Thursday, 13 October 2011


Czech jazz band PARADIGM SHIFT are over in Bridgwater for a couple of nights and a couple of gigs. Last night (Wed 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.

The Centre is Britains first Art Centre, being founded in 1946, and today is 65 years old. PARADIGM SHIFT will be playing alongside Bridgwater Jazzers JAZZICAL.
The event starts at 8pm .

The bands tour has been sponsored by the Bridgwater Czech Slovak Friendship Society.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


In 1957 Bridgwater set up it's 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 Medeteranean 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.

Each year Bridgwater International and Altech SRO from our Czech twin town Uherske Hradiste take our football teams to visit a 3rd country . Last year it was Priverno in Italy - so this year we targetted La Ciotat. In order to do this we looked up an old friend -Yasmina Boukerhoufa had visited Bridgwater some years previously and was enthusiastic then to develop more International links, whilst Stephane Olry , a tip top table tennis trainer, was a newcomer to Twinning but passionate in his desire to get involved. Both proved invaluable.

Taking 71 people this time round was a bit of a feat. Whilst the Brits had a light drive up to Gatwick , a 1 and a half hour flight to Marseilles then a 45 minute bus ride to La Ciotat, the Czechs drove all the way across Europe on a 24 hour barely stopping coach .

Staying at the Victoria Gardens hotel, overlooking the dive-off-able cliffs and rocks of Aren Cros, both groups filled the place to near capacity. On the down side it was a 45 minute walk to the town centre or an 8 euro taxi ride.

The first football match saw the Brits play the French. The final score maybe reflected the mismatch in ages....well that's one excuse.... The Brits (average age 50) 2 v the French (average age 25) 13. Another excuse could be the mighty Mistral wind that scattered all before it whilst depositing the sands of North Africa on the pitch and in the eyes of the (none sun glasses wearing) Brits.

The second football match was delayed while we watched the French humiliate the English national team at Rugby from an early morning New Zealand. By the time it started the match featured several seriously inebriated 'players' for want of a better word whilst supplemented by 2 young French boys whose Bridgwater international shirts reached their toes, and a baguette wielding Stephane as a guest winger. The result Bridgwater 1 v Czech Rep 9. The lone English goal scored is the subject of a prize 'guess the goalscorer' Competition. Answers on a postcard to the 'Cllr Smedleys great goal' competition c/o Bridgwater International.

A far more even game was the Czech v France game played later that day. Ending 5.2 to the Czechs (making them tournament winners) the match showed that generosity of spirit the Czechs are famous for. Especially lending their opponents a goalkeeper who didn't know the rules. And who had no hands.

Re-establishing links with the La Ciotat 'Jumelagistes' was a rewarding exercise. Madame Jean-Marie Vandamme and Virginie Giaccone proved able hosts with 2 social events for the participants at the St Marceaux Complex where the French pastis mixed with the Czech pivo and the Somerset scrumpy while the players and fellow travellers tried to make each other understood. "You got some paaasties then??" and so on.

Apart from the football, the trip was also a perfect holiday. French market stalls lined the quayside stretching from the beaches to the old docks - now restored to cater for the affluent yacht-repairing set, fine French sea side restaurants were interspersed with bars showing the rugby whilst a slight walk past the harbour and you are in the 'callanque' area of rocky gardens and secluded beaches. One brave English traveller received a round of applause from the French beach-huggers for daring to go in the mildly mild october waters while the rest drew a line just above their ankles.

As a result of the trip to la Ciotat we have 4 further projects in mind with the place and it certainly feels like old friends finally got together again.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


Bridgwater's VOICE OF THE PEOPLE choir have just returned from a succesful 4 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 44 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..).

Staying at the beach hotel of Oasa di Kufra the group quickly made friends with the other guests who they serenaded to sleep each night and awoke each morning with a gentle refrain. Along with some George Formby style ukelele playing that wasn't part of their usual set....

