Saturday, 4 December 2010


Dear Friends and Supporters

This years Bridgwater Czech/Slovak Christmas party will be held on SATURDAY 11TH DECEMBER
Bridgwater Labour Club

- all welcome- especially members of the Bridgwater Czech Slovak Friendship society, home hosts, people who've come on trips with us and the local International workers community.

There will be Gulash and slivovice from 8.30 until it runs out plus the Polish singer DARIANNA (until she runs out).

Hope to see you there


Monday, 1 November 2010


For the past 2 years Bridgwater travellers have met representatives from the Italian town of Priverno at the Uherske Hradiste wine festival. Priverno -a medeaval mountain town situated just south of Rome and midway between the second world war battlefields of Anzio and Monte Cassino, is a twin town of Bridgwaters Czech twin town. If we can square the circle and make it a 3-way link up the possibilities for European funding -not to mention an excellent new destination for twinners- the opportunities are endless.

A small Bridgwater delegation visited Priverno in mid October , flying from Bristol to Rome Ciampino by Easyjet. Staying at the beach hotel Oasa di Kufra in the specially built 'Fascist New Town' (Mussolinis idea back in the 20s) of Sabaudia, the group was joined by a coach party of 38 Czechs travelling through the night from UH.

Mayor of Priverno, Umberto Macci, welcomed the group and provided a football stadium so 2 friendly matches could take place. Bridgwater international - very low in actual numbers of 'Brits' (2 in fact) had to be supplemented by some spare Czech players and in fact held a young Italian side to a 4-4 draw with 2 great goals by Sedgemoor Unison striker Tim Mander. Meanwhile the Czechs -represented by Antonin Machalas Altech workers- also drew with an older more experienced Italian team this time 2-2.

At a social event thrown to consider future link projects both sides agreed to work towards a formal twinning to facilitate Euro grant aid and launch the links with a visit to Bridgwater by Mayor Macci in April 2010 followed by a visit to Priverno by a Bridgwater choir in May.

The October weather was stunningly summer like and the beach hotel a perfect location for future guests. Theres also no shortage of day trips - one day the group went by coach to the top of Monte Cassino-where German paratroopers held out against the troops of many nations in 1943 until Polish troops attached to the British army stormed the mountain, and on the final day the ancient wonders of the italian capital Rome were on offer for everyone (The Brits did the site-seeing, the Czechs went to the Lazio-Cagliari match).

Any groups interested in future link ups with our Italian friends should contact us over the next few months as we develop our programme.

Thursday, 9 September 2010


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 10 day study visit to the Bridgwater area

The 9 strong group of women came from 3 towns - Uherske Hradiste, Kromeriz and Valasske Mezirici.

During their stay they visited Family centres at Sydenham & Victoria in Bridgwater plus childrens centres in Burnham and Watchet along with other community facilities such as the Hamp Drop in centre, the Recreation youth building and Home Start in Minehead.

A course of English lessons organised by Somerset Skills & Learning accompanied the trip , whilst links with other providers included Sedgemoor District Council, Job Centre Plus and Bridgwater College.

To gain a social and cultural context to their trip the group were also able to attend a musical theatre evening about Equal pay (performed by Mikron theatre co) and take a weekend break in Cornwall where they visited the Eden project.

The trip was organised by Bridgwater International and the funding package was succesfully put together by Dagmar Mega from the Akropolis family centre in Bridgwater's twin town Uherske Hradiste.

Saturday, 21 August 2010


Zdena Biggsova and a group of 30
achers from the Kladno area have just completed a week long tour around Ireland and taken in a bit of England and Wales on the way.

Flying to Robin Hood airport ,Doncaster, the group travelled in 2 minibusses across the Penines to North Wales. Stopping at Conway they enjoyed fish and chips and a walk around the town walls before continuing into the Snowdonia national Park where they stayed at the Pen y Pas hostel . Early the next morning they headed off across Anglesey to take the Holyhead ferry to Dublin.

Staying at the An Oige hostel in Dublin near Parnell Square, they had a guided tour of the town centre and an evening at the Arlington bar on the banks of the Liffey where they were entertained by irish music and dancing.

