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 ;-