The Italian summer had stretched to October and the warm evenings lent themselves to a perfect setting when they met up with Paola SanGiorgios Pontinia choir and both choirs sang to each other on the stage of the Fellini Theatre and then in the bar afterwards. Meanwhile the ukelele playing continued into the streets to 'entertain' the local Italians attempting to watch the Juventus v Milan football match on the big screen.

A trek up to the mountain town of Sermoneta saw the group viewing the entire Lazio landscape from ahigh including the entire Pontine marshes drained by Il Duce himself back in the 30's to create a series of Fascist new towns - ideal locations for the choir to sing their songs of 'no more Nations, give us peace on earth'. And of course for us to remember that champion of the working class George Formby with a little bit more ukelele magic.

The final day and the group visited the town of Priverno where an impromptu show on the steps of the town hall in the piazza brought an excited audience of bouncing ,cycling and footballing kids into action who joined in while throngs of people lined the narrow streets as the singers wended their way out of the town singing as they went 'adios amigos' -which surely left the locals wondering 'what are these spanish people doing here??'. ..until they were reassured that in fact they were Brits....assumedly by the faint twang of a ukelele being bashed over a choristers head...

This is the 4th tour the Voice of the People have done with Bridgwater International and long may they continue.


Czech jazz band PARADIGM SHIFT will be in Bridgwater next week to play a couple of gigs including an International Jazz Night at the Unity Club on Wednesday October 12th with local jazz combo 'JAZZICAL' and to perform at the Bridgwater Art's Centre's 65th Anniversary party on Thursday October 13th.

To check them out go to their web site ;-

Friday, 30 September 2011


The Arabska Gymnasium in Prague 6 has been an annual visitor to Bridgwater since the link first started back in 1996 when Dr Jan Soucek met Mr Andrew Pole in the Bridgwater Embassy in Prague (the 'U Capa' bar near IP Pavlova). Last year was the Doctors final visit as he has now retired, however the link goes on and this year Mrs Pavla Pracnova turned up with a group of 16 students eager to see what all the fuss was about.

Picking the right time to come - not only was it Bridgwater fair, but the English Summer finally decided to arrive, the group also included on their itnerary a visit to the College where Media lecturer Mino De Francesca showed them several films made by the students, the YMCA where Jason let them have a go at Archery and even a game of Skittles was thrown into the cultural melting pot.

The students were toured around the county, climbing Glastonbury Tor, playing Cricket on the parklands of Burnham and involving themselves in the ancient history of the region from atop Burrow Mump.

They also had a drive down to Devon and Cornwall where they misjudged the tides at the St Michaels Mount causeway, fell off a cliff at Tintagel and were eaten by Dartmoor ponies just south of Okehampton.


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 10 Family centre and Youth club workers to Bridgwater and we organised a series of visits to similar family centres in our district.

The bulk of the programme was organised in conjunction with Les Riddle at the Re-Creation centre in Hamp whose volunteers prepared many of the meals for the group, and who involved them in community activities such as 'Community Computing' ,'Zumba', and even a 'Knit and Natter' session.

The Project generated some £500 for the Hamp Community Association and as a result of the programme and Hamps new link up with the YMCA a 3 -year Euro project has now been signed up to for 2012.


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 C
ouncil rep on the Czech Friendship society (Cllr Mick Lerry) , Pat marched the entire 2 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 .

Carrying the flag for the duration of the procession was Bridgwater International's admin assistant Jana Branecka and alongside the Mayor throughout was translator Adela Tobolova.

The group also spent some time in Prague where some 20 Friendship Society supporters from the Czech capital joined them for an evening out and made plans for next years programme.

Whilst in Uherske Hradiste, Czech Society co-found
er Antonin Machala took the Mayor , Mayoress and Cllr Lerry up for a spin in his private aeroplane to give them an aerial view of the Festivities below.