After 2 nights in the Irish capital they travelled North to Belfast where they took on board quite a lot of rain thus thwarting their attempts to have an enjoyable walking tour of the Northern capital. They chose instead to travel by minibus across the 'peace line' (which divides the Protestant Shankill and the catholic Falls roads) in an attempt to understand the years of conflict,before moving on to the Antrim coast and the Giants Causeway then westwards to Derry and a night in Errigal, County Donegal.

A rainy night in Sligo at 'Yeats Village' included a visit to the poets grave, while the following day the group chose to climb Croagh Patrick the mountain which the Saint Patrick himself climbed up and without any shoes on. Some of the group managed it to the top.

After driving through the glens of Connemara the group spent a musical night in Galway city before travelling on eastwards through Athlone , across the Shannon and back to Dublin.

Early morning ferry to Holyhead and another stop in Conway for more fish and chips then an afternoon in Liverpool meant that by the time they reached the stately Ilam Hall in the Peak District it was pretty late and they had to leave at 5am anyhow. Which they did via the Robin Hood airport, South Yorks - as the outlaw himself probably would have done.

Thursday, 5 August 2010


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 2 week trip to Uherske Hradiste and Prague.

The 13 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.

After a week in UH the group went to Prague where they linked up with the Proxima project, involved in youth centre and street based work in the district of Modrany.

At the end of August, Dagmar Mega will be bringing a group of Family centre workers to Bridgwater where they will be meeting and working with the many various and similar centres in the district. This scheme is also funded by the Leonardo Project.

Saturday, 26 June 2010


Leading her 15th annual trip to Bridgwater, Ceske Budejovice teacher Eva Kordova, had terrific weather for the students who travelled with her from the Cesko Anglicky Gymnazium. The tour took them the length and breadth of the ancient kingdom of Wessex and naturally centred on the historic Somerset town of Bridgwater.

Flying from Prague to Bristol airport the group of 31 were met by 2 minibusses and a car and driven up the Fosse Way, across the Cotswolds to Stow on the Wold where they stayed the first night. The next morning they popped in to nearby Stratford on Avon then on to Blenheim palace and Oxford and spending their nexy night on the Ridgeway-the closest thing the Ancient Britons had to a motorway .

Heading westwards they spent some time at the site of the White Horse of Uffington, the stone circled vilage of Avebury and then a night in the Roman city of Bath. Visiting Glastonbury as the famous rock festival got underway and the city of Wells , where stray festival goers were more likely to be shot, the group then went on to spend 3 nights at Huntstile Organic farm just outside of Bridgwater .

Wednesday was a Coleridge themed day with local expert Ben Manning taking them for a walk on the Quantocks where the famous poet and his druggie mates used to wander spouting poetry, and to the port of Watchet-from whence the Ancient Mariner story was concocted, and a bit of time at Dunster castle.
During thursday the students were welcomed to Richard Huish college in Taunton where they sat in lessons and then sat around a football pitch whilst the Rugby playing Huishers beat them 6.1.
Thursday evening saw a quiz night at the Bridgwater Labour club with a world cup theme. English captains fronted Czech teams and answered (or failed to) a variety of general knowledge questions. In a nail biting finale the Czech Republic team (Lee Gannicot captaining) beat Brazil (Kathy Pearce) and won a signed photo of Wayne Rooney. (it had been signed by the quizmaster earlier). Cat Smedley sang a few songs to finish off the evening.

On Friday the group headed further west down to the seaport town of Plymouth and then spent the afternoon and night on Dartmoor before returning to the Czech Republic Saturday morning.

Monday, 14 June 2010


Dr Jan Soucek, from Pragues 'Arabska Gymnazium', has been bringing students to Bridgwater for 17 years and so with retirement iminent , this trip could well be his last.

The students had an action packed week which saw them explore Somerset and tour the West Country from their Home-Hosted base in Bridgwater.

Around Somerset they walked Cheddar Gorge and Glastonbury Tor, visited Wells and it;s cathedral , Burnham and its beach and did a spot of orienteering on the Quantock Hills.
They toured around 3 other Western counties, taking in Lyme Regis in Dorset, Dartmoor in Devon and Lands End , Tintagel and St.Michaels Mount in Cornwall.

They also took time to go to Taunton and play a football match against the top notch Staplegrove team (who inevitably thrashed them).

As usual the highlight of their tour was the Multicultural mecca that is Bridgwater, where they saw live rock music at the Labour club, visited the Blake Museum- where they re-enacted the battle of Sedgemoor, and the Bridgwater Arts Centre - where top local politicians staged a mock election hustings (by adopting different Party colours and arguing who NOT to vote for!).

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


Uherske Hradiste teacher Draha Cizkova had told her students to prepare for rain, wind and cold weather for the Korycany schools first visit to Bridgwater - unfortunately their trip coincided with the hottest May in the UK in decades.

The Moravians flew into Bristol and spent 2 nights in Somerset - at Cheddar and Minehead youth hostels, visiting Glastonbury, Wells and Dunster on their tour, however the highlight was Bridgwater where they met the deputy Mayor Pat Parker and the College where Kevin Smokcums catering students treated them to a home made full English breakfast .

Heading west the group stayed at the beautifully located Tintagel youth hostel set on a cliff facing directly into the Atlantic sunset ,spent time on Dartmoor and at Lyme Regis and then overnight at Lulworth Cove.

A trip to Stonehenge brought the response"maybe worth seeing just the once" whilst Avebury proved more popular (as you can actually touc hthe stones there). The day was rounded off on the Ridgeway watching the sun go down on Oxford and the glimmering spires of Didcot Power Station.

A couple of days in London proved heavy going due to the sweltering heat but an early morning climb to the Greenwich observatory in the company of Bridgwater exile Sue Hickling added that local touch to the sunbathing.

The group finished their tour with an overnight stay in Dorking woods and a brief stop at Bath on their way to Bristol airport.


The Bridgwater based Community Choir VOICE OF THE PEOPLE have just returned from a successful 4 day tour of the Czech Republic which included visits to Prague and our twin town Uherske Hradiste.

In Prague the 40 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.

Journeying Eastwards into increasingly consistent rain, they visited Uherske Hradiste and were received in the opulent Town hall by the vice-mayor Evgen Uher - and so inevitably spontaneously burst into song. And again at the new model fountain in the main square.

The rain took it;s toll on the planned evening event - which was meant to be an open air performance at the Modra Open air museum of 9th century life - but as floods swept their way towards UH, it was decided to move the concert to the nearby Culture Club. At this event they performed alongside the country band Loncaci and a folk song and dance troupe from the Stare Mesto Gymnasium. The group sampled home produced Moravian wine and joined with their hosts for numerous spontaeous combustions into the songosphere.

On the final night Mayor Uher turned up with his clarinet and his band to play at a farewell party for the band sponsored by Antonin Machala of Altech - the co-founder of the Bridgwater-UH link. The joined in with spontaneous outbursts of singing.

The Bridgwater choir rehearses at the Art Centre under the direction of Yvette Staellens (left).

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


The first visit by Yeovil College to the Czech Republic and Slovakia for more than 10 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 - 22 girls and 1 boy plus 4 female teachers, visited a kindergarten, a secondary school and a Youth club during their 3 day stay.

Assisted by Czech former care worker Martina Chvostova (incidentally also responsible for choosing the candidates for the Czech version of 'Big Brother' as a qualified psychologist) the highlight of their trip was the visit to the Jahoda (strawberry) organisation at Cerny Most. Jahoda is a succesful youth club staffed by social workers and funding by central and local government.

Also in Prague they were welcomed by the Krestianska Gymnasium (Christian Grammar School) in Hostivar district. This high performing school is very keen to develop links with a Somerset school of a similar 14-19 age range.

Entertained by Barbora Spatnas jazz band at the Golden Pretzel wine cellar in Malostrana, the group also sampled some home made gulash and bramborak before taking a night train to Slovakia.

Six to a compartment and with suitcases bigger than themselves it was a mighty feat to get the group on (and off) the train and then up the mountain at the end of the journey-but we managed it!

