WEA in Leicestershire

A site for members and volunteers, by volunteers

Previous Forum Activities

May 11th 2014 at the University of Leicester Botanic Gardens

We had a fantastic day at the Botanic Gardens – the weather was beautiful, and  even getting to the meeting room was a pleasure, as we had to make our way through the gardens. Some of us missed picking up the maps at the entrance, or were too engrossed by the plants to spot the little arrows (memo to organisers: use BIGGER arrows!) so saw even more of the gardens before finding the rest of us, though! Twenty two of us arrived to start the day devoted to all things botanical.

Some of us with our guide, a botanic garden volunteer.

Some of us with our guide, a botanic garden volunteer.

Our day started (after coffee of course) with a talk from Richard Gornall, the director of the garden. Following his theme of “What botanic gardens have done for us” he took us from tales of the early plant collectors right up to the present day. Now we know that botanic gardens aren’t just a place for a pleasant day out, because Richard touched on topics including medicine, improved crop yield, pest resistance and right up to the hotly debated subject of genetic modification. That certainly sparked some debate with our members too!

In the afternoon we were met by our volunteer guides for a tour of the gardens, which was in such wonderful sunshine that many of us wished that, like the guides, we’d thought of bringing sunhats. Without the guides we would have missed so many points of interest, as they were able to tell us bout the founders, the buildings within the gardens, and the sort of activities that went on, as well as more information about the plants . At the end of the day we were perhaps a little tired, rather hot and fully satisfied with our day.



October 27th at the Jewry wall Museum, Leicester

The Autumn Forum was held at the Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester.  The theme of this event was Leicester past, present and future, although this order did get a little mixed! It was attended by 26 members.

Carolyn Necklen’s WEA singing class gave a pleasant start to the day by providing an musical experience of different rhythms. Their songs took us through traditional folk songs, gospel songs and even included a traditional Native American chant and one about, Seth Davey, an early 20th century London street singer.

Sir Peter Soulsby, Leicester’s elected Mayor outlined some of his ideas for Leicester. He said that Leicester had some extremely good early buildings that were not publicised enough for tourists. He named, the Roman Baths (our location), Wyggeston medieval house, Leicester’s Castle and the Guildhall as places, that should and could be used to attract people to visit our city and he was determined to highlight these and other assets of our City. Past planners had cut-off easy access for a trail to these places with the underpass and the inner ring road, but he had some ideas of how to overcome these. The recent Searching for Richard excavations in the Grey Friars/Friar Lane area had highlighted Leicester’s links with our past. He invited questions for the group and his need to go to another event the ended a open and lively discussion.

Before breaking for lunch, John Swinfield-Wells outlined some of the new ideas, and proposals being put to the WEA members. Ruth Spellman, the new National Secretary and Chief Executive had taken up her post in April and was keen to engage with members. John advised members that the idea of paying to be members had surfaced again and invited their views. In the discussions that followed, 2-3 people were prepared to pay, but the majority of the attendees were against the idea. (N.B. You could still come to WEA classes without being a member.)

After lunch, Guy Raynor, a member of the museum staff gave an illustrated talk about Leicester’s past, from the Romans to Medieval times. He explained that he was not an expert on the Romans, but then gave and excellent presentation on early Leicester. His offer of a tour of the site was declined because of the cold outside temperatures, and the whole site was easy to view through the large windows.

Throughout our day, Liz Balliol-Keys, of the museum staff helped ensure a successful day by keeping us supplied with water for the tea and coffee, and ensuring that the seating arrangements were right for us.

Gerry Stacey

May 12th in Loughborough – WEA in Court!

Those present at the County Forum in Loughborough last Saturday enjoyed two excellent speakers, and had the chance to comment on this new blog.

The secure dock in the old courtroom

Magistrate Ros Marsh talked to us in the Preston Room, Woodgate Chambers, and describe what it was like in the days when she sat as a magistrate there, when it was known as No 1 Court. The accused  were brought up stairs from the cells directly into this secure dock, and literally “sent down” if found guilty. She also demonstrated that we knew rather less than we thought about magistrates and their work; our performances in the quiz Ros set us were hardly impressive!

Nick Marshall looks at life below stairs

After lunch, in Loughborough WEA’s teaching room in Quest House, Woodgate Chambers, re-enactor Nick Marshall fascinated us with his illustrated account of life below stairs in Victorian times. Nick explained that, while just a few employers were enlightened and considerate, most gave little thought to the lives of their servants, and the life for those at the bottom of the sevants’ pecking order was even harder than shown in the dramatisations we see on television. One consolation was that at least their meals in the servants’ hall would be piping hot, unlike those of the gentry upstairs.

My favourite new fact – perfectly matched carriage horses were much prized, as most people know, but this attitude was applied to footmen, too; a pair of identical twin footmen could command a higher wage, and could even be headhunted by other wealthy employers!

May 5th 2011 – Great turnout at County Forum in Rothley

Last May the Leicestershire County Forum was arranged in conjunction with the Birstall and Rothley Branch, and their committee did a great job in fixing the programme and organising the refreshments. The event attracted around sixty people, our most successful forum to date, and County Chair John Swinfield-Wells gave warm thanks to Marion Vincent and her team for their hard work.

In the morning, at the Rothley centre, Leicestershire Community Archaeologist Peter Liddle gave a fascinating account of recent developments in the county, amply illustrated with slides and maps. Peter was ready to admit, however, that his knowledge of Rothley itself could be better, and so he decided to stay and join us for the afternoon activity.

After lunch, sandwiches or a dash to the local pub or chippie, we convened for our afternoon activity. Local history enthusiast Terry Sheppard of the Rothley Heritage Trust conducted a tour of the village, pointing out many sites of interest, and sprinkling in a little village scandal from time to time, for good measure!

We trailed after Terry from green to garden to churchyard , hopping from Anglo-Saxon times to the nineteenth century and all points in between as we changed location. We came away with a good selection of maps to remind us of the features we had looked at, and a much greater appreciation of the long history of Rothley.

27th November 2010 – Christmas Music in Leicester

Popular WEA music lecturer Mike Wheeler enchanted his audience with his talk on English Christmas Music through the Ages. That Saturday was bitterly cold and the first snows of the season might have deterred some, but there was still a good turnout for this forum at The Great Meeting, the historic Unitarial Chapel in the heart of Leicester. One of the audience commented to Mike “I do hope that this talk was not just for us. It deserves a much wider audience.”

This Great Meeting  is a venue used for some of Leicester Branch’s classes too, and has the added advantage that it is close to the bus station and right next to the “park and ride” bus stops and the Highcross shopping centre. We know that some of our members had a busy morning Christmas Shopping before coming to the Forum in the afternoon.


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