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Czech Republic

When we started our link the country was Czechoslovakia, but then it split in two - emphasising the fact, which wasn't too apparent to many westerners, that there were in fact two countries forming this central European state. Two countries drawn together by a common history and often united in a bigger state throughout the years whether it was the Great Moravian Empire which came out of the dark ages, the Holy Roman Empire of Medieval Europe or the Hapsburg Empire of the last few centuries.

The Czechs and Slovaks became independent together in 1918 after the First World War and went through almost every political option known to mankind thereafter. From Imperialiasm to Liberal Democracy to Fascism to Communism and back to Capitalism they’ve seen it all. No wonder there's an unhealthy scepticism about politics in those countries today.

The first place people tend to visit these days, and probably always, is Prague. The relatively unspoilt capital of the Czech Republic and the ancient lands of Bohemia can be a fairy tale of a city - if you go to the right places. Undestroyed by the Second World War the city retains the varying architectural styles of the last 1000 years centred on the medieval Charles Bridge and ranging from the Hradcany Castle to the 19th century Opera Houses to the modern utilitarian designs all linked together by a totally integrated public transport system.

Two hours along the Vltava River to the south is the South Bohemia town of Ceske Budejovice - home of Budweiser (Budvar) beer and close to the Austrian border and the whispering Sumava Hills. A town where we have contacts going back twenty years and a very pleasant place where apparently most Czechs wished they lived!

Uherske Hradiste

But our favourite town has to be Uherske Hradiste in Moravia. Obviously because it’s our twin town but a nicer place you couldn't find. For a start it’s in Moravia – so a big cultural difference already from Bohemia, with its folklore tradition and its emphasis on the wine growing – not to mention the slivovice (plum brandy) that oils its citizens and its proximity to the Slovakia border which adds to the character of the region. UH, as it’s now known (due to generations of Bridgwater English teachers not being able to pronounce it) holds a famous Film Festival every summer and a Wine and Open Monuments Festival every September.

Sheldon Singers in Prague & South Bohemia

At the end of September 2015 we took a group of about 40 singers from Devon and Somerset to Prague and Ceske Budejovice where they performed several concerts helped by Pavla Pracnova in Prague and Eva Kordova in Ceske Budejovice. The group was the Sheldon singers and the programme went something like this;


Uherske Hradiste Wine Festival 2015

September is the time of the Uherske Hradiste Wine festival.We try to take a Mayor over there if we can. This year (as we usually do) we succeeded. Hence our civic group was Cllr Leigh Redman (Mayor) Mrs Tracy Redman (Mayoress) Cllr Brian Smedley, Cllr Peter Johnstone, Mrs Janet Johnstone, Mr Tim Mander, Mr Dean Fox and Mrs Karen Fox.

The group flew from Bristol to Prague, spent a couple of nights there and then headed east for Moravia.


Bridgwater Police visit Uherske Hradiste

Two Bridgwater Police officers – PC Dominic Bryant and PCSO Mike Shaw, visited the Czech Republic from 12-17 February 2015 on a programme organised by Bridgwater International with the co-operation of the Uherske Hradiste town council , the UH Town and State Police departments and with the backing of Insp.Andrew Pritchard of Avon & Somerset Police.

Background;- The project had been suggested at the Mayor Making event in Bridgwater 2014 when both Mayors of the twinned towns met and a proposal for a Police Exchange was agreed by Insp Pritchard who had considerable experience of International Police work.


On the Trail of the EU Grant

This year we had a shake up of Twinning in Bridgwater. We agreed that we have 6 twin towns. 4 official ones and 2 that we’re working on. We decided to target the EU and it’s attractive funding and training packages and to do this in co-operation with our key partners around Europe by identifying projects and people who would benefit from them.

Uherske Hradiste in the Czech Republic has been one of Bridgwater’s twin towns since 1992 and as an ‘accession’ country has a good track record of achieving EU funding. Together we have brought in funds to our 2 towns through mutual co-operation on projects ranging from Family Centres to Town Planning to student exchange projects. UH council is a strong supporter of International links and has an Twinning committee, a grantss officer, a jet setting programme of exchanges and a budget to match. In Bridgwater we tend to treat twinning activities as a hobby and Brits who visit pay their own way.



Early in 2013 Bridgwater's twin town of Uherske Hradiste gained European funding to help it's workforce investigate Local Government practices in their EU Partner towns. From Mayen in Germany they chose to study the Education system, from Priverno in Italy they looked at Tourist and the Museum service and in Bridgwater they looked at Town Planning and the Environment.

In June this year they visited Sedgemoor District Council - the relevant service provider in these areas for Bridgwater, thus concluding their tour of European Council offices. In October a major Conference was held in Uherske Hradiste to bring together the findings.



For many years we've taken singers from Somerset to far flung destinations to sing with people of many Nations. This autumn we took a group of singers from several choirs scattered along the A303 'trunk road to the tropics' off to the Czech capital Prague to sing with our old friends the Labyrint choir who had visited Somerset earlier this year on a barnstorming tour. Largely of barns.

Harmony 303 are mainly women. They'd be the first to admit that. About 30 of them. But with an enthusiastic 4 man bass section. Fronted by the energetic and enthusiastic Caroline Rigby they sing songs from around the world and a few from Somerset. Which these days is included in that.



