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Sunday, 13 August 2017

University of 3rd AgeMusic for Pleasure and Food for Thought

Speakers: Neil Smith and Geoff Tansey

U3A Todmorden enjoyed two engagingly contrasting speakers in June and July, music for pleasure in the one case and food for thought in the other. 

Neil Smith in June offered us musical entertainment of a delightfully different and varied kind. Neil's reputation as an international guitarist is among the highest, and together with his skill in styles ranging through classical, rock and jazz, he has clearly enjoyed a rich, rewarding and, occasionally, bizarre life.

Unusual experiences

These unusual experiences include being Molotov-cocktailed in Belfast, a performance for Blair and Clinton that was interrupted several times by an argument among their aides, avoiding a honey trap in a Moscow hotel, being bodyguarded by a Greek national hero, 'Tassos', and just missing the chance to go to Hamburg as a fill-in guitarist for The Beatles.

Playing for stars and royalty

Neil has played for people such as Elizabeth Taylor, The Queen Mother, the Red Army in Transylvania, and General Sheikh Mahtoum III. His performances around the world at embassies are innumerable and include an encounter with an embassy 007 who quizzed him on the USSR and Arabia.

This wonderful anecdotal talk was punctuated by lovely short excerpts on the guitar – Greek dance music, Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto, the March of King Brian Boru and others. Neil's talk was well balanced, delightfully engaging and a tribute to good musicianship.

Geoff TanseyBy contrast, in July Geoff Tansey from Food Systems Academy gave us a thorough grounding in contemporary thinking about how the global human population can feed itself in the future.

Geoff began by asking us to consider a possible consequence of Brexit: if the pound devalues, food prices could rise exorbitantly.

So how do we provide safe, secure, sustainable, sufficient and nutritious food equitably for all? Well, we need first to acknowledge some realities.

Weight contrasts

For example, 1.6 billion people are overweight, with 300 million obese, 795 million are undernourished and 2 billion suffer from a lack of trace elements in their diet. Agricultural practices are depleting soil health and biodiversity.

International control of food

Moreover, food is controlled by a very few international players such as Mars, Nestlé, Kraft and Unilever.  Their power can be illustrated by Coca Cola and McDonald's each of whose global expenditure exceeded the World Health Organisation's total budget in the mid-2000s.

And when rules about intellectual property favour the three largest globalised seed companies, we can see how our control over our food resides in the hands of only a few inaccessible people.

Then we should consider the tools that are used by these players to control their systems. For example, political, military and economic power can be used, but they do not promote longterm peace. Science and technology may produce and distribute food effectively, but they may serve the interests of the companies exploiting them rather than the population at large.

Customer profiling – intended to make you offers you won't want to refuse in order to get you to buy things you don't need? And then laws, rules and regulations all too easily are made to favour big business.

Prosperity without growth

A bleak scenario, but Geoff left us with some ideas that would help to change all that. We need to shift our thinking to 'prosperity without growth' that conceives of economics in ecological terms. We can choose between techno-fixes which are usually intended to boost productivity (and profit), and opt perhaps for sufficiency which tries to encourage smaller farmers and promote an ecological balance that preserves productivity for the future.


And we could stop expecting aubergines and strawberries in December, support local food production, eat seasonally, and consume less meat.

Crucially, co-operation is better than competition. A challenging thought from a challenging speaker to whom we are very grateful.


Our homegrown showcase speakers have been Nigel Plant (Photography) and Jean Pearson (Art Club). 

Nigel is an experienced photographer with 20 years' experience of clubs at national and international level. Sometimes the group runs sessions on camera technique, but generally bases sessions on looking at members' photographs. They also mount their own occasional exhibitions in the Information Centre, and organise outings.

Jean's Art Group runs as a workshop for people who want to 'do their own thing' or, as Jean suggested, 'take a pencil for a walk' in the company of likeminded people. Sometimes there are talks (on collage, for example), or someone will lead a group. For inspiration while enjoying yourself, please contact Jean if you'd like to join up.

Other News

  • Ernie Rogan conducted the July AGM with good humour and efficiency, and has reported on it on our website. Basically, U3A Tod is in good nick, so thank you to the committee and the convenors for helping it run so well.
  • Doug Simpson is spearheading our efforts to make life easier for members who suffer from hearing, mobility of sight problems.
  • We are constantly in need of volunteers to help with tea and coffee. Please don't feel afraid to step forward: it's not onerous and you have a chance to chat to friends and meet people you don't know.
  • And if anyone would like to help with the newsletter, their volunteering would be welcome.  Would convenors please send in any information that they think would be of interest to members.
  • Alison Greenwood highlighted the Geoff Love Centenary celebrations. Further details are available from the TIC (Todmorden Information Centre).

