Adult Learners’ Week events in Stoke Golding

10 July 2014

Adult Learners’ Week 2014 was bigger and better than ever – as the culmination of a two-month long Festival of Learning, it saw over 4,000 learning events and tasters take place across England and Wales. Steve Smithers – a member of a small planning team in Stoke Golding – shares an insight into the range of events held in just one small village, showcasing what can be achieved when passion and dedication are abundant.

Steve Smithers with the Adult Learners’ Week planning group in Stoke Golding

Stoke Golding, a village on the South Western edge of Leicestershire and home to approximately 900 people, has many claims to fame. Most significantly as “The Birth Place of the Tudor Dynasty” as King Henry VII received his blessings in the church after defeating Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth, and most recently having hosted Adult Learners’ Week events for the second year running.

The villagers were first introduced to Adult Learners’ Week in 2013 by my partner – long term adult learning practitioner and champion, and former ESOL expert at NIACE – Chris Taylor. Although Chris sadly passed away this January, her enthusiasm was infectious and a village resident approached me to help organise events for 2014. Others who had been involved last year were enthusiastic, Chris’s notes from 2013 were precise and clear, NIACE agreed to support us, and so planning for Adult Learners’ Week 2014 started in earnest.

We set up a small planning group which worked closely together to organise no less than 20 interesting learning events that catered to over 200 people with a wide range of creative and practical interests. Below are just some examples of those events.

Arts and Crafts

Our Willow Weaving session facilitated by Tom Hare – village resident and internationally respected Willow Weaver – taught participants how to construct an object from willow. In just 2.5 hours we proudly made fine Obelisk-type plant supports to enhance our gardens. We also held a well-attended session on drawing and painting flowers, as well as a mixed craft session which was expertly led by the Women’s Institute.

Willow Weaving

Mental Wellbeing and Physical Fitness

Learning can help improve people’s mental wellbeing and because Bridge is said to stimulate the brain and keep the mind clear well into old age, we ran a Bridge for Beginners class. Singing is also good for the soul and our session held at the Methodist Church has inspired attendees to enquire about continuing to sing in the choir and meeting regularly. We also organised some popular physical fitness activities like learning to dance Burlesque and a Pilates taster class.

Food and Drink

For some reason, one of our most popular events was an evening of wine tasting! Keith Morton from ‘Wine 2 You’ led the session with his wife, explaining the characteristics of different grapes and the science behind wine production. There was also a high demand for our cupcake decorating class, led by expert Ali Waterer, which taught participants how to make an impressive cupcake bouquet.

Wine Tasting

Practical and Academic Sessions

We also held a range of practical and academic sessions to cater for everyone and to help people gain the skills they need to get on in life. We had a great event that got mums reading with their children and signing up to the local library and our IT class gave people invaluable skills they can use both at work and at home. A local, retired teacher also gave up her time to teach people conversational French and history buffs had the chance to find out all manner of interesting information about Scotland and St. Margaret’s Church. Last, but not least, we also provided a certificated Basic First Aid course run by St. John’s Ambulance.

I was truly inspired by the enjoyment expressed by all of those who participated and got a taste of the magic of adult learning that had motivated Chris so much in her career. These wonderful events really seemed to spark the imaginations of our local residents, helping them discover different interests, forge new friendships, gain important skills for work and home, and giving them the confidence to pursue further learning opportunities. I hope we can have the same success for Adult Learners’ Week 2015!



Napagi Augustine

July 13th, 2014 at 9:21 pm

Gayaza Family Learning and Resource Centre is another legacy that still lives on in Uganda left behind by Chris and her team.

John Sutton

July 14th, 2014 at 9:20 pm

What a truly great achievement Steve. You and your fellow team members who worked so hard to put the various events on can be rightly proud.

Helen Shipton

July 31st, 2014 at 11:27 pm

I took part in the Stoke Golding

Adults Learner’s week this year and it was a fantastic experience. Each of the 5 events I attended were well organised, friendly, fun and I gained a great deal of knowledge in the process. Many thanks to all of the organising team and instructors. I very much look forward to next year.