Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

WEA LogoA centenary celebration – 100 years of adult education

In 1919, the Report on Adult Education was published and served as a template under which adult education could flourish. To mark its 100th anniversary an open exhibition is being held on Friday 12 July at the White Rock Hotel, hosted by the Hastings, St Leonards and Bexhill branches of the Workers Educational Association. HOT’s Jordan Dixon writes.

The Workers Educational Association (WEA) was founded in 1903 by Albert Mansbridge, who was concerned that extension courses offered by universities were aimed only at the upper and middle classes. Today the WEA has over 350 branches across the UK that each offers courses in literacy, numeracy and other basic skills, thanks to the voluntary efforts of local tutors and educators.

In 1917, a committee was formed to consider the nature and role of adult education in the UK. The WEA served as an integral part of the discussions and, as part of the committee’s final report in 1919, the group was assigned a central place in developing and extending the scope and reach of adult education. The report is still held in high regard today and was touted as being ‘probably the most important single contribution ever made to the literature of adult education’.

A centenary celebration 

Patchwork depicting the former WEA logo, in Hastings Town Hall

Patchwork in Hastings Town Hall depicting the former WEA logo.

The upcoming WEA exhibition has been generously funded by the WEA London and Southern Region. Running from 11am to 5pm, it will celebrate the 1919 report through an extensive display of its history. It will also document the efforts of the Hastings branch of the WEA, presenting various examples of work from its courses, which mainly focus on art and culture.

At midday a lecture on adult education will be offered by David Alfred, formerly a tutor organiser for the WEA (1979-2004) and an active WEA lecturer, currently teaching a class in Politics (Burning Issues). He also convened the Robert Tressell Workshop for the Hastings branch in 1980 – leading to The Robert Tressell Papers.

Copies of the new WEA programme for 2019-20, as well other leaflets and information, will also be free to take away.

Spreading the word

I spoke to Nicholas Dent, chair of the Hastings, St Leonards and Bexhill WEA branches, and asked about his hopes for the event. Nicholas admitted that the WEA’s biggest problem in the South East is that very few people seem to be aware of their work.

The WEA Hastings branch offers crafting classes such as basket weaving among others.

The WEA Hastings branch offers crafting classes such as basket-weaving.

“We hope very much that mounting this exhibition will mean that more people get to hear about the WEA locally, get to find about what opportunities we offer, and come to value and enjoy the chances for learning that the WEA provides,” he said.

“We hope that by seeing what other students have done, by seeing what taking a course might involve, by meeting tutors and existing students, visitors might be encouraged to take the plunge and realise how stimulating and enjoyable doing some study as an adult can be”.

The Hastings branch currently offers an extensive list of courses which usually run between six and 10 weeks. These courses include photography, creative writing, watercolour painting, art history and theory, willow basket-making and macrame. Courses are held during the day and as such, the majority of students are retired or unemployed. The branch hopes to introduce evening classes soon.

The WEA Hastings exhibition takes place on Friday 12 July, 11am to 5pm, in The Sea Front Rooms of the White Rock Hotel. Free and open to all.

For more information on the WEA southern branches or to register for available courses, visit the website or call 0300 303 3464 (Monday-Friday, 8am-8pm; Saturday 8am-1pm).

To stay up-to-date with news on the exhibition, visit the WEA on Facebook


Posted 21:26 Wednesday, Jul 3, 2019 In: Public Arts

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