Centenary Celebrations

Happy Birthday WEA!wea 100 lrg

In 2010 the WEA in Northern Ireland celebrates 100 years of delivering learning

On October 5th 1910 an audience of almost 100 people attended a meeting in the Central Hall, Rosemary Street, Belfast, which had been convened to consider the possibility of setting up a branch of the Workers’ Educational Association.

The WEA had been set up in England seven years previously, the vision of Albert Mansfield whose energy created a dynamic relationship between progressive elements in universities and the working class movement. He believed that through self-help and collective endeavour that working class people could transform themselves intellectually and spiritually.

The 100 years since have seen enormous changes in the political and social contexts, but throughout the WEA has remained true to its goal of creating learning opportunities for adults wanting to re-engage with learning or wanting to extend their learning into new areas, to advance themselves or their communities.

All associated with the WEA are immensely proud of its achievements and although we have been traditionally quite quiet about what the organisation and its learners have done, this is the year to stand proud and share our story.

Centenary Book

The WEA's centenary book The Learning Never Ends was launched in the Long Gallery at Stormont on 19th May. The volume is a collection of personal reminiscences and appreciations from past staff, affiliated organisations, tutors and especially learners. See below for download.

Read more in the full article:

Centenary Conference

On 5th October 2010 exactly 100 years to the day since a meeting has held in Belfast to discuss setting up a branch of the WEA, we held our centenary conference in the Stormont Hotel. Over 100 people registered their interest in our topic - Where now for Lifelong Learning? The topic was chosen partly in response to the publication last year of a comprehensive report into the future of lifelong learning in the UK - Learning Through Life (see ). We were delighted that one of the commissioners of the inquiry and some one with strong connections with N.I., John Field (Prof. of Lifelong Learning at Stirling University) was our keynote speaker. John not only outlined the key recommendations of the Report, but also spoke of the strong evidence base that now exists to show how learning contributes to society and the economy not just by raising critical skills standards, but also by promoting health and well-being, and building stronger families and more active communities.

John was followed by presentations from the directors of the WEAs in England, Scotland and Wales, reflecting on the state of play for community adult eduation in particular in their nations. Richard Bolsin also shared the experience of the WEA in England in campaigning before the General Election earlier this year and how key ministers in Westminister are convinced of the value of learning provision from organisations like the WEA.

In the afternoon there was a contribution from Daryl Young (DEL) who then joined Trevor Neilands (Northern Regional College), Patricia McKeown (Unison) and Colin Neilands (WEA) on a panel for a Q&A session.

During the conference delegates discussed key learning points for Northern Ireland from the various presentations and then progressed to identify critical developments and commitments that they would like to see in a Manifesto for Lifelong Learning. The WEA is pledged to work with other stakeholders to develop such a manifesto and use this as a tool to lobby candidates in the 2011 Assembly Elections (further information on this campaign will appear on this website in coming months).

Speakers presentations can be downloaded by clicking here.

Send us Greetings

If you would like to send birthday greetings or share memories or photos of your experience of the WEA, please contact us at and we will post these on this website.

Please click (right click and select save link as) to download either of our publications: