1995 – Onward and Upward

1994 had been a difficult year. Despite being the busiest so far there had been tensions within the society about the organisation which had come to a head with the resignations of a small faction critical of the secretary. Meanwhile in Uherske Hradiste another small faction was seeking to challenge the Bridgwater structure. However, they were now without allies. 1995 was to be a reconsolidating and re-organising year building on the strengths of the previous year-increasing popularity, wider support from grassroots and recognition by EU grant awarding bodies. In 1995 we planned to make more school links-talking to Richard Huish College, and widen our cultural brief -talking to Czech artists. Not only that, we had a TV company interested in us!

Tue 24 Jan Smedley visits James Beadle , head of the Local Government International Bureau in London seeking recognition and funding

Tues 31 Jan  Smedley, Mac, Cy Bartlett and Les Hortin take part in the Bristol-Czech Business Conference and meet Tanweer Ali, a British business consultant living in the Czech Republic. He speaks at the march Friendship Society meeting. It is an enduring friendship.

There is also interest in the Society from Somerset County Council. Twinning officer Frank Robinson is a regular attender. He also helps us develop links with the Somerset Chamber of Commerce run by Russ Comer.

16-22 Feb  Winter Planning trip Smedley undertakes solo drive to Czech Republic to plan the years programme. In Prague 17th he meets with Andy Pole and Gareth Beasley who are now living in Prague. Gareth is now with Jitka. Brian meets once more with Iva Breckova who he had helped return home from Bridgwater where she was in an unhappy au pair arrangement run by fundamentalist christians. She is a happy and changed person with a job in a pharmacy. They stay at the Botel Racek. In UH on 18  Brian meets Radana and stays at the Grand. On 19 goes with Jana Hubena and family to Cachtice castle in Slovakia-home of Countess Bathory (the one that bathed in virgins blood to keep young) (Bathory, not Jana). On 20th it’s Ceske Budejovice where Jo Cox is now living. On 21st returned via Austria-sadly stopped and fined by an Austrian policeman for not stopping for an Austrian policeman…..

16-30 April The first Richard Huish-Ceske Budejovice exchange. Took the Eurolines bus to Prague, met by Eva Kordova and her students and taken by train to CB. RH teachers include Trish Powell. The students are home hosted, Smedley stays in the Paper Mills (Papirny). There’s a lot of free time and on one night Bela introduces me to the legendary Martina Drnkova who is like something out of the 60s Czech film Sedmykrasky (you need to watch it). Sat 22nd April 1995. I still have a scar on my arm from the occasion. On another occasion we all go for a walk in the deep snows of the Sumava..this isn’t wise in ‘fashion boots’….after an hour the pretend leather is flapping off in useless strips.

Trish Powell with Eva and Brian in Prague

6-11 May Czech choir from Uherske Hradiste stays in Bridgwater. There’s a concert at the Art Centre on Wed 10 May. 4 Concerts in total and the group is home hosted by the Bridgwater Youth Choir.

11-17 May‘Lads Trip to Czech’. It was about time I introduced my old schoolmates Kim, Eugene and Alex to the delights of Czechoslovakia. So we spontaneously drove off there in my car Thurs 11 May heading out via Ramsgate. 12th & 13th spent in Prague. 14th went to UH via Austerlitz and Cachtice castle-where Kim cheerfully nicked a stone from the castle of the walled up evil countess. Antonin let us have his cottage for the night. We picked up Bela and Martina and they joined us there. On the 15th we visited Ceske Budejovice and Nurnburg and on the 16th visited battlefield of Waterloo , Ostende and then back to Blighty.

Martina Drnkova

Looking for a way to host large groups of Czechs without overburdening home hosts we discover Crowcombe Youth Hostel-which is struggling and in danger of being closed down. Over the next few years we pack it out and in the process save it from closure,

14- 15 June Eva’s first Crowcombe visit. Some 45 Czechs from Ceske Budejovice stay at Crowcombe. We cook for them-usually Elaine, and entertain them -usually Elaine, Brian and Mac, and tour them around Somerset as a base from there. At this time Sedgemoor still let us use the Splash free for the Czech groups. the Mayors of Bridgwater always put on a reception and there’s often a football match against a local school and a show at the art centre.

19-25th June UH student visit. It is home hosted and we are struggling too maintain so many hosts with so many groups. Almost no one can pronounce Uherske Hradiste -even the Czechs themselves call it U.H. Tory farmer chairman Ken Dyer has a go and calls it ‘Ooosky Radoosky’

Mayor Donaldson and SDC Chair Ken Dyer

9-19th July West Country TV Tour. Continuing the annual minibus tour of members to Czech we head off  13 strong. Smedley, Nigel Carter, Mac, Dave H, Dave Newton, Pat Morley, Jo, Nick & Rosie Gibson, Ian Fear, les Hortin, Sue Habgood, Ellie Bartlett. But this time we are joined by a flying party including West Country TV reporter Neil Connery (now ITN) and cameraman Dan Spong plus a group of business people. Tanweer also joins us. 10th Nurnburg for the bus people then 11th in Prague 12th July in old Town Square Dan Spongs camera falls over and breaks. Czech TV lend him a spare one. Irena Rejskova joins us as guide. 13th the tour moves to Ceske Budejovice. 14th to Brno and the  UH. 15th we take part in the Stary Hrozenkov festival-Les Hortin has his drinks spiked and is carried home. 16th with the filming bit over Smedley drives them to Prague and returns to UH. Then back to Prague on 17th-driving cross Europe on 18th with just an evening 6 hour break in Koln and back to Bridgwater on 19th.

A film is made of the tour and clips are shown on WCTV.

Wed 16 Aug – Czech society AGM- Cy Bartlett becomes Chair, Pam Holt vice chair, Smedley as secretary and Dave Hanna as treasurer. We have 74 members. We home hosted 96 Czechs of who 90 were from UH

Aug 28-30 Bela hitch hikes from Prague to Bridgwater and brings Martina with her….the town descends into Chaos and Brian has to drive them to London where they stay with Kim. Who deals with the situation appropriately.

24 Sept-Oct  Ceske Budejovice students return visit to Richard Huish. They are home hosted and the organiser is teacher Paul Evans. An attached group of students from Volyne, led by the American Martha Sullivan, come to stay in Bridgwater.

18-28 October Smedley does an early planning trip for 1996. Takes KCE coach to Prague. Meets all contacts including Petra Hechtova (SPUS)-who has new accommodation in U Melounu for us, Ken Biggs, who has more Communist contacts,  Andy Pole-who wants us to link with Prague 6 where his Arabska Gymnasium is. 20th went to Ceske Budejovice meeting Eva, Jan, Alena and Martha in Masne Kramy. 21st back in Prague meeting the now University student Liba, and make a new business contact who lets me stay in Hotel Diplomat. Its the first time ive ever stayed in a proper hotel with a card operated electric system. I think it’s broken and sleep in the dark……In UH on 23 and 24 meet with Lea and Jana-and Martina Drnkova turns up out of the blue. Andrew Napthine is now living in UH as well. She drinks him under the table leaving him sat out in the snow under a tree all night.(24th) I stay at the Fojta hotel. On 25th I visited Radana in Ostrava in an attempt to make new contacts and am shocked that in this grimy post industrial hell hole the students seem to all be little tories,

28- October -5 Nov . 2 Ceske Budejovice bagpipe players are home hosted. They (‘Maladudicka Muzika’) play at various busking spots around the area. They hand make a Czech folk costume for Cathy for her 6th Birthday. She wears it once..it’s incredibly itchy…

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