Kay Smith MBE died in 2011 after more than 70 years of service to her local community and to the WEA. Kay was a key part of the community of Southampton for many years before increasing frailness and ill health forced her retirement. She was a founder member of Southampton Film Society, involved with Age Concern and the United Nations Association, a JP, keenly linked to local politics and was a key player in the education and community development seen locally for many years.
Kay was born in London but lived in Southampton from the age of seven, always in the "old town". She was educated locally and her life was changed during a period of work experience with the WEA in 1931. In those days, the WEA was inextricably linked to the extra mural movement and she worked for Sir James Matthews who was a member of Southampton Solent University Council from 1934 to 1979 and later was prominent in local government. Although she had wide interests, Kay was probably best known in Southampton for her links with the WEA, as Development Officer in the former Southern District (Hampshire, East Dorset, West Sussex and the Isle of Wight) and latterly as the voluntary secretary and treasurer for the Southampton branch.
Kay took a particular interest in music education and the establishment of the branch's programme of concerts encouraging young and aspiring musicians but also encouraged extensions of the programme into museum and gallery visits and theatre trips. She organised and took part in a series of study tours and summer schools developed by the District before 1939 and after 1946, including a very successful series of reciprocal visits to Germany and equally popular tours linked to Mediterranean civilisations. She was equally involved in providing progression routes for people who had missed out on various parts of their education and established early links with the Open University as well as developing access courses to enable people develop the skills to attend more conventional institutions.
Kay's work with the WEA was recognised by the Southampton Branch and the local District at a members' evening held in November 2003, and nationally by the award of the MBE in 2000. Her contribution to the city was recognised in 2007 on International Women's Day when the Mayor presented a picture of Kay in honour of her service to the community for many years. The picture is kept at the 3rd Age Centre in her honour.
Kay specifically wished that there would be no mourning, sadness, trappings or fuss when she died and the funeral was private with only her two closest friends and two branch members in attendance. Locally, branch members and others are looking at ways of marking her life and contribution to the WEA and to the City of Southampton. A total of over 72 years of active service to the association followed by a period of continued
Work funded by Kay's Legacy
Money from Kay's legacy is already doing good work in the city she loved so much. The WEA has revived its once-flagging City Branch and become a key partner in the Regent's Park Learning Trust, where it will provide adult and family learning opportunities through the Cooperative schools in the area. The legacy will fund staffing and activities to allow for the development of a more cohesive governance and planned provision between the current branch activity and the targeted work.