Rachel Kolsky on Women’s London

Our U3A were delighted to host award winning author and Blue Badge Guide Rachel Kolsky talking about her new publication Women’s London — A Tour Guide to Great Lives.

Rachel Kolsky and the cover of her book on Women's London

The audience were fully engrossed and captivated by such an excellent speaker, who took us on a journey through the concept, production, publication and content of her new book. Many members related that “it was so delightful to hear a speaker so enthusiastic and enraptured about her subject.”

Rachel firstly paid tribute to all the people who were responsible in enabling her to bring her book to publication. She then talked us through some of the highlights in her book ranging from Octavia Hill to Amy Winehouse.  What made the evening particularly intriguing is Rachel’s delivery of the personal lives of those she had so eloquently written about in her book. The book parallels with the celebration of the centenary of Women’s Suffrage.

The publication is a compendium of walks, interspersed with historical facts at each focal point, and the only guidebook that focuses on the women who have shaped London through the centuries and the legacy they have left behind. The book provides an opportunity to explore sights, statues, plaques and buildings associated with famous and some not so famous women who have left their mark on London’s heritage, culture and society. One can only describe the book as a gem and the author likewise.

Report by Daphne Berkovi; photo by Myke Jacobs

Virtuoso flute performance

On a bright Sunday morning in April our U3A members and guests were given a very special treat of attending a Coffee Concert given by the London Flute Quintet in Fellowship House.

Three men and two women playing the flute in front of an audience
The London Flute Quintet performing at the Coffee Concert in Fellowship House

The London Flute Quintet is the brainchild of Dan Dixon, their bass flute player, and Liz Cutts their alto flute player. The group’s formation in 2015 was inspired by recent exciting adaptations of symphonic repertoire for members of the flute family by members of the German group, Quintessenz. The LFQ has performed extensively throughout south west France and in England. All the members of the group are conservatory trained ex professionals, and dedicated highly experienced professional level amateurs.

So our U3A felt very honoured to be host them for our first Coffee Concert. The audience were entertained with an outstanding first-class performance of music; with a repertoire ranging from Bach to Bernstein. Some members of the audience could be seen moving to the rhythm of the music, as the performances could only be described as scintillating. A rapturous round of applause after each performed piece was testament to the appreciation of the musicians and their musicianship. We do hope that they will consider visiting us again.

Report by Daphne Berkovi; photo by Malcolm Brahams

Shakespeare – a controversy at Senate Library

Our April Topical Talk featured a very interesting discussion led by Dr Richard Epsley, Head of Modern Collections at the Senate House Library, where he co-curated The Shakespeare: Metamorphosis season in 2016 commemorating the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.

Dr Richard Epsley holds up an example of the rare books held at the Senate House Library

The exhibition caused a great deal of controversy as the Senate House holds the First Folio, a rare publication. In fact, it had all four Shakespeare folios, and tried to auction them for £3–5 million to pay for its historical research collection.

We were introduced to the history of the Senate House Library, then the seven stages of the exhibition.  Dr Epsley also passed around a number of examples of rare books.

Members of our Shakespeare interest group attended.   The audience were very appreciative of Dr Epsley’s knowledge of Shakespeare and the formation of the Senate House Library.

Report by Daphne Berkovi; photo by Diana Iwi

The Messages and Attraction of Early Disney Animations

For our February Topical Talk, we enjoyed an afternoon of nostalgia, evoking memories of Disney’s earliest animated films with a difference. Professor Jacobs, who in his professional life was a Professor of Reproductive Endocrinology, then completed in his retirement a PhD in Film Studies focusing on the widespread and enduring popularity of Disney’s early feature-length animated films, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940), Dumbo (1941) and Bambi (1942).

Professor Jacobs presenting his talk

Professor Jacobs discussed what he saw as the social, pedagogical, and psychological messages embodied in the films, messages that are heavily camouflaged by attractive animation, humour, and music, arguing that part of the fascination of these films lies in the resonances set up in the unconscious minds of their viewers.

