It’s Friday afternoon and we’re at the end of what seems a long week, and like the changing of the guard, our conference residents have left – some back to their families in Europe – whilst our new guests check in at Reception for their weekend of Scottish country dancing and music making. Residenial adult education weekends everywhere often coalesce around ‘communities of interest’ and this weekend is no exception. It is true of embroiderers, archaeologists, historians, egyptologists and musicians – to name just a few. Last weekend we had an enthusiastic band of singers who, without any formal musical training, spent a whole weekend having the time of their lives. The bar did a great trade as thirsty throats needed to be oiled for the demanding sessions. Next weekend is the turn of the lakemakers which will be by contrast, shall we say, a more sedate affair.
All this demonstrates to me the instinct that people have for spending time together. Whether it is with family, colleagues or even with strangers, the reward of shared experience should not be underestimated. In a society under pressure, where families don’t always live in close proximity to their kin, getting together in clubs, groups or around shared interests is enormously important in countering feelings of social isolation and lonliness. That sounds dramatic but I know that for many people the simple coming together is the real benefit. Social policy makers need to wake up to the fact even in this age of austerity.