Open Meeting Reports 2015

December 2015 – Christmas Meeting

Our December “Christmas Special” meeting was, as in past years, extremely lively and enjoyable. We had “in house” entertainment showcasing the special talents of some of our members, as well as entertainment from pupils of College House School.

The morning commenced with members gathering for refreshments, coffee and cakes presided over by Sheila Strang and her team of willing volunteer members. Sheila has led the refreshment team since the beginning of U3A and has never missed a meeting, but has been a little under the weather of late and we wish her a very speedy recovery. Thanks to Kath Childs for stepping up to the plate for the February meeting. Sheila and her team do a marvellous job month after month and we are extremely grateful for their efforts.

The meeting began with a very informative talk from Mandy Topp, (below) the U3A Regional Co-ordinator for Shared Learning Projects. More details on this appear later in this edition.

We were then entertained by our own Ukulele Group led by Kath Childs. Before the performance of seasonal songs, Kath told us some interesting facts. Apparently the ukulele is descended from an instrument called a machete brought to the islands by sailors visiting Hawaii from Portugal. You may have heard that ukulele means “jumping flea” in Hawaiian. However, the last queen of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Liliuokalani, translated ukulele as “gift from afar”.

The first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong loved to play the ukulele (as do many other famous people). In fact, after visiting the moon he spent several weeks in quarantine as scientists at the time feared he may have picked up strange bacteria while in space. He spent much of this time in quarantine strumming his uke.

Next, the Play Reading Group pulled out all the stops and gave us a splendid “vignette” of the pantomime Cinderella. It was compered by Eve Gurd and was extremely amusing.

Cinderella was played by Suzan Gokova; the Wicked Step Mother was Janet Bywater. In a versatile dual role, Sylvia Trench was an Ugly Sister and the Fairy Godmother, with Linda Sadler as Ugly Sister number two and Christine Dornan was Prince Charming, and A Curtain!

Last but by no means least, students from Chilwell School, pictured below, entertained us with music and songs. The group were not regular performers, but sang and played together purely for pleasure. They were excellent and it was a joy to see these young people enjoying making music together.

The photographs above were taken by Mike Johnson.

November 2015

November’s meeting brought us Jean Townsend, (pictured left) who is a social historian. Jean gave a humorous and informative talk entitled The Last Laugh – An Amusing Look at Epitaphs.

The talk began on a serious note when Jean told us about the extensive research that she has done in graveyards and the restrictions that now apply in many Anglican Parishes. In many case families are no longer able to choose the size, colour and wording on headstones but must abide by, what Jean feels are, very unnecessary rules and regulations. In most counties you can no longer put ‘what is in your heart’ as epitaphs are forbidden. However, this is not the rule in the Roman Catholic Church. She also told us that it is the Church commission’s policy to take down headstones that may look insecure and they go often for scrap showing little regard of the importance they would hold for the people who put them there or the fact that we are losing some of our heritage.

Jean then went on to give many extremely amusing and moving examples of epitaphs she has found in graveyards near and far. This led to much laughter!!

Just a couple of examples as I wasn’t quick enough to get most of them down.

She told us about a gravestone in Ireland shaped like a gypsy caravan which was on the grave of a woman with low morals who entertained (!) many men in the village. The women insisted that her epitaph should read ‘She sleeps alone –at last’. Another amusing example was on a non- believer’s gravestone which read ‘Here lives an atheist –all dressed up and nowhere to go’ This was a very enjoyable talk from an excellent speaker.

My thanks to Sue Blackley for this write up.

October 2015

October’s Speaker was Tony Horton and his topic The Story of British Dance Bands.  Tony was a very good speaker and had a lot of information to tell us about British Dance Bands.  He went from early 1900s to 1940s, using tapes of music popular during the different decades. Many of our Members entered into the spirit of the morning, joining in and recounting some of their experiences at Nottingham Palais and other local dance halls.  Tony was so popular we may, at a later date, invite him to talk to us again. Thanks to Lucy Beardsley for this write-up.


September 2015

In September, we enjoyed a second visit from Rami Seth who this time told us all about Religions, Castes, and Arranged Marriages in India. The talk was extremely fascinating and he was able, in a relatively short time, to impart a vast amount of interesting information, far too detailed to even attempt to reproduce here. I found the subject of arranged marriages particularly interesting. Marriages are arranged based on the compatibility, reputation, vocation and wealth of the two families, and are never forced.  Rami is an excellent speaker, and his talks are always informative, humorous and well delivered. He is always a pleasure to listen to and we look forward to welcoming him back in the future.

