Here's a little bit about how the Hayling u3a started and the formation of the u3a movement...

Hayling Island u3a

Paul Chapman wrote:

The Hayling Island u3a owes its existence to the determination of Len Smith who moved to the Island with his wife Vera in 2002.

Finding no u3a on the Island, Len joined the Chichester branch and was soon leading the Ancient History Group. He was a classical scholar and revelled in the history of Ancient Greece.

One day in late 2005, I bumped into him in West Town where he was talking enthusiastically about a recent trip to Greece and how he was going to prepare some new presentations for his Group. I made mention of my interest in Roman coins and before I realised what was happening, I had agreed to give his Group a talk on the coins and their associated history. When I contacted Len to find how long I should talk for, his response of two hours with a 15 minute break in the middle was something of a shock – I had never talked for that long in my life!

On the agreed date, Vera and Maura, my wife, decided to accompany Len and myself to Chichester and patiently endured two hours of concentrated Roman history. It was on the return journey on the A27 that the challenging words were spoken. From the back seat came the question “Why do we not have a u3a on Hayling?” Len was not someone to let such a proposal pass by and within a few days had formed a preliminary committee to put plans together to hold a public meeting to determine whether there was any interest. At the meeting in St Patrick’s Church hall on 15th May 2006, 70 Islanders attended and enthusiastically endorsed the idea and so the Hayling Island u3a came into existence and has never looked back. It received its official charter in July 2006 and for the past few years has enjoyed a membership of over 400.

The u3a organisation

In 1981 Peter Laslett, a Cambridge University academic, hosted a conference in Cambridge to discuss bringing the u3a to Britain. In the same year Eric Midwinter, director of the Centre for Policy on Ageing, was interviewed about it on the radio programme You and Yours. That interview brought 400 letters. It was clear that the u3a was an idea whose time had come. Laslett wrote the objects and principles. Social entrepreneur Michael Young became the first national chairman and Midwinter general secretary. The Nuffield Foundation provided a start-up grant of £10,000.

Since then expansion has been non-stop. Every year there are more u3as and more members than before. The first national U3A magazine appeared in September 1983, and 15 u3as turned up to the first national u3a conference, at Keele University. 1996 saw the appointment of the first full-time company secretary and national administrator; the first week-long Summer University; and the formation of a Standing Committee for Education. During the years of austerity since 2008, both membership and activities have grown steadily and there are now more activities, summer schools and online courses than ever. There are now more than 1,050 u3a's with over 450,000 members.