The WEA is delighted to be sponsoring Flora the Duck at Festival Park. The Duck About Trail is a brilliant chance for everyone of all ages to learn more about the area’s landscape, heritage and people.
Just as adult learning has brought about transformation for thousands of students over the decades, Festival Park has seen significant changes over the years, from a green and pleasant landscape to a fiery steelworks and back again. The 1986 Garden Festival was considered the most successful of several in the country, supporting both the development of new parkland for the city and the growth of new businesses and jobs.
Flora represents new growth and she stands for everyone that wants to make a change in their lives. The WEA is a charity and through our sponsorship we are raising funds for our work with people for whom learning is a lifeline. Please therefore support the Duck Trail, and the WEA, by buying one of the rubber or ceramic Flora Ducks today and sharing the below page with family, friends and colleagues:
The story of the WEA in North Staffordshire
It was a committee of workers in Longton who sparked a new movement in adult learning that would influence how adult learning developed across the whole world. In 1908 they were the first place to respond to an offer for RH Tawney, a young Oxford academic, to start a seminar course in economics. For the next few years, Tawney would travel first to the Potteries and then on to Rochdale. While many workers had been enjoying lectures and self-help books over the previous century, these small group seminars gave the men and women weekly opportunities to discuss topics and build deep knowledge on many subjects equal to the most prestigious universities in the land - all while working in jobs with long hours and gruelling conditions.
Those first students would continue meeting for decades and volunteers from the class shared what they learned by starting new classes in every town and pit village of the area. Their history became intertwined with the physical landscape of the city. Tutors and students were involved in founding Keele University, Staffordshire University, the New Vic Theatre and the wartime Lidice campaign of solidarity.
Men and women were always equally involved in the WEA. Flora reminds us of the many incredible women who have worked as organisers over the years, setting up courses in community venues in response to the interests and needs of the community and working to encourage those whose previous experience of learning might have been negative or difficult. Their quiet heroism, and the stories of the students whose confidence flourished over years and decades, often go unheard and we plan to share some of them while Flora is at Festival Park.
The WEA continues to change, evolve and do whatever it takes to support equality through learning. During the pandemic, we rapidly expanded our online learning offer to ensure that adults were not cut off. Tutors of our online courses work hard to ensure that our courses remain as friendly and interactive as ever - even if we are in our living rooms instead of a community hall. Many students described their courses as a lifeline during lockdown, once again reinforcing the value of learning in our ever-changing times. Today we offer both: high-quality live online courses and face to face learning in a variety of local venues.
We invite everyone visiting Flora, or looking at her online as part of the trail, to become a friend of the WEA. Please buy a duck, join our mailing list, and become a member to get involved in our next chapter.