Searchers

The aims of Searchers include intellectual stimulation, confidence building, a range of skills and a  desire to take what we have learned to others. Teaming up with the Museum of Oxford, we run yearly Summer and Winter schools entitled ‘Write your Life’ where people can present research, autobiography and family history. Eighty attended the last one and twenty people who in most cases had never spoken in public before, gave short contributions. It was magic listening to the variety, the humour, sadness and range of topics, from escaping to Pakistan after partition to working in banking.
 Publishing is another aim- part of our ‘doing it for real’ approach. With a small grant we have produced extracts from research, contributions to the Summer School, and helped individuals with more extended pieces. One student began a short piece of research on her great grandfather, Benjamin Creswick, a Sheffield Cutler who became a protégée of John Ruskin and a fine sculptor. This became a lengthy published project and with several universities on board she is currently setting up a special website as she pursues more research- literally around the country. 
Most people are less ambitious but topics are fascinating including Oxford and the Civil War, a Hungarian heritage, warfare in the middle ages and Mary Secole. 
We run on very little money. Participants pay £2 per session to cover the room and handouts and we used some Grassroots Funding to produce course materials which we are happy to pass on. I work as a volunteer, keeping what I consider to be ‘real adult education’ alive during these hard times when get back to work or personal development are as good as it gets. 
Nothing stands still and with the Museum of Oxford we now have a large and lively Creative Writing group working on their own stuff as well as museum projects. A Social Science course and an Art Course inspired by the Pitmen Painters start soon. Several sessions will be taken by Searcher students. All are free and based on the same principles as Searchers. Exhibitions, publications and involvement in encouraging other groups are planned. I also run a very successful Changing Directions course for Age UK, currently with thirty members and many of them are now joining Searchers and the other courses. 
We open our doors to all adults whatever their age. With unemployment growing we all want to attract younger people too and this is beginning to happen. 
For information about the Searchers group, e-mail katherineihughes@yahoo.co.uk
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