The Workers Educational Association (WEA) is a national voluntary organisation which exists to provide adults with learning opportunities. It is the largest voluntary provider of adult education in the UK. There are over 650 branches across the country with 10 WEA branches across Leicestershire and 2 in Leicester. Barrow is one of the smaller groups but has organised courses for over 20 years in the village.
The first AGM was held in 1976 and some of the original members are still active in the group today. Peter Yates was involved then and has been secretary for many years and John Thursby was treasurer for over 20 years until he resigned in 1998. Everyone who attends a WEA course automatically becomes a member of their local branch and is encouraged to contribute to the planning of future courses. The local committee meets three times a year and, with support from the WEA professional staff, decide on the subjects for the following year's classes.
Barrow has had a wide range of topics over the years including art appreciation, complementary therapies, meditation, history of garden design, natural history and transport studies. Local history and related topics such as archaeology are always popular with members in Barrow. But recent attempts to offer a more literary flavour have not been well supported although in the early days a class reading plays with theatre visits was very popular.
Courses usually start in the Autumn and run for 9 weeks with a follow-on course in the New Year. Sometimes a shorter course is held in the summer and includes outdoor visits or walks as part of the programme and these have been well supported. One such course which offered 3 pairs of talks and visits including a canal visit, a tour of Belgrave House garden and a guided walk around the village of Somerby was particularly enjoyable. Single lectures, such as the one on The Wild Flowers of Derbyshire, appeal to people who find it difficult to attend a regular weekly class and can give a flavour of what the WEA offers to a wider audience.
The Barrow WEA used to organise daytime classes but in recent years these have not been sufficiently well supported. However, there is an active committee which is keen to continue to provide classes in Barrow into the new millennium.