There is a moment of thought, and then Jackie says, ‘Does that mean you’re socialists?’
I smile and shake my head. ‘We’re not a political organisation. “Workers” were who the organisation was originally set up for, in 1903, so that they could access higher levels of education, and have the chance to improve their opportunities,’ I say. ‘The title’s historical.’
Jackie wonders how she’s never heard about WEA before, if it’s been around so long.
‘It always surprises me how many people haven’t,’ I agree.
‘So what is it about now?’ says Jackie.
‘It’s still about improving lives,’ I tell her, ‘but that doesn’t necessarily mean economically. It’s also about health and well-being, about keeping our minds active and enquiring, and getting us involved with our communities.’
I think about all the different sorts of classes I’ve been involved with since I started tutoring for the WEA over a decade ago. As well as the Open Access Programme anyone can sign up for, there have been community groups set up for students with chaotic lifestyles, and disadvantaged backgrounds, where creative writing activities have provided a safe outlet for self-expression, and for some, has provided a first step into employment or back onto the education ladder.
‘People come to classes because they want to learn, not because they have to,’ I say. ‘That creates a real buzz in the room.’
‘So your students are still workers in the sense that they’re working at their education?’
‘I like that,’ I say. ‘I might steal it.’
‘Help yourself,’ says Jackie. ‘Can I keep this brochure?’