u3a - Speaker Swap

What is Speaker Swap?

Speaker Swap is an initiative to swap talks between interest groups in different u3a's. This initiative I currently running within three different subject areas: British History, Egyptology and now History of Art.

What we want to do

We want to facilitate contact across the U.K. between groups within these initial areas and we have discovered there are a variety of methods that work. For example, Zoom meetings where groups join from different u3as and take turns presenting. Or members with a particular interest offering a talk to another group with a similar focus. Some groups may wish to pair up and learn together, or share materials. The intention is for this to always be a reciprocal arrangement so that groups would effectively swap talks and have mutual discussions.

How to get involved

If you would like to register to receive details of others willing to swap, please complete one of the online forms below: 

Please note that completion of the questionnaire means that your details (name, u3a and email address) will be made available to other u3as so that they can contact you to discuss a potential reciprocal partnership.

We will share a spreadsheet of all the details on a monthly basis. If you would like to get involved please do so now, each month we will draw up a list of talks/presentations that can be circulated to interested parties and then swapped between them. 

A volunteer will collate the initial responses and send them out - then it is down to Group Leader/Convenors to contact each other. Within all of these subject areas, there are papers and presentations produced by members on a vast range of areas for study and discussion.


British History was the first subject to be piloted for the Sweaker Swap initiative, here is what group leader Mike Stringer has to say about his involvement so far:

I have been involved with the Speaker Swap project since its inception, at the time we started, we had hoped the restrictions imposed on us by Covid would have long passed. However, as we all know, that hasn’t been the case! So being involved with this project has helped me keep our History group going.

I’ve been involved in a number of swaps with other groups across the country. In fact, I’ve actually lost count! My group has been lucky enough to tune in with Zoom to a range of talks on topics from codes and cyphers (particularly good for those of us who had been to Bletchley Park) through to how medieval people protected their houses from evil spirits and onto the operations of the volunteer fire service. In return, I’ve given my talk on London’s frost fairs to several groups, it has proved to be quite popular, though it is best done during the right seasons of the year! We have two more talks already lined up for the New Year as part of our Winter programme, we aim to mix paid speakers with talk swaps to ensure variety and to entertain our group.

As part of the project, it has been interesting to speak to people in other u3as and hear how they are coping with Covid and how they run their groups. There is now a healthy number of u3as taking part in the project, and I am hopeful that we will continue to be able to make use of the many talks which undoubtedly already exist across our organisation. If you haven’t already registered to take part, give it a try!

Mike Stringer

Art History is the latest subject to be added to the Speaker Swap initiative, here is what the chair of Newcastle u3a, Catherine Stevenson, has to say about her hopes for the Art History swaps to come and the talks she will be offering:

Art history is an intriguing subject from which we can learn about the past, present and future. In my presentations, I try to capture all of these and illustrate how it encompasses every subject such as history, science, medicine, psychology, geography, religion. I find all forms and styles of art immensely fascinating whether it be from ancient Greece or Picasso or the architecture of the Georgian era or ancient Aboriginal drawings.  

I studied art history and history for a degree and took my interest forward when I became a teacher. For over 40 years, I have continued to study works of art and have integrated many artworks into other interest group topics.

For Newcastle u3a, I lead the Talking About Art, General History and Astronomy interest groups. For Trust u3a, I lead Talking Art and Astronomy and Art History for u3a Communities. During the 6 workshops, I delivered at u3a National Conferences, art and its adaptability played their role. I am also busy delivering talks for national u3a audiences via the Online Events programme. More of these in the offing!

I am a volunteer for Tyne and Wear Museums for which I act as a tour guide in the museums but I am mainly based at an art gallery in Newcastle where I have delivered presentations, tours and study days for our regional u3a as well as my own u3a.

Catherine Stevenson, Chair of Newcastle u3a

The presentations Catherine offers include:

  • ‘The Woman Who Took Revenge’
  • ‘Leonardo, would he have made a good u3a member?’
  • 'Rembrandt and the Third Age’
  • ‘The Bayeux Tapestry and Its Hidden Messages’
  • ‘Tracing the history of fairy tales, partly through art’
  • ‘Who Wears the Trousers?’

For more information on any of the topics please contact Mike, Neil or Catherine via the following links: