About Us‎ > ‎

Historical Background

On the face of it, Bridgwater International simply started out as a twinning link and follows the broad Internationalist values and traditions of similar organisations the world over. Twinning originated as a way to bring communities together following Internationalist upheavals – often wars.

In 1989 the Cold War ended with the collapse of Communism this formed the backdrop to the Bridgwater Czechoslovakia link whereby the impetus was the bringing together of peoples that had technically been portrayed as ideological enemies throughout the past 50 years.

The historical background for this came from the Bridgwater Czech link unearthed and thereafter researched by Brian Smedley for his 1988 book and stage play about 'Vernon Bartlett' who was a popular broadcaster of the 1930's and who had stood for election Bridgwater on hearing the news of Britain's betrayal of Czechoslovakia with the signing of the Munich agreement in 1938. Bartlett stood as an independent and won apparently causing the Fuhrer to choke on his cornflakes on hearing the news.

The Bartlett election was November 17th 1938 – coincidentally the Velvet Revolution fell on November 17th 1989!

In 1992 the Bridgwater - Uherske Hradiste twinning was signed on June 18th - coincidentally 50 years to the day after the battle in the crypt at Resslova in Prague which saw British trained Czech paratroopers fight to the death against their Nazi oppressors.

During the research for the Vernon Bartlett play and book, Smedley visited Prague in 1986 at the height of communist 'Normalisation' and only a couple of years before the Perestroika and Glasnost of Mikhail Gorbachev would turn it upside down.

The play was produced and performed by Smedley's Sheep Worrying Theatre Company, which was often at odds with the ruling Bridgwater elite during the 1980's having originated from the free thinking and anarchic punk movement of the 1970's.

In 1990 while the Czechs had just risen up to cast aside their Communist system, the British people were trying hard to overthrow the hated regime of Margaret Thatcher who had just alienated even her own party by bringing in the widely disliked poll tax.

As a leading Anti-Poll tax campaigner and Labour Party candidate Smedley was elected to Council on July 12 1990 (Orange day in Ulster if you’re still following comparative dates) with more votes than all the other candidates combined.

Having smashed the poll tax, overthrown Thatcher and restored the electorability of the British Labour Party, Smedley put his mind to solving the knotty problem of World Peace. However, the juries still out on that one… .


Twenty years ago, on June 18th 1992, Bridgwater became the first UK town to twin with a Czechoslovakian town after the Velvet Revolution.

On June 18th 2012, secretary and founder Cllr Brian Smedley, made a special visit to the Spean Bridge Commando monument in the foothills of Ben Nevis with a group of Czechs to remember why.

"In 1938 Bridgwater was in the history books following a famous by-election victory by Independent Progressive Vernon Bartlett in the town which sent a message of hope to the Czechs and Slovaks of those prewar years that not everyone in Britain agreed with the Munich Treaty which had let them down so badly in the face of Hitler's Nazi expansionism. Bridgwater people can be rightly proud of that moment. The full story can be found at our website www.vernonbartlett.co.uk."