Todmorden U3A's next meeting will be held on Thursday, 17th August in the Central Methodist Church in Todmorden at 1.45.  Our speaker will be Dr Mary Holmes with a talk titled 'Four Years, Eight Histories and a Dog!'

Our contact details are (website) www.u3atod.org.uk, (email) enquiries@u3atod.org.uk, or (phone) 01706 812015.

Many thanks to Anthony Peter for this report


Previous U3A reports on the HebWeb

HebWeb News: The Political and Social satire of Gilbert and Sullivan (7 July 2017)

HebWeb News: Professor Scott Scores a Euro-Hit with speaker Professor Derek Scott of Leeds University (10 May 2017)

HebWeb News: Old Flames and Steamy Memories. With speaker Granville Dobson (9 April 2017)

HebWeb News: Titus Salt – Philanthropic Paternalist or Capitalist Villain? With speaker Maria Glot (2 March 2017)

HebWeb News: Shaking Hitler's Hand (by proxy) - with speaker Alun Pugh (12 Feb 2017)

HebWeb News: Masterclass on Gilbert and Sullivan at U3A Todmorden - with speaker Bernard Lockett (28 Oct 2016)

HebWeb News: Moses Holden, Autodidact of Preston - with speaker Steve Halliwell (7 Oct 2016)

HebWeb News: Volunteering in Palestine and Guatemala - with speaker David Gilman (9 Aug 2016)

HebWeb News: Snow, Permafrost, Insects, Iron - with speaker Dr Frank Nicholson (7 July 2016)

HebWeb News:Stranger in a Strange Land - with speaker Gill Russell (7 May 2016)

HebWeb News:Life with polio and a career as a TV and Radio presenter. with speaker Jane Shepherd (12 June 2016)

HebWeb News:Small in a Tall Person's World with speakers Hamish Willis and Penny Dean OBE (31 March 2016)

HebWeb News:In the Footsteps of Norbert Carteret (22 February 2016)

HebWeb News:Gallivanting on Public Transport - a Bus Pass from Berwick to Land's End (30 September 2015)

HebWeb News: Magna Carta - A (Mostly) Light-hearted look at 800 Years of History (1 September 2015)

HebWeb News: Summat a' Nowt - talk by Steve Murty (28 April 2015)

HebWeb News: My Convict Ancestors (12 April 2015)

HebWeb News: Aquaponics Lab - A Radical Solution (16 January 2015)

HebWeb News: British Professional Cycling – Tykes and Le Tour de France (11 December 2014)

HebWeb News: Life in La Serenissima, Venice - Kathryn Ogden (9 July 2014)

HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: The Machine that Changed the World (25 February 2014)

HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: Music and the Deaf (12 February 2014)

HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: Psychology and You - Part Two David Groves made a welcome return as a speaker at the October Todmorden U3A (26 October 2013)

HebWeb News: Hebden Bridge Little Theatre, A Short History was recounted by Ray Riches to the University of the Third Age. (28 Aug 2013)

HebWeb News: John Sheard, retired land agent to the Duke of Devonshire, gave his third talk to members of the U3A, this time on Sir Joseph Paxton, Knighted Gardener (26 July 2013)

HebWeb News: Off Stage Choices: Andrew Rawlinson recounts his theatre experience from Tod Operatic to General Manager of a leading Theatre Group. (18 July 2013)

HebWeb News: The Story of the Hebden Bridge Calendar (April 2013)

HebWeb News: Changing Times in the Press (March 2013)

HebWeb News: Cancer from Both Sides (Nov 2012)

HebWeb News: Steve Halliwell outlined the history of the Woodland Trust (Sept 2012)

HebWeb News: Ray Riches talks on Walking the Pacific Crest Trail (Aug 2012)

HebWeb News: Pitch and Pythagoras - Pulse and Prison (July 2012)

HebWeb News - Lord Shutt explains the workings of the House of Lords (May 2012)

HebWeb News - Claire Benedict talks acting to Todmorden U3A (April 2012)

HebWeb News - Kate Moreton-Deakin spoke about her day job as Associate Director - Corporate Social Responsibility with Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust. (Feb 2012)

HebWeb News - Fair Trade Movement (Feb 2012)

HebWeb News - Fancy a cruise to the Antarctic? (Feb 2012)

HebWeb News - Gail Allaby, U3A's Queen of the Underworld (Dec 2011)

HebWeb News - September meeting report - Report of meeting about Walking the Pacific Crest Trail

HebWeb News - August meeting report - Bolton Abbey

HebWeb News - May and June meeting report - Keep Learning: Live long and prosper and the role of the Lord-Lieutenant

HebWeb News - April meeting report - Belt and Braces - An Everyday Guide to Risk and Chance

HebWeb News - March meeting report - Growing Old in the Twenty-First Century

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