August 2015

The August open meeting talk was given by Robert Alan-Haven, pictured left taking members’ questions, who told us about his experiences of swimming with dolphins, both individuals and pods, around the world.  His first time was with a group in Dingle Harbour in Ireland who hoped to swim with a single dolphin called Fungy. His first encounter with the dolphin was brief as Robert was frightened by the dolphin and Fungy sensed this and swam away but as the week progressed he became calmer and Fungy responded by jumping over and around him 5 times without touching him but on the 6th time the dolphin hit him on the head with his tail. Robert was shocked but unhurt and then when he stretched his neck and turned his head he realised it was easier to move – the dolphin had used his sonar ability to “x-ray” his neck and realised there was a problem and sorted it out.  Robert told us of other swimmers in the various groups he was a member of and that he had organized who had benefitted from dolphin help.  He has swum with pods who swim freely and ones that don’t – these are in America where the dolphins are trained to swim and kept captive.  After the talk we enjoyed a slide show of the various dolphins he had encountered.  A very fascinating and informative talk.  If you would like to find out more, Robert has his own website:

July 2015

July brought us Trevor Impy, who gave us an interesting talk on British Icons. Trevor explained that an icon is considered a symbol attached to a belief. He described how icons can be Inanimate places such as the Giant’s Causeway. Taste icons, e.g. fish and chips, and Irish Stew, Sound icons, such as Big Ben and steam engines, the first cuckoo and the all clear sirens from Wold War II. There are many iconic buildings, iconic clothing such as the mini skirt, the kilt and the busby. The bowler hat designed by Edward Coke in 1849 became the badge of business men but had originally been worn by gamekeepers to protect their heads from the tree branches whilst on horseback. Agatha Christie created two great literary Icons in the shape of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. There were many other British Icons, and Trevor included fascinating snippets of facts about them which made for a very informative and thought provoking talk.

June 2015

Unusually, in June, we were entertained by two speakers. Don Sharpe and Mr Mitchell. Don, however, did most of the talking as Mr Mitchell is Don’s Hearing Dog.  Mr Mitchell contented himself with lying serenely on the stage, supervising!  Don described the work of the Hearing Dogs Charity, which was founded in 1979 by veterinarian Bruce Fogle, father of TV presenter Ben Fogle.  It costs £45,000 to train a dog and training begins when a dog is 8 weeks old.  The dog will spend a year with specialist puppy trainers who teach obedience, socialisation and introduce different sounds that the dog will need in order to work for its hearing impaired owner.  At the age of one year, training begins in earnest and this training is geared towards the needs of the previously identified new owner.  For example Don has a great interest in steam trains so Mr Mitchell was exposed to the trains as part of his training.  During the last week of training, the prospective new owner will spend one week at the centre and work with the dog, before they embark on their life together.  If you would like to know more about this amazing organisation, their website address is 

Here are some photographs taken by Mike Johnson:

May 2015

The AGM was held on 7 May 2015.

Following the 2015 AGM on 7 May 2015 the Committee 2015-2016 is :

Sue Blackley Chair
Richard Eddleston Business Secretary
Malcolm Brookbanks Treasurer
Chris Chater Group Coordinator
Lucy Beardsley Speaker Seeker/ Outings Organiser
Margot Gale Membership Secretary/Vice Chair
Marie Potts Newsletter Editor
Elizabeth Le Marchant Brock Minutes Secretary
Breda Cooper Committee Member
Stephen Austin Publicity Officer
Jo Muxlow Social Treasurer

May 2015

This year’s AGM took place on the Thursday May 7th 2015 at Chilwell Road Methodist Church and was attended by 160 members. After refreshments and cakes the meeting commenced in the Church. The Acting Chair, Helen Stewart was unable to attend due to a rearranged holiday so Lucy Beardsley, Vice Chair, ably stepped into the breach. Helen was thanked, in her absence, on behalf of the Committee and membership, for taking over the Chair position when Liz Barnes left us.

