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Roving Reporter - Activities Day 2018

Added on: Wed 22nd August 2018


And so that time of year rolls around again – mid to late summer can only mean one thing

After weeks, if not months, of planning PU3A darkened the doors of Peterborough Regional College for their yearly big-bash.

A change of venue had been arranged to get around the yearly complaint about too little parking at The Fleet. There was no problem with there being enough spaces this year and the Car Park Marshalls did a sterling job, in shifts, keeping people on the right track. We had increased the number of disabled bays 5-fold by moving to the college, however due to the nature of our group it is unlikely we will ever have enough spaces to park everyone close to the doors. It worked quite well though with people dropping off at the entrance and then parking a little further away.

The room provided was also somewhat bigger so the hope was that all of the groups could be in one room, rather than some tucked away in side rooms. It almost worked, we still had to utilise the reception area for a few of our stalls. With groups as varied as Architecture to Astronomy and Welsh to Wood Turning there was something there for everyone to look at.

Some of our participation groups had stands set up for people to “have a go” such as Scrabble and Canasta – but it would have been stretching things a bit to have “Give it a try Belly Dancing” 😊 . Many of our groups attracted new members to their numbers, with one group (Basic Spanish) getting so much interest that the Group Leader has decided to start a second group. The Travel Group took bookings from dozens of globe trotters ensuring they will have a good 2019.

More generally we had the usual rush to renew membership, and the room set aside for registration was, as always, rather crowded for the first 2 hours. The helpers hardly had time to breathe. We suggest every year that to avoid the rush time it so you renew after about 1:30 – maybe our members like to get their bodies squeezed – who knows 😊. The staff from the college estimated that we had over 1000 people through the doors throughout the day – which compared to the registration going on in one of the other buildings for college courses was pretty good. Apparently they attracted 20 youngsters for their activities – maybe they need to change their target audience to a more mature age group 😊.

The cafeteria (or refectory as they call them educational establishments) was a great success - in fact so much so that supplies ran out (which has never happened before). We catered for the same sort of numbers of sales as previous years, but the members were obviously dehydrated and famished this year. Gill did her best and had to send out for more tea and coffee just to keep up. Lessons have been learnt, but we do need to cater for what we expect as we can’t store bulk refreshments from event to event.

The Deputy Mayor and Mayoress (John and Judy Fox) had an hour or two supporting us, and as in previous years he showed great interest as he was shown around by our Chairman (Brenda Fearon).

We had performances from our Belly Dancers, The Ukulele Group, our Poetry Writing Group and Sing Something Simple. The performances were in the cafeteria, and in the main this worked well. However due to the general hubbub of chat the poetry recitals got a little lost for volume. We will need to look at a better sound system for next year if we return to the same place. Sing Something Simple and the Ukulele players had their audience singing along and generally lifting the spirits – and the Belly Dancers were a visual delight in their chiffon and finery.

A few attendees did mention that they were not aware that they couldn’t access the venue until 11am even though we heavily advertised the fact prior to the event. The reason for this is that the Group Leaders need time to set up their stalls and make last minute adjustments prior to open the flood gates. Within 5 minutes of the doors opening the hall was so crowded that any set up would have been impossible. We humbly suggest that next year members check what time the doors open to save them queuing outside.

It seemed as if the overwhelming feeling was that PRC was a better venue than the Fleet on various fronts – just a few of the numerous received comments shown below :

  • Lots of interest, a successful day all round, well done the organisers” – Scrabble Group
  • U3A Spanish had a really busy day on Saturday. Our classes were all full, but we had so many people wanting to join that we're starting a new Basic Spanish class” - Basic Spanish
  • “PRC as a venue seems so much more convenient! What a great day!” Classic and Kit Cars
  • “Enjoyed the experience, thanks” – Chas Harrison (Member)
  • “A magnificent effort by all concerned!” Val McNeil (Member)
  • Great new venue and a wonderful day. – The Belly Dancers
  • “A huge thank you to all involved in putting Activities Day together” Earth Science, Science Matters and Mah Jong Groups
  • “Excellent day” Carol Abel (Member)


The following points have been raised by members about this year’s event for consideration for next year – initial committee thoughts are in red – but we will give further thought when organising next year’s event to see if we can find solutions.

  • A bit more space (possibly separate rooms for groups) as it was crowded – Having one room was because we were responding to last year’s comments that groups in side rooms felt isolated. We need to consider which solution is best for the majority. The size of the venue is limited to some extent by cost and availability
  • Refreshments ran out fairly early on. As explained above we catered using previous experience, but our members were ravenous this year – we will look for a method to quickly replenish when things run short without having to look at storage .
  • Name badges for group leaders would be helpful. These were available – but some GLs may have missed where to collect them from
  • Microphone for all the performances would help. There was no venue-wide system available so we had to rely on our Megamouth System – we will look to see if a relocation is possible or try to find a cost effective alternative to the Megamouth
  • A number of groups with tables around the outside commented that they would have preferred to be behind the tables -most didn't need back-boards for display - it would have freed up the space in the centre for members to walk around. We had to consider the availability of power sockets for those groups requiring them, and to place the GLs behind the tables would simply move the tables further towards the centre. However, Hilary is already considering re-jigs of the room plan
  • The hall was a squeeze - could the 'live' games have been situated in the refectory area so giving more space to static displays. Possibly, but with the performances and the games in the cafeteria it would make that space more crowded with people moving around with drinks etc
  • Might have been better to finish at 3.00 rather than 4.00 Whilst footfall does reduce after about 2:30 some people prefer to arrive when it is less crowded. Plus, we try to give as wide a time frame as possible as some members have other things they participate in on any given day
  • It was rather noisy for the first couple of hours. People were congregating for idle chats with people they hadn’t seen for a while, which was nice for them but people couldn’t get by to look at what was on offer. And those who could, couldn’t hear what stand holders were saying, we were having to shout over the congregated group. Very little we can do about that – people will gather in any space they care to when they spot friends and then chat. With the number of people we attract volume will be a problem no matter what venue or space we acquire for the event.
  • For future years is locating similar interests together in the same area a workable idea. Hilary does consider this, however other “requests” sometimes makes locations of stands difficult to group like activities together.
  • We could do with signs in the surrounding area pointing us to the location. It is actually illegal to erect signs on a public highway (even attached to street lighting and/or telephone poles). People do do it – but we would rather stay legal.
  • Our group told us we could get in at 10am. The committee advertise the opening times in as many places as possible from about a month before the event – we would suggest that you check the times with one of the official publications before setting off on the day
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