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Civic Trips

Mayor of Bridgwater 2011, cllr Pat Parker leading the British delegation to Uherske Hradiste
Bridgwater was the first UK town to formally twin with a Czech town after the 1989 Velvet Revolution and civic links are very important to our project.

We regularly take Bridgwater's civic leaders to key events in our twin town Uherske Hradiste and have encouraged links also between Sedgemoor District and Prague 6 district where, along with Ceske Budejovice and Olomouc, we have helpful civic contacts.

On top of this we are actively promoting our own policy of 'Triangulation' which means, basically, 'your twin town is our twin town' whereby we have organised projects involving many new communities with which we have developed mutual links. These include Priverno (Italy) La Ciotat (France) and Sarvar (Hungary).

But civic twinning to us doesn’t just mean Mayors and Councillors (who we always insist pay their way!) but other local government projects – some which can attract European funding to the area, and for which we need the backing of the Local Authority.

Cllr Kathy Pearce and Dagmar Mega agreeing on a project to link family centre workers in Bridgwater and Uherske Hradiste which attracted Euro funding to both communities.

For several years we have brought Family Centre workers from Uherske Hradiste to Somerset with European funding, engaging with some of the needier areas of our community and working with them on joint solutions to problems. We have also taken youth workers to the Czech Republic (most recently from Shrewsbury).

Akropolis Winter Sojourn

For the third time this year we've hosted the ladies of the Akropolis family centres in Uherske Hradiste and Kromeriz. Dagmar, Natalie, Marie and Ivana. Linking up for a full weeks job shadowing at Bridgwater College and related programme they stayed with host families and drove around in the fat car of the fat councillor.


Czech, Italian and even Canadian Visit for Bridgwater Carnival

So for Carnival time this year we had a visit from the Uherske Hradiste Mayor and council plus a couple of Czech Police officers, a Czech teacher from the UH Gymnasium , a couple of itinerant Canadians and Luigi from Italy.


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.


Akropolis Summer Visit

In June 2015 4 ladies from the Akropolis Family Centre and offshoots around the Uherske Hradiste region dropped into Bridgwater for another visit as part of their ongoing Erasmus programme linking up with Bridgwater College.


Bridgwater Twinning Conference 2015

In 2015 Bridgwater held it's first Town Council sponsored Twinning Confernece at the Bridgwater Arts Centre. All 6 twinning groups in the town took part and guests came from Czech Republic, France, Italy, Hungary and Malta. In all 14 x Twinning delegates took part in the Conference.

  1. The Maltese delegation ;- Cllr Dominic Spencer + Claudette Spencer
  2. The Italian delegation - Maria Capobianca, Damiano Pellegrini, Luca Ranucci, Mario Russo (Marilunari folk band )+ Carla Contini (Priverno school teacher)
  3. The Hungarian delegation Beata Kovacs (teacher) and Karina Kraszni (student)
  4. The Czech delegate Antonin Machala (Altech sro)
  5. The French delegation Mireille Benedetti : Deputy Mayor, Marie-Pierre Leonardelli: Chair of La Ciotat Twinning Committee, Magalie Ambrosi: secretary for Twinning, European and International Department Nathalie McAndrew: Twinning Committee elected member


Bridgwater twins with Priverno

It had been several years in the making but finally it happened. Bridgwater's 5th town twinning was with the Italian town of Priverno. But the twinning trip was not without incident.....

It was only a couple of months before that Mayor Steve Austen had joined us on a preparatory trip and everything was set for a February twinning...but then Steve and Stella couldn't make it and nor could Deputy Mayor Leigh Redman.

So we dug into our resources and dragged out twice-former Mayor Commodore Bill Monteith, who brought along his Royal Marine marching sash and assumed the official role for the duration.


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.


Bridgwater and Priverno well on the way to a Full Twinning as Mayor drops in

Bridgwater’s link with Priverno is going from strength to strength and this week it was the turn of Mayor Steve Austen to pay his first visit to the hilltop Italian town with a small delegation to see what projects we could bring about for the benefit of both communities.

For the past few years we have taken students from Bridgwater college, footballers from Bridgwater and our Czech win town Uherske Hradiste, and the Voice of the People choir –who will shortly be returning for their second bite at the mozzarella.


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.


Clarinets, Klezmer, Cider and Cheese as Czechs and Italians Choose Continental Co-operation

It was a funny time to visit Britain. Everywhere you looked a party calling itself the ‘UK Independence Party’ had put up posters vilifying foreigners for ‘coming over here’, claiming Rumanians were largely criminals and suggesting the ferries, flights and foot passages were full of foreign benefit scroungers. You’d be forgiven for thinking foreigners might feel a little unwelcome, that ‘little Englander’ was a badge of honour and that Europe had some ancient Britanosaurus around it’s neck.

