WEA Scottish Local Associations & Branches
Local Associations are the democratic unit within the WEA structure in Scotland, through which members exercise their democratic rights in the organisation and through which most of the voluntary activity in the organisation is channelled. Local Associations receive 50% of the membership fees collected from members in their area, to help them meet the cost of servicing the membership at local level.
WEA Highland Local Association
The WEA was active sporadically in Inverness in the 1930s, but it was not until 1984 that there was a permanent presence in the Highlands. The Inverness Courier advert for a public meeting in the Cummings Hotel in December 1984 said that “The W.E.A. provides local Adult Education and gives you a say in how it is organised.”
This is as true 35 years later as it was in 1985, when an office was established in Inverness. To start with there were two Local Associations in the Highlands: Inverness & Area, and North Highland, based in Easter Ross. In 2015 the two local associations merged to form the WEA Highland Local Association.
Over the last five years the WEA in Scotland has seen many changes. In the Highlands we have made important contributions to Women’s Studies through projects on the women’s suffrage movement. We also run creative writing events and courses and support refugees in Highland communities. The Women at Work programme (W@W) and the Women in the Highlands project have been ground-breaking in their achievements.
The Highland Local Association supports local WEA staff and tutors and also organises its own events, including very popular lunch-time talks in both Inverness and Dingwall, minibus excursions for local WEA members, and other events, such as guided local history walks. We hope to resume these activities soon and are planning an innovative new course giving advice on fundraising and funding applications for community groups.
We welcome ideas for future courses and we encourage everybody interested in adult learning to join the WEA as members and volunteers.
Norman Newton, Secretary
WEA North East Local Association
The North East Local Association is a group of volunteers who support the WEA in the North East of Scotland. We work with the Area Education Manager to promote the work of the WEA in the area.
The Association members are elected every year at our Annual General Meeting and come from a variety of backgrounds: some are learners, others are tutors, and some are people who have an interest in the work of the WEA.
We link with the management of the WEA to raise issues that are important to us. We have recently held a meeting with the Director, Scotland to discuss a number of issues and further meetings are planned. We believe that we have an important role in ensuring that the voice of WEA members is heard throughout the governance systems.
Our focus over the last couple of years has been on supporting evaluation of the impact that WEA groups and classes have had for learners. We have done this by training in how to use Narrative Inquiry to talk with learners and have used this technique to hear their experience. In our first year this was supported by a grant from the WEA Innovation Fund and this allowed us to access professional training and publicise our findings through a report (https://www.weascotland.org.uk/motivational-tales-wea) and an exhibition of the learners' stories. These resources have been used widely both locally and by the WEA in Scotland. We are planning further refresher training and to undertake interviews with more learners. We think it is important that this work is kept current as the courses and priorities change. We have identified those groups that we would wish to visit in the next phase of the work.
We meet regularly and our meetings are open to anyone who is interested. We are happy to be contacted by anyone who wishes to discuss our work or find out more.
WEA Fife Local Association
The WEA Local Association in Fife has been active in many of Fife's communities for several decades, offering a variety of learning opportunities for members (individuals and associated groups) and non-members, covering many pertinent topics including: environment and climate change; local history and heritage; music and poetry; gender issues (particularly women's rights); the local political landscape; and local advocacy issues.
Our current educational project, titled "What We Can Weave Together", is a multiple-year project which allows us to research Fife’s rich textile (particularly linen) manufacturing and processing heritage and disseminate its findings through several media outlets. The projects first exhibition was in 2019, and our next, intended originally for 2020, now looks likely to be postponed until 2021. Future plans and project outputs will include lectures, talks, publications and web presence. The approach taken has been multi-organisational and multi-faceted in terms of subject material, covering the processes (craft to mass production), industrialists, the workforces, societal consequences and final products.
Once we have moved further into Covid-19 lockdown-easing measures we will be actively picking up again on the threads of marketing the WEA as a unique and valuable educational voice. We will along with like-minded partner organisations engage with the local population, through direct and indirect marketing channels, encouraging participation as valued volunteers and the accessing of the fast increasing and wide range of educational opportunities available through WEA. We view WEAs rapid development and upscaling of its online education offer as an important complement to the more traditional classroom based delivery, and envisage it having a key role to play in our ever changing educational landscape.
WEA Edinburgh & Lothians Local Association
Lothian Local Association is a long established group of volunteer members who meet regularly in Edinburgh to discuss and organise Adult Education classes, projects and developments across Edinburgh. Most members of the Association are closely involved in a vibrant network of WEA courses and student groups. These include: WEA Playwrights Workshop; Theatre Study groups; The Diggers Writers; Exploring Scottish Literature; WEA Lothian Women’s Forum and WEA Exploring Books Groups.
The majority of the groups have not been put off by the recent Covid-19 pandemic and have continued to meet and connect online via Zoom. The learners and tutors have embraced and welcomed this initiative and have all enjoyed and benefitted from staying in touch and learning together at such a challenging time. The connections made through the groups and projects are often strong and long-lasting.
We are always looking for ideas for future courses and projects and encourage everybody interested in adult learning to join the WEA as volunteers and members.
WEA West of Scotland Local Association