Chairman’s Report for the Year 2017 – 2018

I attended my first AGM a year ago as a relatively new member and the lead of 2 groups and was elected to the committee in the role of vice chairman. Alan Casey, the ex-chair, had approached me to become involved. He is a mentor to me on the committee along with Kevin Dean and Barrie Hacking, the membership secretary. The fantastic working commitment of these three gentlemen and everything Alice Holmes does for this organisation cannot be praised enough.

I was looking forward to 3 years in the vice-chair role but instead, some 3 months later in Feb, when Alan Butler sadly decided he could not continue as chair I began deputising as your Acting Chair. I have tried to keep my feet on the ground in this role.
My first requirement was to chair the EGM and since then have officiated at several committee meetings and most of the monthly Members’ meetings.
In this role I’ve also attended a new member induction meeting, a new Group leader induction meeting, cluster meeting of localU3As, Sign-up day, a Sandbach Today event, and more recently, with acting secretary Sandy Boyle, a U3A regional workshop entitled “Keeping it Legal”
Representing Sandbach U3A has involved me in attending the Dementia Friendly Sandbach steering group. (They are holding a Christmas celebration Buffet Lunch Mon10th Dec at the Masonic Hall tickets £3 inc. a raffle ticket) I also attended a Dementia Friendly Awareness training session, which I would commend to you all as a worthwhile exercise to increase your understanding of those who live with dementia.

Our U3A, with about 1400 members and nearly 100 activity groups potentially, if not actually, is the largest group or association and representative body, including employers in the immediate area, so Sandbach and District U3A is an important part of an ever-growing local population who are no longer in full time employment. Importantly we are representative of good cross section of that part of the local community.

New groups this year include Fitness Exercise on Wednesday morning at Sandbach United ground, the monthly Sunday lunch discussion group and Wine Tasting group 2.

I have accepted an invitation to attend the CVS AGM as U3A representative. This will include a Governance seminar.
I will also be attending the AGMs of Sandbach Partnership and Sandbach Today.
Additionally, I will attend a further U3A Workshop, “Financial Matters” about financial aspects of running a U3A.

For most of my life I have had the embedded thought that “you can please some of the people some of the time but never all of the people all of the time”

As Acting Chair I’ll admit there have been a few challenges, which in hindsight are best described as character building, that were often just time wasting and unnecessary annoyances for a committee of volunteers trying to do an honest job to the best of their abilities on behalf of the membership.
The worst was an anonymous malicious submission relating to the EGM, by someone who was not even present, sent to Gillian Russell, the North West Trustee and to the Third Age Trust who declared it to be spurious and unfounded after investigation.
These experiences give an interesting interpretation to our strap-line “Learn, Laugh and Live!”

Thankfully, this sort of incident does not reflect the fantastic positive thinking, support and attitude displayed by the majority of the membership, who realise and appreciate that everything in our U3A cannot happen or take place without the hard work of all members who volunteer their help plus the dedication of group leaders and committee members.

A publication entitled “Learning Not Lonely” (Living Life, Extending Horizons, Challenging Conventions) was published this year by the Third Age Trust, a report by Sam Mauger, the Chief Executive.
In this report there is a section headed “Challenges” which includes Perception, Mainly Weekday Activity, Embedding Volunteering, The Retirement Offer, Extending the Opportunity, Extending the Offer to More Sections of the Community, Attracting Younger People who have Retired.
We also have the Ministry of Loneliness, a new Government department lead by Tracey Crouch, continuing the work started by the late Jo Cox MP. In “Learning Not Lonely” it says “there was a conscious view that the U3A model was the antithesis of loneliness”

So, who would want to be chair of Sandbach and District U3A. This is not a rhetorical question as we do require a vice chair on the committee.

For most of this year there have been 10 other committee members along with myself who have served with great enthusiasm and diligence. Their hard work on behalf of the membership must be acknowledged, which has been a true inspiration and I cannot praise their support enough.

Although on the committee for only part of the year, acknowledgement and thanks for their work must first go to Alan Butler as Chair, Jinty Pyke as secretary and Geoff Pyke as group co-ordinator.
One other “acting” on the committee since March is Sandy Boyle who deserves special mention for stepping forward to be Acting Secretary until this AGM in addition to arranging sign up day.
Two others elected with Sandy and me at the last AGM have not been shrinking violets either, as Paula Reilly-Cooper took on being Group co-ordinator, which she wishes to continue, and Don Rickards helped arrange the Group Leaders lunch and was involved on other projects.

Leaving the committee today are Alex Black, Geoff Coldwell and Judi Hewitt who will all be greatly missed and deserve thanks from everyone for their service.

John Roome as Newsletter Editor deserves a mention and needs more support with news items and group reports to continue his fantastic work.

Alice Holmes, a lady of many U3A roles, has again kept so many members occupied and entertained with trips and social occasions arranged throughout the year. She is ably supported here today and on many other occasions by her excellent team of “Tea Ladies”.

Doreen Hebden produces tickets and Don Joy creates the posters. Thanks to both of them.

Our very successful quiz nights in April and November are great fun and well supported thanks to our quiz master Keith Poynton. Thanks to him and all the team that runs these events.

Then there are those on the volunteer lists plus the Postal Distribution group and the ex-Group Development Project who still organise new Members’ meetings.

One of the final and very important thanks must go to John Page, our outgoing Auditor.

Thanks going to group members who take responsibility may come as surprise, but it is important that members support and help group leaders. Do you help set up the room before the meeting and tidy away afterwards or do you just attend and leave immediately when the groups finished? Please remember that in U3A leaders and members are all equal!

SWISH stands for Sandbach Web Integrated Support and Help. It is our new on-line potentially “all singing and dancing” facility which is being developed under the stewardship of Alan Casey and a dedicated team. Like all the best things in life, this continues to be honed and some gremlins are still to be eradicated.
It should be noted that the off-line membership processes will continue to exist.

Fiona Bruce, our MP, has stated she is a great supporter of this U3A and has particularly enjoyed performances by the Brass Band.

Thank you for indulging me. If I’ve got things wrong, forgotten anything or missed someone out, this was not intentional. I have sometimes named teams of volunteers rather than naming individuals, but please all accept my thanks.

Arnie Laing
November 2018