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Residents in Saffron Walden are spoilt for choice when it comes to trying a new activity. Joanne Jarvis meets just some of the town's social sets
Dance the night away
With dance shows such as the BBCs Strictly Come Dancing dominating the TV schedules, it is no wonder that dance schools have had an influx of people who want to learn a new skill, have fun and get fitter. The Saffron School of Dance, situated on the towns High Street, is no exception.
Theresa Goddard, principal of the Saffron School of Dance, teaches a variety of dances to youngsters as young as 18 months old through to adults, including adult tap dancing, belly dancing, quick step, ballroom and foxtrot.
The former dancer began teaching dance at a village hall in the town with just 20 members and now she teaches almost 400 men, women and children, six times a week.
Theresa explains: I have lived in Saffron Walden for as long as I can remember, so it was an obvious place to set up my school. It has been very successful with people of all shapes and sizes taking part. Dancing is a great thing to do. Its not only therapeutic (because people tend to forgot all their problems), but its a great way to keep fit as its more fun than going to the gym.
Its also got an end product because it enables people to learn a new skill and meet new people. Children also get a lot of enjoyment out of it and it builds their confidence which is really important.
Even Theresas five grandchildren, aged between five and 16, attend the school.
Its something Ive always loved doing, Theresa adds. I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping my students to pass their exams and go on to be successful dance teachers or performers on stage.
To find out more about the school or to join, call Theresa Goddard on 01799 525098. Eight-week courses for beginners in quick step, ballroom and the foxtrot are held twice a year as well as regular classes in tap, belly dancing and ballet. Theresas students will be doing their next dance show at Easter
University of the Third Age
If you would like to learn a new skill in the company of like-minded people, Saffron Waldens University of the Third Age could be just the club for you.
The club is part of an international network of U3As set up in the UK with the aim of encouraging people aged 50 and over and no longer in full-time employment to continue learning. Saffron Walden U3A was set up in 1982 and was one of the first in the country. Classes and activities are organised by members and include art, bird watching, bridge, crafts, history, French conversation, keep fit, line dancing, literature, music, pilates, play reading, poetry, rambling, scrabble, swimming, and tai chi.
Chairman John Letchford, who joined in 2008, explains: People join the U3A to associate with like-minded individuals in pursuing interests and activities which are best conducted as groups and to maintain their zest for life.
Last year we had almost 450 members and we are heading for a similar number this year. Ages range from 50 to those who have received a telegram from the Queen.
The group does not have any premises of its own so classes are held at members homes while larger meetings take place in hired halls. Its own members teach most classes, although some require a professional tutor.
There is also an open meeting on the third Monday of each month at which members are brought up to date with U3A announcements and then listen to a guest speaker. These meetings are held at the Saffron Walden Bowling Club during the autumn and spring terms and at the United Reformed Church Hall during the summer term.
Members also have the opportunity to go on trips organised by the Theatre and Travel Group. These visits have been to places such as country houses, the theatre, opera and classical music concerts, and even educational holidays.
John adds: You can come along to one of our meetings or to a taster session at one of our classes. You will be amazed at the number of people who, just like you, think that the joy of learning and socialising does not diminish as we get older. Instead, like fine wine, it matures and refines, especially when shared with friends.
For more information call John Letchford on 01799 522552
Life behind the lens
Budding photographers have no excuse not to develop their camera skills with Saffron Walden Camera Club on their doorstep. The club, which is based at Saffron Walden Day Centre in Hill Street, provides a varied programme of lectures, demonstrations and practical sessions on photographic technique for people of all ages and abilities.
The club was reformed in 1981 and every year since then it has held an exhibition of its work in the Corn Exchange Library in the centre of Saffron Walden. During this period, photography has undergone a major revolution and film has been entirely replaced by digital imaging.
Club secretary Tony Sweet was one of the first to join the club nearly 30 years ago. He explains: Photography has been my lifetime hobby and I have always had a darkroom. The aim of the group is to promote and encourage interest in the art and science of photography by means of discussions, lectures and demonstrations, or by any other means. We have a number of studio sessions where members can improve their skills in portraiture and also surgery evenings are held for giving members practical help on various technical issues.
One of the most important things is to take a critical look at each others work and a programme of various competitions is held to encourage members to show their best work. Comparing our work with that of other clubs is also important and inter-club battles are arranged to stimulate this.
The club is affiliated to the East Anglian Federation of Photographic Societies, which comprises 120 clubs throughout East Anglia. The organisation offers support to clubs by providing lists of speakers and judges who are prepared to visit local clubs. It also arranges special events bringing in speakers from outside the region which small clubs, such as Saffron Walden Camera Club, would not otherwise be
able to afford.
Saffron Walden Camera Club currently has around 30 members aged from 18 to people in their early nineties. It is always fascinating, when a group of members go to the same location, to see how many different pictures they come back with, Tony adds. People usually join because they want to improve their photography. We dont do any formal training courses, but personal help is provided when needed. The best thing about being a member is being able to enjoy photography more with like minded-people.
Tony explained that members get a lot out of joining the group including, greater confidence in using their equipment in a variety of circumstances and expanded artistic horizons by becoming a member.
The club meets on alternate Friday evenings from September until May. Although the club takes a three-month break in the summer, club outings to places of photographic interest are held throughout the year.
For more information visit www.swcamclub.org to see the clubs programme. Those interested are also welcome to attend two or three meetings as a guest before deciding whether or not to join