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Thanks to everyone who attended our AGM and helped to set our u3a on the path for another year. The new committee has had informal discussions about the next few months, but at the time of writing we still await the government guidance on how our lives will be after 21 June. Many of our groups are now restarting, making their own decisions about where and how to meet, taking into account current Covid guidance. Some groups, however, have decided to wait a while longer, which is equally understandable.
Assuming that the official guidance doesn’t change, we are provisionally planning for the return of our indoor coffee mornings in September/October. This is also when we’ll be concentrating our efforts on reconnecting with the wider community and encouraging new members to join (and lapsed members to rejoin us). We are hopeful that, with the relaxation of restrictions, this extra activity will encourage new groups to start up.
Every crisis has its threats and opportunities. For our u3a the major threat is a significant decline in membership – both in numbers and in engagement. Ex-members have often told me that they enjoyed belonging to u3a for the social contact and to meet people, which of course has not been possible for many months now. On the plus side, however, once we are able to meet again, there will be plenty of new opportunities: new people in the community and existing members whose lifestyles have undergone major change. They may well be looking for new challenges or the chance to develop interests with like-minded people.
Technology has allowed us to access a wider range of speakers at coffee mornings and to share presenters and meetings with other u3a groups across the UK. We are already working on hybrid meetings – a mix of online and face to face – so that those unable to attend in person will be able to join in. So despite all the challenges caused by the pandemic, the result for us will, I hope, be a broader offer and some exciting innovations.
Let’s make a steady, gradual return to active u3a membership. I trust that you’ll enjoy the summer months and that, like me, you’ll look forward to joining our schools, colleges and universities with renewed enthusiasm at the start of the next academic year.