Once in the Slovak mountains the students visited 2 kindergartens - one in Stary Smokovec and one in Poprad where they joined in playing with the children and pre-school communal singing.

The trip also included a gypsy music event at the local Koliba with chicken and ribs roasted over an open fire , tatran tea and a mix up with the wine and coke which appeared to be resolved when we heard gunshots coming from the kitchen - although this turned out to be a local 'welcome' for the arrival of the flaming alcoholic honey tea.

With their Moravian guide Barbora Hubena, some of the group took a walk in the mountains - despite warnings about an upsurge in 'Bear' activity and fortunately (or not) weren't eaten. The group were warned "Bears can rip your heads off, nibble on your ears and donate your shoes to Oxfam . But this is a very rare occurance"

An afternoon in Poprad coincided with Graduation day and the streets were full of singing (and ,shall we say 'fundraising' Slovak students). Sadly, on the night train journey back that night some illegal fundraisers waltzed off with some of the students cash plus a mobile phone and an i-pod despite locked doors and the all-night vigil of a bald man with a ferret in the corridor who was clearly beyond suspicion. Once in Prague the kindly Czech police took maybe 3 hours to say they couldn't do anything about it- but at leats gave a crime reference number.

After a final mornings shopping in Prague the group went off to the memorial village of Lidice - scene of a Nazi massacre during world war two - which the group found moving and poignant.

And a fitting tribute to the crushing of the BNP and their rejection by the British people in the General Election the night before!!


Students from Bridgwater College catering course spent a week in East Europe visiting Slovakian college, sharing cooking experiences and learning something about the local culture and people amidst the sunlit landscape of the High Tatra mountains.
Starting their journey in the Southern Polish city of Krakow the students stayed in the Kazimierz area - once the hub of Jewish Krakow. With the help of Polish teacher Karolina Tymochowicz, the group had a guided tour of the city which included the famous market square and the Castle at Wawel next to the Vistula river. It was here that they visited the tomb of the recently buried Polish President Lech Kacynski who had died only the week before in the Katyn wood plane tradgedy. They were also told the legend of Smok the fire breathing dragon whose statue can be found at the entrance to his cave beneath the castle and next to the river.
The students also tried some Polish 'kanapke' - sandwich snacks, bought from the main square in Kazimierz.

In the evening the group crossed the river to visit a Polish restaurant situated very close to the Oskar Schindler Factory, where they sampled Polish cuisine and the next day they visited a synogogue in Kazimierz before heading off South to the Slovakian mountains.

In the still snow capped High Tatra mountains the students stayed in the town of Tatranska Lomnica , once a popular location during the years of Communism for Party-away-days (of a political kind).
During their stay they linked up with an Apprentice school in Stary Smokovec where they prepared a traditional British meal of Shepherds pie. farmhouse soup and apple crumble for the Slovakian students, who in return prepared a traditional Slovakian meal of Pirohy and Halusky for them. The Slovakian students later joined their new British friends for an evening meal in Tatranska Lomnica .

Wandering the mountain peaks and forests of the High Tatras proved enjoyable for the Brits, guided by Maria Salusova who gave a constant and informative commentary about Slovak life and history as they visited the recently opened Queen Elizabeth stone (following a recent visit by the British Monarch) and an Ice Cave which had until recently exhibited a nativity scene.

The students also visited the nearby town of Kezmarok where the Hotel Academy there welcomed them and invited them to a specially prepared dinner where they were attended to by their specialist trainee waiters and chefs.

The group topped off their visit with an exciting afternoon in Poprads new water theme park Aqua City and the evening listening (and dancing) to Gypsy music at the Zbrojovna Koliba back in Lomnica. Sadly, although the musicians managed to play some Beatles requests, they failed to do Motorhead or Michael Jackson.
The trip leader Kevin Smokcum said "We have had some excellent feed back from the students and it is all very positive. The visit to both the catering schools went particularly well, especially the first one, when we cooked. Overall, the week went well and students were engaged most of the time. The restaurants were a good experience to all, especially the final night at the Folk/Gypsy evening. That was a great end to the week."