Cllr Smedley said "During the past 20 years of our very active link, we have taken 4 incumbant Mayors across to UH a
nd they've sent 2 back to Bridgwater. The Civic link is very important , however, more important is the work done by the many active supporters we have who organise, run and fund the trips. Doing the hard work which is often unrewarded , the home hosting, the budgetting,and the promotion of our towns within each other's communities. Although not 'councillors' or 'elected dignatories' the two most important people in our link with Uherske Hradiste for the past 15-20 years are without doubt Antonin Machala and Jana Hubena. It was a shame that they weren't invited to participate in this particular event by the UH Council."

Friday, 2 September 2011


A couple of years back, a Bridgwater delegation to the Uherske Hradiste wine festival (the next one is 9-11 September) bumped into a delegation from our Czech town's twin town, 'Priverno' just south of Rome. From that time to this we've been developing new partners for our International friendship links.

Last year we took our football team over to Priverno along with a team from Uherske Hradiste and played a couple of matches while getting to know the place.

This October we are taking the Voice of the People Choir from the Bridgwater Arts Centre over there on a singing tour.

Next February plans are afoot to take Bridgwater college Film & Media students on a fact finding trip plus Health care students from Richard Huish in March.

Priverno is a small rural community 40 minutes south of Rome and very close to the beachresort of Sabaudia - interestingly created as a 'Fascist new Town' in the 20's when Mussolini drained the pontine Marches and within easy reach of the world war 2 battlefield of Cassino and Anzio.

Our most recent Italian escapade was a visit to Bridgwater by 3 Italian girls from Cerignola who did voluntary work at the YMCA and were given English lessons by our Czech admin assistant Jana Branecka...and thus the cycle is complete.

Saturday, 6 August 2011


A special treat this summer for a group of Prague travellers as Bridgwater International organised a 'Round Ireland' trip for them. By minibus. A bit like a safari. Without the lions.

Crossing from Fishguard to Rosslare the group first visited the seaside resort of Tramore near Waterford and then carried on in a clockwise fashion visiting Cork, Killarney, crossing the Mouth of the Shannon and taking in the Cliffs of Moher.

From County Clare the czechs took in the musical sights of Galway before wandering around the Connemara hills and climbing Croagh Patrick then ending up at the Yeats Village in Sligo.

Topping Ireland via Errigal in County Donegal, Derry and the Giant's causeway, including the Bush Mills whiskey ditillery, they travelled along the beautiful Antrim coast with the Scottish mountains close at hand across the water and then into Belfast.

Ending the trip in Dublin , where they visited the Guiness Brewery and experienced an evening of Irish dancing at the Arlington hotel, they crossed back into Wales via Holyhead, climbed Mount Snowdon, visited Tintern Abbey and flew home.

Friday, 1 July 2011


It's been an annual tour since the mid 90's. Eva Kordova from the Czech-English high School in the South Bohemian city of Ceske Budejovice brings over a group of students, they spend a few days in Bridgwater and then take a trip around the West country.

This year the group spent their first three nights at Huntstile Organic Farm in the foothills of the Quantocks whilst visiting Glastonbury ,Wells & Cheddar and having a social night at the Bridgwater Arts Centre. During this time they also did some orienteering on the Quantocks, had a Coleridge themed tour of Watchet with Ben Manning and had a look at Dunster on their way through Exmoor to Dartmoor.

Experiencing a misty couple of days on the Devonshire moors they then headed off to Cornwall where they saw Tintagel, the Eden project and Mount St Michael, spending the night at Golant hostel neat st Austell.

Leaving Cornwall the group crossed the Tamar to a hot and sunny Plymouth and then speedily up to Bath where they spent a night and the next morning before heading off to Wiltshire .

Taking in the ancient sites of Avebury stone circle and the Uffington White Horse the group spent their last night at Ridgeway Youth Hostel and the final morning having a walk around Bristol before catching their flight home.


Two Slovenian schools joined together with Bridgwater International for a short tour of Wales which took them from the Snowdonian peaks to Tiger Bay before finally popping over the Severn bridge to Somerset.