After the reading of the Chairman’s report by Lucy, Malcolm Brookbanks, Acting Treasurer presented the accounts which were duly adopted and then came the election of Vacant Committee Posts for 2015-17. See above for details of Committee and their posts.

Karen who is the Office Administrator for the Methodist Church accepted a small token of thanks for all the help she had given to us during the past year. Karen is a very important member of the CRMC team. She’s kind, helpful and unflappable and ensures that our U3A meetings and Interest Groups run smoothly.

U3A member Karin Williams  was a recent winner of the I Love Beeston Sports Personality of the Year – she gave us a short talk about her nomination and win and she was congratulated by the members.

Acting Chairman’s Report

HelenIt has been an up-and-down year for Beeston U3A since our last AGM.

On the positive side we have seen our membership reach an amazing five hundred and fifty plus and our Open Meetings have had regular attendances of 200 – 300 people ; despite the tram trying its best to prevent access to the church.

It has been four years since we first launched the U3A in May 2011 and, unsurprisingly, there have been several changes in these last twelve months. Many of our interest groups have thrived; some, for a variety of reasons, have had to close; others have had a change of leader and some new groups have started up. I believe that at least seven new groups were launched this year. It would be far too long and impossible to mention every group and every group leader but I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of them, on your behalf, for their dedication to our U3A. We really would not be so successful if it was not for them.

One of the groups we lost this year was that of the first Ukulele group – more commonly known as BUGs. Many of you present this morning still belong to it. We should not see their departure from our organisation as a loss but as a reflection of the success of our U3A. As a group they became so competent and in such public demand that they decided to become an independent, musical group. It was inevitable and we wish them well. It has also given us the opportunity to start a new beginners’ ukulele group but I am hoping it will take a few years before they decide that they too are good enough to leave us.

What else has happened? We have had some inspiring speakers; we have had some excellent and well-supported trips and more are planned for next year. A thank you to Lucy for her tireless organisation although I am not sure how she will thank herself whilst reading this. We have also had some well-attended evening events organised by Sue Blackley. Who will forget the cheese-tasting round at the U3A quiz night or seeing members reliving their youth at the 60s evening? Several items of clothing came out of the attic for that event.

There has also been success within the interest groups: one member had her first novel published, others have entered writing and photographic competitions. There has been a gardening holiday, art history has run trips to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and to the National Gallery in London; there have been numerous trips to local galleries, to the theatre and to the cinema. There is even a rumour of a planned trip to go wine-tasting in France or is that only wishful-thinking? Groups have invited individual speakers to supplement their own expertise and these have ranged from local authors to local lecturers. The diet for us all has been wide and highly satisfying. Not only are we a more knowledgeable group of people but we are also healthier with some of our activities ensuring a fitter life. I am happy to share with you that I have lost a stone in weight since joining the swimming group.

At the beginning of this report I mentioned that this has been an up-and-down year for us; to use a popular cliché it has been a real roller-coaster of a year especially for those on the committee. Firstly, came the decision by Jim Turner to resign his post. Jim had been the Group Co-ordinator of our U3A ever since we started. Then came the sudden and surprising news that Liz Barnes, our Chairman at the last AGM, was not only leaving the committee but leaving Nottingham completely so that she could be nearer her daughter and her grandson in Cheshire. Within a very short period of time we had lost two very experienced and respected organisers. Then came the sad and unexpected death of David Hurworth our kind and unflappable Treasurer. It was difficult to replace them on a temporary basis but thanks must go to Anne Allery, our founding Treasurer, who stepped forward to fill the gap until a new volunteer, Malcolm Brookbanks, could be found. My personal thanks must go to Steve Austin who took on, very successfully, the role of Group Co-ordinator, allowing me to become Acting Chairman. Sadly, David was not the only member to die this year and many of you have turned out to pay your respects to those people who were part of our U3A community.

I have thanked several individuals already but, above all; I want to thank everyone who takes on those “hidden” jobs which make us function as a U3A: every meeting they are there greeting; organising tea and coffee; registering members; meeting newcomers; ensuring the audio and IT functions without fail. Where would we be without you?

Finally, I must apologise for not being with you for this AGM but a rearranged holiday coincided with today’s meeting. I would like to wish the new Chair and the Committee all the very best for the forthcoming year. I am confident that they will guide our U3A both successfully and innovatively, making us one of the best U3A organisations in Nottinghamshire.