Audience applauds Professor Jacobs
An appreciative audience applauds Professor Jacobs at the end of his talk

Professor Jacobs’ talk was interspersed with film clips from these Disney films. He explained when we saw these films as children, many children were affected emotionally by them and had left the cinema in tears. Viewing these film clips as adults provoked a very different response.  Some of the scenes were very amusing and others quite sad; and Professor Jacobs explained that within these films Disney concealed a deep melancholy.

Report by Daphne Berkovi; photos by Myke Jacobs

Wine is for Appreciating

The Wine Appreciation Group enjoyed its first meeting on 23rd October, when those attending were treated to an introduction to various grape varieties by the Group Leader, Valerie Cowan. There were five wines available to try, all distinctive in aroma and taste : the final offering was a chocolate flavoured fortified wine, which was very well received by everyone! Valerie is an erudite speaker on wines, having a Wine Diploma and being a member of the Association of Wine Educators. She has taught at The Institute and Morley College, and currently runs the City Lit Wine Club in Covent Garden. The group met again for its second meeting on 27th November, when a great time was had by all (but the less said about the Indian wine, the better).

Members of the Wine Group raise their glasses
Members of the Wine Appreciation Group take their wine seriously – and with great pleasure – under the guidance of Valerie Cowan (standing centre)

The Group meets from 2.30pm to 4.00pm in a room made available by Alyth Synagogue. Members at present contribute £7.50 per session to cover the cost of wines and nibbles. There is no formal December meeting, but our first tasting of the New Year is on Monday 22 January 2018 (not 18 January as previously posted), when we will explore some of the lesser known grape varieties, and it promises some surprises!

At the moment there is still room for the group to expand, so if you are interested in joining, please contact Roger Cookson using the following form. Don’t worry about the formalities of wine tasting. You are free to spit (genteelly) or swallow as you choose (most of us swallow).

Report by Roger Cookson; photo by Myke Jacobs

Topical Talk: The Fear and the Freedom

The second in our series of Topical Talks on 23 November featured Keith Lowe and his new and highly acclaimed publication The Fear and the Freedom — How the Second World War Changed Us.

Keith began by saying that despite 70 years having passed, we are still obsessed with the Second World War; that we are continually inundated with books, films, documentaries on this period of world history. The most recent were the films on Churchill and Dunkirk.

Keith Lowe

Yet, so much has been illusory. Keith demonstrated this by talking about two  individual accounts that feature in his new book. One related to the victim, the Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld, and the other to the perpetrator, Yuasa Ken, a Japanese surgeon. Appelfeld’s mother and grandmother were murdered by the Germans in northern Romania when he was just nine years old; and he survived the war living on his wits mixing at times with prostitutes and thieves. He relives his war experiences through the themes of his novels. Yuasa Ken, by contrast, was a military surgeon in China, who took part in human vivisection. He felt no remorse for his actions. It had been “necessary for surgery practice,” he said, “in order to save the lives of Japanese soldiers.” It wasn’t until he received a letter from a victim’s mother that he realized the enormity of what he and his colleagues had done.

Members queue to get their copies signed by Keith Lowe

These two stories are just a few amongst many that Keith has featured in his book of survivors of the war stretching across five continents. He contends that modern day politics across the globe have been shaped by the aftermath of the Second World War.

The talk prompted a great deal of interest with many questions from our audience and was followed by a queue of people wanting to buy this new, thought provoking publication.

We were delighted to be able to host such an interesting speaker.

Report by Daphne Berkovi; photos by Myke Jacobs

A Picture of Health: A Teaching Ward Round at the National Gallery

Members of HGS U3A at the National Gallery with Professor Baum

Our U3A were very fortunate to have a second tour led by Professor Baum this November.  Professor Baum led us through several rooms of the National Gallery, and explained the different medical aspects that were depicted in the various paintings he had chosen.

By explaining the symbols present in some paintings and the medical conditions depicted in others, Professor Baum drew our attention to aspects that we would not otherwise have noticed or understood.  Professor Baum also explained about the medical conditions that had affected artists such as Van Gogh and Renoir, and also showed us how some artists had overcome their physical limitations in later life. Renoir, for example, developed rheumatoid arthritis but continued to work with a paintbrush strapped to his arm.

