I got involved with the WEA as a recent graduate in the 80s when I became a part time Tutor. Working across Durham and Northumberland pit villages I was astounded at the interest and demand there was from people for our accessible brand of education. During the dark days of the Miner’s Strike, WEA classes helped to keep many people’s minds and spirits active and I was proud to be part of it. In the 90s though, I left to work at Birmingham University. I later re-joined the WEA after I returned to the region in 2006.
I am very keen that the WEA should continue to find ways to connect and work with everyone in our region. I am so pleased to see the work we do with groups of people who are often excluded from or find it difficult to get the education they want. I see it as a vital part of my job as a volunteer Committee Member to work with colleagues to make sure we reach out to as many people as we can in workplaces and communities. Our Branches in the North East run by volunteers do a great job to let us know what kinds of courses local people need and want. Working with our paid Course Organisers we respond to local needs quickly. To help us continue to do this I am working with a set of new and existing volunteers and colleagues to develop some new thematic Branches. They include a Branch to strengthen our work in the former pit village of Ashington and a thematic Branch focusing on financial education. At a time when other services are disappearing and as we see people struggling with low incomes, there has never been a greater need for impartial accessible education.
I have been Chair of the WEA NE Regional Committee since 2015. I was co-Chair with Ian Roberts for a couple of years before that and previously was a Deputy Chair.
I still work as an occasional Tutor teaching amongst other things literary appreciation, leadership skills and academic skills. I think this helps me to stay in touch with our core work.