Bridgwater Twinning Conference 2016

This year the Bridgwater Twinning Conference was spread over a weekend with St George's Day, April 23rd, as it's focus. The EU Flag flew alongside the flag of St George over Bridgwater Town Hall and guests from 5 nations dropped in to talk Internationalism

"Bridgwater, with 5 twin towns, (La Ciotat- France, Homberg-Germany, Uherske Hradiste-Czech Republic, Marsa-Malta, Priverno-Italy)  leads the way in modern day Internationalism around Somerset and this is the second year we've held a Twinning Conference"  Organiser, Town Council Leader Brian Smedley said "But when we say 'conference' what we really mean is the opportunity to meet the people that run the twinning groups in town and some visitors from our twin towns.


Playing 4 gigs around the area, Italian rockabilly band AFTER DARK, from Bridgwater's newest twin town PRIVERNO, just south of Rome in the Lazio region, were a sensation. The 3-piece, all in their mid 20's, played at the Pebbles Inn, Wachet , Bridgwater College, and the Ciccic centre in Taunton as well as the main event at the Bridgwater Arts Centre. Rockin double bass from Bassman Fabio who even got himself a High Street Tattoo to remind him of Bridgwater, and sharp back beat drums from Gabriele, provided the framework for the masterful Gretsch guitar playing of the talented Gianmarco often playing his guitar behind his head while singing a mix of Italian and American rockabilly songs in the style of Dean Martin meets Gene Vincent. The band effortlessly meandered through 'Volare', 'Mambo italiano' and the 'theme from the Godfather' to 'Johnny B Goode','Ring of Fire' and 'Buena Sierra Senorita Buena Sierra'. 


On Friday 22nd April  there was a multinational skittles event at the Squib in West Street hosted by Mayor Leigh Redman. Czechs, Germans, Maltese,Italians and French all tried their hand at our national sport yet it was Lorraine from the Homberg twinning group that eventually won the seemingly neverending game of 'killer'.


On Saturday 23rd April the focus shifted to  the Town Hall where several stalls from the different countries were set up offering food, drink, brochures and a chat from each of the 5 twin towns.

German Town Guards in medieval blue carnivalesque costumes wandered the streets enticing in oblivious High street shoppers, who, once across the threshold, were greeted by Czechs bearing plum brandy and pork scratchings, Italians wielding brocoletti and olive oil, French fish soup and various Maltese and German delicacies. 


On the evening of Saturday 23rd April was the main twinning party at the Bridgwater Arts Centre which  featured not just  AFTER DARK from  Priverno, but a ridiculously eclectic UN Peacekeeping force opening with Mayor Redman on stage surrounded by the German guards, moving into the French group singing the sentimental Charles Trenet ballad 'Douce France' and followed by the Czechs demonstrating their Moravian folk music and serving yet more slivovice.

The craziest part of the evening had to be the special Maltese folk performance by  IL MALTIN TRADIZZIJONALI - basically Marsa councillor Dom Spencer who kitted up like a cross between  Dick Van Dyke and Norman Wisdom (yet in open toed sandals) , sang karaoke, Maltese folk and even his countries anthem, whilst his family demonstrated dances and waved flags. Into the midst of this appeared like magic the Mayor of Marsa Francis Debono who had flown over unannounced for the evening to be part of the celebrations.

No sooner had he left the stage then on came the Alimajanaan Belly Dance group (from Bridgwater) .A rare performance by Bridgwater rockers RED SMED & THE HOT TROT SMASH THE SYSTEM BOOGIE BAND finished off the first part of the evening and then the roof was literally raised (so that'll need to be repaired) by AFTER DARK who had the whole room dancing and singing Volare.


On Sunday 24th April it was the turn of Bridgwater's French Twins La Ciotat to have the spotlight on them and so we hosted a garden party for anyone interested in getting involved with next years celebrations. With a history going back to 1957, old hands turned up to reminisce, share experiences and plan for the future. Guests included Derek and Doreen Alder who had kept the twinning going for the past 30 years, Rodney Coates, son of Mayor Oscar Coates who had started the twinning and Margaret Johnson who had organised many of the pupil exchanges through the years and still made a point of visiting La Ciotat every year.


On Monday 25th April it was the turn of the Maltese. 10 years old this year the Marsa twinning group held an event at the  Cannington walled gardens where a special Maltese National flower 'The Ears of the Sea' was planted by councillor Dom Spenser and is now on permanent display in their greenhouse..


Cllr Brian Smedley
said after the event "The weekend  full of events was a great success and I would thank everyone for working so hard to make it happen. People of many nations co-operated to put on a series of events which showcased their own cultures and respected and appreciated one anothers.

Twinning is a great way of making friends and bringing people of different nations closer together and shows peoples compassion and tolerance while proving that we have more in common than we have dividing us. Long may it continue"