The schools, from Koper on the Adriatic Coast and Jesenice up in the Julian Alps, landed at Birmingham Airport from Trieste , visited Shrewsbury and stayed for 2 nights at Betws y Coed.

On the Friday they were guided around the University of Bangor, had a tour of Caernarvon Castle and walked up Mount Snowdon, then on the Saturday visited Harlech castle, the seaside town of Barmouth and took in a festival at Builth Wells before spending the night in the Brecon Beacons.

Sunday saw them at Cyfarthfa Castle, in Merthyr Tydfil before having a look around Cardiff and then onto Tiger Bay and a tour of the Welsh Assembly curtesy of Welsh AM Mick Antoniw.

Spending their last night at Cheddar YHA the group were treated to a social evening at the Bridgwater Arts Centre with a quiz and some singing plus food laid on by Kath Pearce , much of it donated by local Grocer Lance Duddridge.

Before travelling to Stansted to fly home the Slovenians visited Richard Huish College in Taunton and spent some time with the students there.

Monday, 23 May 2011


Bridgwater International's multi-National football team (there was a Slovak bloke playing for them) have lost their 23 month unbeaten record at Bristol's prestigious 'Sandino tournament' with a solitary draw against Red Star Bedminster followed in rapid succession by 4 consecutive defeats.

The team, who had to hand back their 'Sandino Trophy' - a sort of handcrafted wooden plate strangely containing the remnants of a meal of egg and chips, were upbeat in their post match comments.

Richard,(left) a violent centre back in the style of Norman Hunter, 'Chopper Harris' or the Boston Strangler, said "The weather had something to do with it. Whenever theres 'weather' we never play our best."
Steve (right) who scored 4 of the teams 3 goals, said "The opponents was a bunch of cheats man, not only did they pick better players but every time we scored a goal they scored More than us!"

The results;-

Bridgwater International 1 (Miles) v Red Star Bedminster 1

Bridgwater international 0 v Bristol Nicaragua link 1

Bridgwater international 0 v Bristol Chileans 3

Bridgwater international 1 (Miles) v Avon Plate 2

Bridgwater International 1 (Smedley) v Real Madras 3


A group of 28 teachers from the Kladno area of the Czech Republic spent Easter in London with us, succesfully managed to avoid the Royal Wedding and also took in a tour of Cambridge.

Flying to Stanstead, the group, led by Zdena Biggsova, a long term supporter of the Bridgwater Czech link, spent their first night in Cambridge. The following day clever student Simon Hann gave them a clever tour around the citadel of cleverness including a bunch of clever punts on the river.

The next few days were spent in London at the Thameside youth hostel in Rotherhithe from where the group visited all the relevent places you'd expect in the city including Buckingham palace, Trafalgar Square, Soho, Chinatown, Greenwich, the Tower and St Pauls.

An added insight into British culture was provided by drivers and guides Nigel - who took the group out for a curry, and Brian who did a spontaneous interview on Sky TV outside of Westminster Abbey about how rubbish the Royal wedding was.

Nigel, an avid fan of the 'Sat Nav' , spent much of his time in the Rotherhithe tunnel and on one occaision in a tacky gift shop on Greenwich where he met a lifesize replica of the unlovely couple.

(see photo)

One of the visiting Czechs asked "Why do you still have a Royal family in the 21st century?". Nobody knew the answer.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


A small group of students from Yeovil College studying childcare have spent a few days before Easter comparing notes with their Slovenian counterparts and taking in the sights of Venice, Istria and the Julian Alps at the same time.

The group flew out to Venice where they spent a couple of days on the island of Giudecca at the famous Ostello Venezia. Travelling around the waterscaped city by vaporetto the students also visited the Doges palace and saw the catastrophe that was the total swamping of the famous bridge of Sighs by a 100 square metre advertising hoarding for a Japanese car company....

Travelling on to Slovenia the group stopped at the Istrian towns of Koper, Piran and Izola where they visited a Hospital and a medical school. There they were treated to a display of first aid and childcare.