In June 1992 Bridgwater and Uherske Hradiste became the first British and Czech towns to twin in the wake of the Velvet Revolution. Since then we've had 21 years of happy twinning together. And one of the annual highlights is the UH Wine festival.

This year there was no official Bridgwater delegation - just a few hardy travellers. However, the walls of the town hall that greeted them were adorned with massive full colour display boards of all 7 of UH's twin towns with the pride of place going to a Bridgwater display featuring photographs taken during the Spring and Summer by Czech exile in Somerset Jana Branecka.


20th Anniversary Celebrated in Prague & U.H .

Twenty years ago this year we started the Bridgwater Czech Slovak link with an official twinning between Bridgwater and Uherske Hradiste. Ten years ago we celebrated a decade of links and now it's twenty. Oh how time flies.

So in September 2012 we took a small group over to the Czech Republic. Only the secretary ('for life' it seems) was on the original trip. Which is a good thing - as it means time hasn't quite stood still. Well, of course in Uherske Hradiste it has because that's where the other original member of our 1992 pioneering jaunt has cemented himself for these past twenty years. Andrew 'call me Trolleyman' Napthine has been a fixture on the UH scene ever since. As the man who taught the Czechs to call their own town 'UH' and the man who invented 'walking into traffic without your glasses on in order to improve your eyesight', he has been sadly missed, not only in Bridgwater but by numerous oncoming juggernauts.



Rock tours have been a feature of the Bridgwater-Czech link. The very first trip to our twin town, Uherske Hradiste (then part of Czechoslovakia) in 1992 took the form of a rock tour. With only the Cliff Richard film 'Summer Holiday' to go on as a template we nevertheless set a trend. For most of the years from then till now we've run at least one rock tour a year. For the past few years, admitedly, we took a break. A combination of, shall we say 'over-excitable youth' (trashing places, getting too wrecked for their own good, and not exactly respecting the culture they were visiting) and, well, it's a long way to go to a place where no-one knows you. This year, however, we decided to go for it again.....the horror...the horror.....

Luckily, our fears were as unfounded as a consistent policy in Nick Cleggs manifesto and the tour went ahead, and went well, and the bands were great, the Czechs (that turned up) were responsive and nobody trashed anything. Except one minor incident with a cleaners trolley. But that's hardly the Jonestown Massacre.



In 1991, when the Bridgwater Czech Slovak Friendship Society was founded by Antonin Machala and Brian Smedley, the Mayor of Bridgwater was Ken Richards. The following year when Bridgwater formally became the first British town to twin with a Czech/Slovak town (Uherske Hradiste) the Mayor was David Baker. Every year we change the Mayor in Bridgwater and several of our Mayors have made it across to our Moravian twin town. In September 2011 it was Cllr Pat Parker.

Accompanied by his Mayoress, Jennie Parker, along with a small delegation of the Secretary (Cllr Brian Smedley) and the Town Council rep on the Czech Friendship society (Cllr Mick Lerry), Pat marched the entire two mile length of the Uherske Hradiste wine festival procession route, cheered on his way by wellwishers and alongside delegations from Italy, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.



Shropshire Youth Worker Jo Cox - who came with us on the very first Bridgwater-Czech twinning trip back in 1992, recently achieved Leonardo Funding from the European union to take a group of Shropshire youth workers from the V-Talent programme on a two week trip to Uherske Hradiste and Prague.

The thirteen strong group linked up with the Akropolis Family Centre run by Dagmar Mega, in Bridgwaters twin town Uherske Hradiste where they spent a week working with children, studying music therapy, and on one occaision playing football against the factory team Altech, sponsored by co-founder of the Bridgwater-Czech link Antonin Machala. The Shropshire lads won the football 8-4 with a key goal being scored by guide and translator Cllr Smedley who takes all the credit.



The Bridgwater based Community Choir VOICE OF THE PEOPLE have just returned from a successful four day tour of the Czech Republic which included visits to Prague and our twin town Uherske Hradiste.

In Prague the forty strong group had a party with some of our Czech friends at the Zlaty Pretzl cellar bar in Malostrana which featured traditional songs from Ctirad Pavlu and the Jazz band VKV Trio plus a selection of the choirs own songs from around the world. Not being detered by not having an official performance in Prague, the choir chose to spontaneously burst into song at almost every stop on their journey - Wenceslaus Square, the Metro, the Airport, the pub... and always enthusiastically received by passing strangers.



The first visit by Yeovil College to the Czech Republic and Slovakia for more than ten years was designed to study comparative Health & Social care provision in both countries and involved planes, trains, automobiles and 'Sound of Music' styles treks over mountains.

Flying from Bristol to the Czech Capital, Prague, the students - twenty-two girls and one boy plus four female teachers, visited a kindergarten, a secondary school and a Youth club during their three day stay.



On the final day of the visit to the Czech Republic by Richard Huish College students winter had returned with a vengeance as can be seen from todays pictures.

Staying for two days in the South Bohemian town of Ceske Budejovice (home of Budweiser beer) the Health & Social Care students from Taunton have been hosted by our partner school the Cesko Anglicky Gymnasium. Pictured coming out of CAG is trip organiser Liz Truman, who first came to Czech with us 3 years ago on a Plymouth University project and now takes annual groups to East Europe, her daughter Sarah and fellow teacher Gemma Wakefield.