I feel privileged to have been elected at the September 2011 AGM as your chairman and am very conscious of the work of my predecessor Trica Ward and of her committee in their development of Harrogate U3A as such a substantial success.
Harrogate U3A has approximately 830 members. In the UK as a whole there are now 837 U3As with 274,000 members total (Feb 2012 figures) which means that the average size of a U3A is approximately 320 members. We at Harrogate may therefore be considered very large indeed.
With such a membership we are able to offer approximately 50 interest groups ranging from Botanical Art to Writing for Pleasure as a means of catering for our members' interests and activities.
Our monthly open meetings at the Cairn Hotel now regularly attract 120 members to listen to a range of excellent speakers address a wide diversity of topics.
However, we cannot afford to become complacent. Size brings strength but can also bring problems.
I am well aware that some very large U3As have had to restrict entry to groups, create waiting lists for potential new members and are unable adequately to accommodate members at their AGM or open meetings. Additionally, in these cases communication and engagement with the membership becomes attenuated.
Even a successful U3A such as ours must be sensitive to these potential problems and devise strategies accordingly.
Every U3A has a responsibility to " encourage the formation of new U3As in neighbouring areas." (Ref: Growth Matters--Third Age Trust, May 2011) and we must welcome the recent formation of Wetherby U3A and the imminent creation of Ripon U3A.We have provided and will continue to offer support as these and other local U3As launch.
Interest group leaders are at the heart of a successful U3A and we are fortunate that we have so many capable and enthusiastic people shouldering this role.
I would like to encourage members to take an active part in helping leaders with the running of their groups be it administration, coordination, or secretarial.
Such diffusion of leadership is essential to the future health of groups and of our U3A.
Finally, I am fortunate in having a committed committee where each member has willing accepted a specific role appropriate to their skills and experience.The contact details of committee members and of our key communications specialists viz Val Cooke, Brian Graham, Chris Rush are listed in this edition of Stray News.
You will find them all willing to respond readily to any appropriate issues that you might care to raise.
I personally am happy to hear from members at any time and would like to offer you my best wishes in your U3A explorations.
David W Davies