At the Piran kindergarten they were able to meet the children and take part in their daily activities whilst in Koper they had a session on Slovenian culture by the students of the gimnazija there plus a night out at the 'Planet Tus' megastore and disco bowling complex alongside their Slovene partners.

Moving up to the Julian Alps the group spent a quiet couple of days in Bled at the youth hostel there then dropped in to the capital Ljubljana where they bumped into 180 charity hitchikers from Sheffield on their way to Krakow to raise money for Third World disasters..well, to 'prevent' them we assume...

The group was led by teacher Michelle Dennet and consisted of 15 in total.

Sunday, 27 March 2011


Richard Huish College 'Health & Social Care' students have travelled with us to the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia over the past few years. This year they chose the increasingly popular Slovenia for their annual fact finding mission.

Flying from Bristol to Venice - a couple of hours and a lovely rooftop panorama of the Alps then a swoop over the Venetian islands, they were whisked away by a waiting Slovenian coast to the border town of Koper.

In Koper they stayed at the seafront Hotel Koper and had a programme organised by Grammar school teacher Ljuba Medak.

During the course of the trip the students were to meet with 3 seperate groups of Slovenian students of the same age and commented on how friendly they were. Friendships were made, information exchanged and points awarded for fanciability.....

Travelling to the nearby hilltop hospital of Izola, the group were hosted by the Nursing students at Bolnica Izola and shown around the hospital (a good place to be ill as it has spectacular views over the Adriatic, so if you;re ever run over in Slovenia, ask the ambulance driver to take you doesn;t matter which room - they're all good). Some students demonstrated how to repair broken arms, resusitate plastic dummies , mend plastic babies , take blood samples and change beds with patients still in them.

An evening of 'your country-my country' included presentations from both groups of students about each others schools, homes and cultures. The Slovenians gave the Brits a lesson in the Slovene language -which they took to remarkably quickly, before heading off to a Nightclub to try out some of the phrases. "Do you have an older brother?" , "Can I have what he's drinking" and "Which hotel was I staying at ??".

A morning visit to the beautiful Roman lighthouse town of Piran the group was welcomed by the staff of the Kindergarten situated high on a hill under the town walls and met all the children -who when asked to sing a song in English chose 'Frere Jacques'...but thats 3 year olds for you.

The group then went off to the Slovenian alps where they stayed at the picturesque lakeside town of Bled for the next 2 nights. Violeta and her family made the students very welcome at the Bledec Pension with their Slovenian home cooking and the lovable Slovenian roadworkers outside the Hostel made sure they woke up on time every morning with their lovable road digging. At one point they even put a rope up to stop people falling into the giant hole they'd dug.

During their time in Bled the group walked around the lake, took a 'Pletna' (boat) to the island and walked up to the castle perched on a steep craggy peak.

On their final day the students visited the nearby Jesenice school where the immaculate English accented Iris Kucina introduced them to their Slovenian counterparts where again they all got on like houses not on fire (which presumably better than houses on fire...)

Leaving the Julian Alps behind them they set off back for Italy where they spent an afternoon in Venice before flying on home after what they all agreed was their best trip so far.

Saturday, 5 March 2011


Every year Bridgwater International in conjunction with Bridgwater Trades Council organises teams of workers for the WORKERS BEER COMPANY bars at various Festivals around the Country. We have now been asked to provide workers for 2011. Anyone interested or requiring more information should contact us by March 20th.

Our volunteers in the past few years have included Brits, Czechs,Slovaks,Poles,Irish,American (have I left anyone out??) so anyone is welcome to apply.

The Festivals on offer this year include;-

Glastonbury 21st -26th June
HOP farm 30th june - 2nd July

Uprise (London) 10th july
Latitude 13th -17th July
Tolpuddle 15th-17th july
Reading 26-28th August
Leeds 26-28 August
Proms in the park (Hyde Park) 17 Sept