In 1991 Brian Smedley and Antonin Machala met and dreamt up a scheme to link the towns of Bridgwater and Uherske Hradiste. The result was the Bridgwater Czech-Slovak Friendship Society
which within a year led to the formal twinning of the two towns.
Britain's first post Velvet Revolution
Anglo-Czech twinning was established on June 18th 1992 as the Deputy Mayor Jaroslav Petrik visited the town, opened the new tourist office and signed the twinning oath in the ancient Sydenham manor in the grounds of the British Cellophane complex accompanied by 40 Moravian folk dancers and musicians. A month later Brian Smedley took his rock band 'the Skacats' over to the Czech Republic and thereafter exchange projects came thick and fast.
Year after year the society promoted school exchanges, cultural tours, home hosting, business links, sporting tie ups and general tourism. Often the projects would gain European funding such as the 1994 Czechomania project which saw musicians and actors from both countries create a musical based on each other's countries. The funding also extended to many other projects year in year out including educational and youth projects such as 'Young Somerset' giving disadvantaged youngsters the chance to travel and Czech and Slovak schools the opportunity to stay in Somerset.
The project was initially funded in part by Sedgemoor District Council but after several years the LA funding stopped and shortly afterwards the European money too. In order to carry on, the secretary Brian Smedley was asked to fundraise independently to continue the original project and with the consistent help of Antonin Machala – now a successful businessman in Uherske Hradiste with his company Altech, he formed Bridgwater International thereby expanding the original concept to embrace more countries and widen the opportunities for people to people links.