Feature: U3A members bang the drum for an active retirement

U3A choir practice at the Crown Place Community Centre in Worksop G131114-2a
U3A choir practice at the Crown Place Community Centre in Worksop G131114-2a

Every Thursday Worksop’s Crown Place Community Centre comes alive to the sound of music.

A 40-strong choir meets in the morning to deliver an uplifting chorus of everything from Gershwin to The Beatles.

Members of the Worksop and District U3A watercolour painting class (w131112-1a)

Members of the Worksop and District U3A watercolour painting class (w131112-1a)

In the afternoons the centre is taken over by a booming steel band whose energetic renditions of popular tunes and Hawaiian dress code are quite unexpected in Worksop.

These are not professional musicians, just groups of retired and semi-retired folk who come together to share their interests, passions and talent.

They are all members of the University of the Third Age (U3A), a self-funded organisation providing activities for men and women no longer in full time employment.

Drawing on the knowledge, experience and skills of its 200 members the U3A Worksop branch comprises 30 varied interest groups.

Members of the Worksop and District U3A watercolour painting class (w131112-1f)

Members of the Worksop and District U3A watercolour painting class (w131112-1f)

From cinema to computer skills, line dancing to lunch club, Scrabble to swing music and walking to watercolour painting and ukelele - there is something for everyone.

A visit to the steel band practice highlighted just how much the U3A means to some people.

“It has more or less changed my life. I have met new friends, been travelling and enjoyed spa days. And co-ordinating the band has built my confidence,” said founding band member Pat Durrant, 69.

“Some people go to several different groups depending on their interest and how busy they are.”

Members of the U3A Steel Band (w131114-3a)

Members of the U3A Steel Band (w131114-3a)

“Some make new friends and others re-meet people they knew in the past.”

The steel band was started by members who had an interest in the music.

Pat, a retired child minder, continued: “You don’t have to read music or anything, just have a grasp of rhythm.”

“I have been to the Caribbean and seen the steel pans played. It’s just amazing. We have 19 drummers in our group but I’ve watched bands with so many drums you couldn’t count them.”

She said many people don’t know such a thing exists in Worksop. But the band is spreading the unique sound of the steel drum at various Christmas performances.

Said Pat: “It’s not done for profit. We will perform for free at charitable events, and if anyone else wants to book us we donate our performance fee to our chosen charities Aurora and Bluebell Wood.”

Earlier that day the choir, who call themselves The Musicality Singers, filled the air with the sound of hymns and classics.

Under the direction of professional Worksop-based musician Greg Watson, the group is gearing up for a Christmas concert.

On Wednesday 18th December they will take to the stage at The Acorn Theatre from 7pm. Tickets priced £4 are available on 01909 501817.

Expect to hear rousing versions of festive hymns like Silent Night and While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks By Night - and prepare for a few unexpected twists.

“Over the two years it has been going the choir has developed a sound of its own,” said Greg, who conducts the singers with vigour and humour.

“The level of experience is varied, some have extensive group singing experience and others are singing in a choir for the first time.”

“But there is a dedication and continuous enthusiasm from the membership that makes the choir a pleasure to listen to and be part of.”

Chorister Malcolm Fritchley, 61, said he joined up not intending it to become a permanent fixture in his life.

Now he and wife Carol play an integral role in the group.

“Now I really can’t stand it if something comes up on a Thursday morning which prevents me from coming,” he said.

“You get quite a high when you have all been practicing and you can sing together and make it work.”

Acting choir co-ordinator Chris Betts, 66, said she and her husband moved to Worksop four years ago and were looking for things to do.

“We saw a flyer and decided to give it a go. We’ve never looked back. It’s like a big family.”

If music and performance are not your thing, there are plenty of other activities on offer at the U3A.

One of the quieter groups - although no less popular - is the watercolour painters who meet at Thievesdale Community Centre.

Under the expert instruction of art tutor Angela Carr, painters are able to build their technique, creating very personal works of art.

Many work from photographs, taking inspiration from anything from flowers in their own gardens to holiday scenes and hobbies like transport and locomotives.

“I hadn’t painted for years. I’d had several attempts but never achieved what I had wanted,” said Sylvia Adams, a retired social worker, aged 67.

“I’ve been coming to the class about a year now and I go to several other groups too.”

“It stimulates your interests, gets you out of the house and you meet other people.”

Retired court assistant Jean Perkins, 72, is also in the U3A gardening group and her husband plays in the swing band.

She said: “With U3A you could be out every day if you could afford it.”

“Lots of our friends are members. It’s great for people if they are on their own too, it’s very welcoming, friendly and sociable.”

• Interested in finding out more? Go along to the Worksop U3A open day at the Savoy Cinema on Thursday 12th November.

A winter wonderland will transform the Potter Street cinema for a festive showcase.

From 11am the foyer will be bustling with music, food and stalls from the various interest groups.

Grab your ticket and go along for a chat. Tickets cost £5 including festive refreshments.

A special screening of classic Christmas film A Wonderful Life will take place, as well as a sing-a-long with the U3A swing band a school choirs in the entrance hall.

There will also be a raffle with more than 40 prizes donated by local companies.

“The corridors will be laid out like an exhibition mall where you can browse all the activities on offer at the U3A,” said Gloria Williamson who is on the film group committee.

“We have a regular U3A film slot at the Savoy and want to attract more people up there to use this great facility.”

Buy tickets from Savoy cinema retail counter, call Mary Mitchell on 01777 816257 or Kath Turner 01909 730750.

You can also see what’s going on at Worksop U3A online at http://u3asites.org.uk/code/u3asite.php?site=160&page=1