Castle Grove had become expensive and attendance had been declining year on year until only 50 people had attended the 2014 event. The catering subcommittee agreed to take on the task of producing a suitable event and provided an first-rate 2015 Festive Buffet Lunch for £10 per person, a fraction of the cost of lunch at Castle Grove. As a result attendance more than doubled. This formula was successfully repeated last year and, even with the cost of hiring an outside caterer, we held another excellent 2016 Christmas buffet lunch which was enjoyed by a hundred members at a cost of £15 per person.

In my first year as Chair, the Committee and I agreed to vary general meetings by interspersing the speakers with quizzes and group demonstrations. Many members seemed to enjoy the change but after receiving complaints from a few it was reluctantly agreed to return to having a speaker at every meeting. However, this is currently under review as the committee has again been asked to vary the programme for 2017. Attendance at Tuesday General meetings has remained steady and we have enjoyed talks on a wide range of topics with some memorable speakers.

The Committee often receives useful information and offers for members as well as requests for U3A Leeds' members to take part in research projects and we have circulated these as regularly and as widely as possible. Examples of some of the projects in which we have participated are; biomechanical research aimed at designing better artificial hip joints, research into nutrition and ageing, a visit to the new research laboratories of Cancer Research UK at St James' Hospital and a survey on night driving.

Last year U3A Leeds was presented with an award by the Lord Mayor of Leeds in recognition of the outstanding contribution our organisation makes to the citizens and communities of Leeds. I and two other committee members were proud to collect a certificate on behalf of all members of U3A Leeds.

For the first time in several years we have increased the annual subscription rate to £12.00 as per the mandate given at last year's AGM. The charge for attending the fortnightly general meeting has also been increased to £2.00. The committee has been holding back on these increases for the past three years but it has become clear that price rises in room rents, speaker fees and everything in between has meant that our costs were not being adequately covered. It is expected that these price rises will secure our financial position for the foreseeable future.

I have been fortunate in having had good committee members to support me in my endeavours as well as excellent group leaders who are the backbone of our organisation. The volunteers who ensure the success of general meetings are invaluable and my thanks go to every one of you.

In conclusion, I do not feel I have been as successful as I would have hoped in encouraging more membership participation as there are not enough members prepared to volunteer anything but their annual subscription fee to help keep U3A Leeds running. This has been a constant worry and I am saddened that we cannot get 12 members out of 500 plus willing to serve a term on the Executive Committee because U3A Leeds could very easily come to an end as was demonstrated in 2015. The tasks required of an Executive Committee member are not onerous and plenty of help and support is available to those willing to give it a try.

We were set up to be a self-help organisation of like minded people who pursue lifelong learning by sharing our knowledge, skills, interests and hobbies in a spirit of equality, friendship and cooperation. Volunteering is an integral part of the fundamental principle of our self-determination and I can only urge you become part of the solution rather than remain part of the problem.

Having recently witnessed the inauguration of the new President of the United States of America I was reminded of the words of a speech made by John F Kennedy at his inauguration which, with sincere apologies, I have borrowed and adapted to suit our purposes:

"My fellow members of U3A Leeds,
Ask not what your U3A can do for you, but what you can do for your U3A"

Janet Keogh
March 2017


Annual Accounts for 2016 (pdf document, 4MB).