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).

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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

Medicinal Garden Tour

On 3 August, our new U3A was fortunate to be given a special guided tour of the Royal College of Physicians’ Medicinal Garden by Dr Henry Oakley, the Garden Fellow at the college. As soon as the tour was flagged up on our website it was fully booked, and we had to establish a second tour for the afternoon.

Henry Oakley showing U3A members the garden

The Royal College of Physicians’ garden was established in 1964, and it contains over 1,100 plants all with links to medicine. The innumerable stories they tell come from diverse cultures, different countries across the globe, and from every age in recorded history.

We were very fortunate to be led by Dr Oakley who entertained us with so many anecdotes and stories. He also explained why and how plants have been used as medicines, as he is an expert in this field. Dr Oakley has also written several books about the history of medicinal plants and about the college’s Medicinal Garden, as every plant has a story to tell.

Dr Oakley recounts a story about one of the plants

The garden has been exquisitely designed and is a pleasingly tranquil space in the centre of London. The pleasure of the garden is in its unique collections of plants that offer living examples of the history of medicine.

The event was such a success that Dr Oakley has offered our U3A another tour next year; so do look out for this event on our website.

Report by Daphne Berkovi, photos by David Powers

Huge Response to Enrolment Day

HGS U3A got off to a flying start on Thursday 18 May with a long queue waiting patiently outside the Hampstead Garden Suburb Free Church before the doors opened at 10 am for Enrolment Day.

Local residents queue for enrolment

More than 200 people had signed up in advance, and dozens more joined on the day. The event gave members and potential members an opportunity to find out about the 50 or so interest groups that have been established, and to sign up for them. Some groups rapidly filled up and now have waiting lists. The Groups Organiser will be using the information gathered during the day to determine where we need to add new interest groups and/or duplicate courses.

Members signing up for courses

Our special guest at Enrolment Day was the distinguished war correspondent and former MP, Martin Bell OBE. Martin is a long-term resident of Hampstead Garden Suburb. In a brief speech, he stressed that you never stop learning. Judging by the enthusiasm of everyone who attended, that’s certainly true of “third agers” in Hampstead Garden Suburb and surrounding areas.

Martin Bell addresses members watched by HGS U3A Chair, Jack Berkovi (left)