Trips‎ > ‎

Cultural Trips

The 'Spread out' band from Anzio perform for Bridgwater College students in Hotel di Kufra, Italy
From the beginning of our link we knew that getting involved in the cultural activities of other countries was an easy, productive and fun way of breaking down barriers. We started our link in 1992 with a Czech folk dance ensembles visit to England and an English rock tour to the former Czechoslovakia. Since that time we have kept cultural exchanges at the top of our agenda.

If you have an arts, music, dance, entertainment project, which you would like to share with us, please get in touch.


Rock Tours

Every year since 1992 we have taken rock bands on tours of the Czech Republic – sometimes also including Slovakia and Poland. We have also hosted Czech rock bands Dirty Airlines, Annies Trip along with others from Russia - The Oz band and Latvia - Mitrokhins Master band.

Arabian Chatline in Prague

Ragged Trousered Philanthropists in Krakow

Jazz Tours

We have brought several Czech jazz bands to the UK including the 'Backside Big band', 'Paradigm Shift' and 'Gastrojazz'.


For the last few years the Bridgwater based choir 'Voice of the People' have come with us to a different country where they have linked up with a local choir – Czech Republic, Poland, Italy and this year France. Often we have linked these with the Prague based 'Labyrint' choir who have joined us on several foreign trips.

Bridgwater Town Clerk Alan Hurford playing air violin on a boat on the Morava river in Uherske Hradiste


We have toured UK with two large Moravian folk dance ensembles - Vlcnovjan and Kunovjan plus bagpipers from South Bohemia and an acoustic Czech folk band. In return we have toured Czech, Slovakia and Poland with the Cornish Klezmer band 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' and Bridgwater ska - folk band The Skacats.


We have brought Czech artists from Uherske Hradiste to Bridgwater and taken Bridgwater photographers to Uherske Hradiste.

If we can help you with a similar project please get in touch.


Voice of the People in Slovenia (and Venice)

Each year Yvette Staelens and her community choir of naturist voices (sic) jet off to some interesting country, sing with a local choir and then come home. This year it was Slovenia where, thanks to the lovely Stasa Slapnik we found the lovely Tanja Jamnik and with the further help of the lovely Janez Medja we even got some lovely busses and hotels out of it.


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;


Somerset Singers Sing their way into Italian Hearts

The thing about Community Choirs is they’re a great way to bring people together and break down cultural barriers. Even better probably than the football trips we do where players of different nations kick seven shades of crap out of each other on the playing field or the rock tours where junior would-be-rock stars trash foreign bedrooms and each other. So we’ve done two choir trips this month –one to the South of France and now this one to Italy – and, unless I missed it, no-one trashed anybody.

The Voice of the People choir were formed in the Bridgwater Arts Centre a few years back by natural voice practitioner Yvette Staelens. Nowadays they come from all over Sedgemoor, West Somerset and Taunton Deane and every year they come somewhere interesting with Bridgwater International. A few years ago they visited Priverno in Italy only to find themselves singing on the steps of the town hall to a locked door and in a nearby town when no local choir turned up to meet them . Then last year the Mayor changed and suddenly the Bridgwater link has blossomed into overdrive.


It's October, it's La Ciotat and it's still summer. Hura pour Le Jumelage!

It's October, it's La Ciotat and it's still summer. Hura pour Le Jumelage!

Bridgwater is incredibly fortunate to be twinned with the French Mediterranean town of La Ciotat. Apart from both once having a bit of industry there’s not a right lot in common. However, this ‘jumelage’ has been in existence since 1957 so look ye not gift horses in mouths.

The La Ciotat jumelage committee sit in constant readiness for Bridgwater visitors to turn up to bestow upon them bundles of generosity, camaraderie, friendship and hospitality. Well, not just Bridgwater visitors, they also have twin towns in Germany and Slovenia and maybe Italy, although the Mayors apparently keep getting shot there. The French support International relations in a big way and councils have a budget to support this whilst in England ‘twinning’ is a scary word, little financial backing is provided by the councils, people ‘pay their own way’ and an increasing number of ‘little Englanders’ are voting UKIP. C’est la vie, we might say (unless we’re UKIP) (which we aren’t).


Somerset Ambassadors of Song Sing Out Across the Danube

A few years back, natural voice practitioner Yvette Staelens founded the Voice of the People Choir at the Bridgwater Arts Centre to help people find the singing voice that she believes everyone has inside them. For almost as long, we have taken these musical ambassadors to the four corners of Europe to meet other singers and prove that songs, smiles and a cheery disposition are universal.

This year we did Hungary.

Flying out to Budapest from Gatwick the 48 strong group from all over Somerset landed into lovely sunny autumnal weather. Which was just as well as it had been bucketing down icy rain only the day before.



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.



Labyrint 2013

It only seems like 8 years since the Czech choir Labyrint were here last and in fact it was. In them days most of them slept on the farmyard floors of Jess & Malcolm Healey's Glendale Dairy farm in Wedmore. Suddenly it was 2013 and they were there again. Funny how nostalgia hits you.....

Labyrint are from Prague and are a choir. That much we've established. The leader, conductor, dirigent and choreographer is Lenka Charvatova. They came to Somerset twice before and mainly linked up with the Voice of the People choir who occasionally they also linked up with on their European tours - noticeably Krakow and, well, Prague.



We've never had Russians before. Well, we have, but they thought they were the Beatles. This time we had a coach full of the genuine article who had, genuinely, driven all the way from the city of Yaroslavl to visit us here in Bridgwater. That's 2,146 miles. In a bus.

Leaving Monday they slept through Poland, dreamed through Germany and woke up on a ferry crossing the English Channel early Thursday morning. None of them had visited England before. Least of all the drivers , who made a point of testing the ongoing traffic at their earliest opportunity.



No-one quite knows why Bridgwater is twinned with the elegant Mediteranean yachting resort of La Ciotat - but thanks to whoever did that 55 years ago. Last year we kick started the link with a joint Anglo-Czech football invasion - successfully losing every game, and this year we took a multitude of choirs from the Bridgwater area to link up with a choir from La Ciotat.

The result was another well earned credit for Yvette Staellens and her globetrotting 'Voice of the People' team based at the Bridgwater Arts Centre. Each year they come with us to a different country, imprint Bridgwater culture with a dainty slipper mark on the hearts of all they meet, make a few friends and leave with a song on their lips. Even at 5am in the morning. And in this case, even when they were circling Bristol airport unable to land due to bad weather and having to be diverted to Cardiff.



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.



Czech jazz band PARADIGM SHIFT are over in Bridgwater for a couple of nights and a couple of gigs. Last night (Wednesday 12 October) they played to an appreciative audience at the Unity Club whilst tonight (Thursday 13th October) they take to the stage at the Bridgwater Arts Centre.



Bridgwater's VOICE OF THE PEOPLE choir have just returned from a succesful four days tour of the Lazio region of Italy which included the town of Priverno - twinned with Uherske Hradiste, and where they sang on the steps of the Town Hall, Pontinia where they sung in the Fellini Theatre with the Pontinia Choir, the beach resort of Sabaudia where they sang in the sea and the city of Rome - where they probably sang in the Metro.

The choir, led by natural voice practitioner Yvette Staellens, based at Bridgwater Arts Centre, flew from Bristol to Rome forty-four strong and out again with a massive security presence (although this might have been due to Amanda Know flying out of the same airport at the same time...).



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.