Still, come they did. That’s the Mayor and Chairman of the pleasant hilltop town of Priverno in Italy, not far from where Brits,Poles, Americans, Canadians and a host of others had joined forces with Italian Partisans to overthrow Fascism back in the 1940’s. Thirty minutes drive from Priverno is the allied landing ground of Anzio and another thirty the Monastery of Monte Cassino. Both bloody moments of a war that destroyed Europe and from out of which the European Union came to ensure it never happened again.



Our second major EU funded project of the year saw 13 Family Centre and related workers from our Czech twin town Uherske Hradiste and it's environs spend 2 weeks in Bridgwater to study social inclusion in the Eastover ward. Well, some of them spent a bit of that time in Worcester studying the Snoezelen project, but they were all here for carnival.

This is the 4th project fronted by Akropolis Director Dagmar Mega, and the aim this time was to do a thorough survey of Eastover, match 'needs' to 'resources' and meet the people from all walks of life who made up that Community. To make sure something tangible came out of this we roped in Cambridge Graduate Simon Hann and are expecting the 'Hann Report' by the end of the month.



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.


All Change in Priverno - But Bridgwater Links to Continue

A few years back we made contact with the Italian town of Priverno in the Lazio region just South of Rome when we met their people in Uherske Hradiste, their and our Czech twin town. The Mayor Umberto Macci, had been a regular attender at the UH wine festival and during his time in office had clocked up over a dozen link towns around Europe. In May this year he went the way of many Berlusconi acolytes and the Left swept to power in Priverno suggesting that they would be doing away with most of Macci's international links. Bridgwater International administrator Brian Smedley hurried down there to put a word in for Somerset.



European Union money fluttered gently into the Bridgwater economy last week as the town became the focus of the latest leg of the EU 7 Partners project. Since 1989 the Czechs have been moving away from the Communist system and embracing Western style capitalist democracy, the European Union, NATO and attempting to adapt their local government administration to meet the needs and demands of these goals. So they tapped into their twin town network - of which they have 6 - and of which Bridgwater is the first - having been the first British town to twin with a Czech town after the Velvet Revolution, to see what they could learn. IF they could learn anything in fact....or if what they were doing was good practice enough.



Most Somerset towns are twinned with French partner towns in nearby Normandy. Just pop across the channel and you're there. Not Bridgwater though. Oh no, we're twinned with a town in the South of France. Having said that, La Ciotat is just as easy, if not easier, to get to as any Norman twinning and, in fact, far more rewarding. While you're packing your car, driving to a Channel port, booking a ferry and driving off the other side, you can be popping up to Bristol airport, flying over to Marseilles or Nice and within 4-5 hours you'll be as much in La Ciotat as you would have been in Caen, Rouen or Bayeux. And it's sunnier.


Snoezelen, Snowdon and Sedgemoor

Not the three least well known of the seven dwarfs, but a mildly convoluted way of linking together the themes of our final project of 2012.

For the third year running now, our partners from the Akropolis Family Centre in Uherske Hradiste have sent us a small group of women eager to learn about their counterparts over here in the UK, and this year we split the project with some lovely people in Worcester.

Why Worcester? As George III said. Oh no, that was 'Bugger Bognor'. But in this case it was because in Worcester they have a major Snoezelen project , and that's something the Czechs wanted to learn about. So 6 of the group went up there.


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.



In 1957 Bridgwater set up its first ever twinning. In the style of the day this was with a French town in order to strengthen the 'Entente Cordiale'. Whilst most Somerset towns picked up twin towns in neighbouring Normandy (just across the Channel), Bridgwater ended up with a veritable Mediterranean paradise in Provence, slightly along the coast from St.Tropez, Cannes and Nice. So what became of the little town of La Ciotat in the years since the Lumiere brothers first shot the motion picture classic 'Train arriving in a station' there in 1895 and what imperative spurred them on to make that even more famous link with Bridgwater in 1957??

Well, we didn't know at all, so we decided to take a couple of football teams down there and see what the place was like anyway.



A successful link between communities in our two twin towns has been given a boost for the second year running with money from the European Social Fund. Last year Dagmar Mega, from the Akropolis family centre in Uherske Hradiste arranged funding for Family centre workers in UH to come across to seehow things were done in Bridgwater. As a result of that first visit links were made with the Hamp Community Association and a second trip, funded by the European Social fund, was organised to further those links.

In September 2011 Dagmar brought across a further ten Family Centre and Youth Club workers to Bridgwater and we organised a series of visits to similar family centres in our district.



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.



As a result of a succesful bid to the EU Leonardo fund, a group of family centre workers from the Uherske Hradiste region of the Czech Republic have just been able to complete a ten day study visit to the Bridgwater area.

The nine strong group of women came from three towns - Uherske Hradiste, Kromeriz and Valasske Mezirici.