In 1993 we had run a very succesful and popular trip to Uherske Hradiste for the Kings Ride festival (Jizda Kralu). In 1994 it was attempted to repeat this. Our usual grass roots travellers, who had founded the society, were joined by photography students from Bridgwater College curtesy of teacher Ian Mason, and a similar group of photography students from Barking College, organised by David Newton. However, in 1993 we added a ‘civic’ element with Mayor, Chair and Chief Exec, plus a new group of middle class travellers more keen on hotels. There was a clash developing….
Wed 25 May 2 busses set out from Bridgwater. The Grassroots bus plus 10 Bridgwater College photography students driven by Smedley & Gary Di Campo and the second bus driven by John Gwilliam and John Weeks, plus their wives and a family friend and the 4 Barking students. We travelled Ramsgate>Ostende and then through the south route towards Czech
Thurs 26 May the trip paused overnight at Frankfurt
Fri 27 May Not long into the journey when Gary’s persistent driving with his clutch foot flat on the floor, wore out the clutch. The bus broke down. Smedley arranged a rescue coach to take the group on to Ceske Budejovice while he stayed late night with the broken bus and drove on to catch them up at midnight.
Sat 28 May the group stayed in Ceske Budejovice
Sun 29 May On to Uherske Hradiste and the Kings Ride Festival where many people proceeded to get very drunk. One of the attractions for low wage or unemployed Brits was the cheapness of Czech prices. There was further problems with home hosting-which Lea Slovackova had not organised in advance and was allocatin on the hoof. Weeks and Gwilliams rejected this and organised their own hotel accommodation.
30 & 31 May Uherske Hradiste
Wed 1 June On to Prague where the group stayed in Strahov. This was student university halls of resident, and of course very basic. The Weeks & Gwilliam families refused to stay , describing them as ‘cell blocks’. They got their own private hotel.
Thur 2 June Another night in Prague
Fri 3 June the groups drive back via East Germany for another overnight stop. This time it’s Erfurt Youth Hostel *Tonbach Dietharz) . In these days there’s no internet and bookings are by mail or phone. The hostel is extremely basic. There’s broken glass and John Weeks managed to video some cockroaches and then they went to stay in a private hotel again,
Sat 4 June It’s like a race to get home…..no love is lost between the 2 busses and it’s only the beginning of a long hot summer of accusation and rebuttal.
Epilogue:– Weeks and Gwilliam go to the press about an awful trip, cell block accommodation and take it to a Czech society meeting. Luckily Ian Mason the photography teacher, and his students turn up and defend the pioneering nature of the type of visit they expected and Smedley survives a no confidence vote.