The tour enriched our appreciation of all the paintings that Professor Baum discussed. We felt very privileged to have such a wonderful guide showing aspects of art that we would never had known without his expertise.  Thus this continues in the spirit and ethos of U3A, of enjoyment and lifelong learning.

Report by Daphne Berkovi and Mayah Weinberg; photo by Myke Jacobs

October’s Topical Talk — Memory Matters

Despite a rather wet and rainy late October afternoon, an almost full hall of HGS U3A members hosted the first in the season of our monthly Topical Talks. As one of our members related after the talk, it was “illuminating, informative, pacey and with moments of humour”.

Dr Emma Ward, led a very interesting and illustrative, interactive talk on “Memory Matters”. She firstly gave us an overview of recent developments in this area: exploring different kinds of memory and how they are affected by the natural ageing process. Dr Ward then explained how scientists test different types of memory in the lab, and some new findings and factors believed to preserve or even enhance memory with age, such as attention, mood, rhythm and music.

Alongside the talk, there was plenty of audience participation, where we were invited to join in some memory tests, using words flashed up on the screen, and then having to memorise them and write them down thereafter.

HGS U3A members responding to question from Dr Ward

Dr Ward and her team of researchers invited our members to participate in their ongoing research on cognitive ageing. Participants will be tested in individual sessions in which they will be asked to perform a straightforward computer task and a battery of verbal tests assessing memory and other cognitive abilities.

Dr Emma Ward (centre) with her researchers, Giulia Neri (left) and Enida Csiszer

If you were unable to attend the talk you can still be included in the research programme. Please contact us if you are interested, so we can pass on your details to Dr Ward.

Report by Daphne Berkovi, photos by Myke Jacobs

Membership of Third Age Trust Confirmed

HGS U3A is now officially a member of the Third Age Trust, the parent body of all U3As in the UK. The certificate of membership was handed recently to the Chair of HGS U3A, Jack Berkovi.

HGS U3A's certificate of membership of the Third Age Trust

The Steering Committee is now in the process of registering HGS U3A with the Charity Commission. When registration is complete, the value of subscriptions and donations from members who have registered for Gift Aid will be increased by 25%.

If you are a UK taxpayer, and haven’t already done so, please register for Gift Aid by filling in the Application Form, and send it to the Membership Secretary (don’t forget to fill in your address). Registering for Gift Aid costs you nothing, but it makes your subscription go further, enabling us to keep costs down.

Full House for Open Day

HGS U3A Open Day was held on the afternoon of 5 September at Alyth Synagogue, Alyth Gardens, and got off to a resounding start. The main hall was full, and there were many prospective new members as well as those who had already joined. Some people brought their iPhones, iPads, and laptops to use whilst the use of the website was illustrated.

The main hall at Alyth Synagogue was packed with members and prospective members

The first part of the afternoon was conducted by David Powers, our brilliant webmaster, who explained to the audience how to use and navigate our website. There have been many responses from members who have commended the excellent website for its appearance, navigation, and modernity; this is thanks to our webmaster for his splendid work.

Webmaster David Powers explains how the Members’ Handbook and the website complement each other

The rest of the afternoon was spent with the chair, Jack Berkovi, explaining about the new courses that are evolving, some of which were so recently added that there had not been time to include them in the new Handbook. At the end of the session new members enrolled, and members collected their Handbooks – the first edition for HGS U3A.

The new U3A is striving to meet the needs of the local community and making many alliances with locally sourced venues and organisations. We are using the Free Church and its hall, Fellowship House, the library in Golders Green, Alyth Synagogue in Temple Fortune, and the Michael Sobell Centre in Golders Green.

The website is constantly being updated and new courses are evolving all the time. Most groups have spaces available; others are being newly formed. There is a very wide variety of groups ranging from literature, languages, to art, history and outdoor activities

So, please check out our website regularly.

Report by Daphne Berkovi, photos by Myke Jacobs