Reflections on the first WEA annual lecture

When you are an organisation founded in 1903 it is hard to find many ‘firsts’ and so Ruth Spellman is to be congratulated on this first WEA annual lecture on the 9th May 2013. The inspired choice of Jenni Murray, the regular presenter of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour since 1987, not only ensured that the large lecture theatre at University College London was packed out but also treated the audience to an engaging and entertaining speech.

Woman’s Hour with its rich mix of culture and politics has always been synonymous with a kind of learning that engages a very wide audience of devoted fans. Like adult education the majority of participants are women though around a third of them are men and like adult learners many are very active participants, writing in to suggest ideas for debate on the programme. Like the best adult education, the programme relies on tapping into the interest of the listeners and getting to the heart of what they want to know about.

Amongst the jovial mix of anecdotes of a Barnsley childhood and hilarious memos from various radio controllers there was a strong message too that whether with feminism or adult education the hard won rights of previous generations can be lost if we do not remain vigilant. There is always the imperative for each generation to push for better.

ECA Vice-chairman, Chris Minter, attended the lecture and added that “whist this was an enjoyable evening, we must never underestimate the power of a broad based adult education to reach and stimulate a very wide number and range of people nor the great benefits that all kinds of media provide for us to meet their needs. Adult education will always be a major power for the common good of the nation if it continues to reach out and respond to the widest range of people.”

Date Added: May 10th 2013