Helen Stewart – Acting Chairman

A Message from our new Chair, Sue Blackley

SueDear Members,

I feel privileged to have the opportunity to chair Beeston U3A although I know my predecessors will be hard acts to follow. I was involved in education all my working life and I am committed to lifelong learning. U3A, I feel, is the perfect vehicle for this.

I think we have a vibrant and exciting U3A in Beeston with a very hard working committee and fantastic group leaders and I look forward to seeing it develop further over the next year. I would like to see more new groups, more events and members taking part in Shared Learning Projects. Hopefully we can also work more closely with the U3A’s in our cluster group and become more aware of events regionally and nationally.

Do let the committee know if you have any ideas/ comments to make and please use our suggestion box. Come and talk to us at open meetings and let us know your views.

This is your U3A and your opinions count.

We want our U3A to be one of the best so here’s to onward and upward as the membership grows and we continue to go from strength to strength.

Sue Blackley

April 2015

In April, our speaker was Carol Williams (VSO) with a talk entitled “Thirty Months in Rural China – Ancestors, Dragons and Chopsticks. Carol is pictured right with some of her souvenirs. Breda Cooper attended the talk and writes:

Having lived in Hong Kong I was very much looking forward to this talk. The delivery was quite light hearted, which added colour to the subject.

I was surprised at the diversity of people the speaker came in contact with and how they lived. Of course this was all in mainland China, which has a very diverse population. There seemed to be such cheerfulness and the ingenuity in the individuals was quite amazing. The life seemed to be more simplistic than that of Hong Kong, which is very commercial.

It seemed that although the speaker was in China to work it proved to be, apart from some of the dietary issues, an education with happy lasting memories. It certainly makes one think of going farther afield when looking for holiday destinations. It was a very interesting talk.

Helen Stewart Presenting Linda Selby with a Thank You Gift

Helen Stewart Presenting Linda Selby with a Thank You Gift

Also in April, our Social Fund Secretary, Linda Selby was presented with a super Easter Egg, by the Acting Chair Helen Stewart (see photo left) in thanks for her work in Beeston U3A.

Linda has held this position since Beeston U3A began and has done a sterling job. Linda has now decided to hand over the reins to Jo Muxlow who will be taking on this demanding role. The Committee’s thanks go to both Linda and Jo.

March 2015

Claire Lyons was our Speaker on 5 March 2015.  Her talk was about Women in Camouflage.  Claire told us about the many women who, when their husbands had enlisted had followed them around to the many and various postings.  In most cases, their children also followed.  These women would take on a variety of work within the camp in order to feed and keep their families together.  One particularly interesting case was of a woman who dressed and enlisted as a soldier.  During her career, she became a surgeon treating the wounded and working with the sick and ill.  It is amazing to think that no one suspected that she was a woman.  It was only discovered that she was female when she had died and the person laying her out called in a senior officer and acquainted him of the facts.

February 2015

At the February meeting we were entertained by Grantham Danserye with dances, Shakespearian quotes, a description of how Elizabethan women got dressed and the hazards of the stomacher!

The group consisting of Mike Spicer, Lynne Spicer and Gay Flower (pictured left) showed us the intricacies of dances called the Earl of Essex Measures, the Galliard, the Fortada and others. Most of the dances had Italian names because the Italian dancing masters reigned supreme at this time.

All the dances shown were courtly dances and the ability to dance was everything – many a young man who was from a low background but who could dance well was able to advance his prospects by dancing well and catching the eye of Queen Elizabeth 1st, who loved dancing and often danced “seven Galliards before breakfast” for her exercise. At this time clothes were paramount and many a courtier bankrupted himself to buy the best clothes to help him stand out and progress up the social scale. We were shown several pieces of female clothing and were told that items like the stomacher, cuffs and ruffs and spare sleeves were sewn or pinned onto the basic clothes. A set of ruff and cuffs were called a suite. The Inns of Court which we know today for the profession of Law was in Elizabethan times a place to learn Law but also they gave young men a social education, part of the curriculum was how to dance and sword play.

It looked so easy, some of Beeston U3A joined in the dance.

Below are photographs taken during the talk by Mike Johnson.

January 2015

There was no Open Meeting in January as the first Thursday of the month was News Year’s Day Bank Holiday.