1996 – Involving the whole County

Throughout 1995 the Bridgwater Czech Slovak Friendship Society had the most full and challenging programme of any international link group in the UK.  We decided this year to expand our contacts and programme around the County of Somerset. We would share our  twinning links with Uherske Hradiste, our strong school and civic links with Ceske  Budejovice and develop a new interest in Prague 6 district where our man Andy Pole was now in residence. This expansion reflected the new confidence Somerset County Council had shown in us and so we made new links with Taunton and Frome. The year looked exciting…

Fri 5 Jan..Reflecting our new strong link with Richard Huish School we put on a gig at the Arts Centre with their student band CHANGING FACES who we planned to tale on a Czech tour.

Wed 17 Jan Smedley attends a LGIB Conference in London

Tues Jan 30- wed 7 FebCHANGING FACES tour. Fronted by the didgeridoo playing son of Paul Evans (Sim Evans) these were a ‘techno ceilidh’ band. Totally instrumental. Unless you count the didgeridoo. 7 musicians in a minibus driven by Smedley and Trish Powell (the Richard Huish librarian). The tour was thick of snow and ice and usually involved the band gigging, partying till the morning, then sleeping in the bus while listening to trans music…not conducive to driving….and staying awake. Thurs 1 Feb they play Scarlet O Hara’s in Prague. Fri 2 Feb is the iconic Borovany gig near Ceske Budejovice. The audience is massively cross generational and as the bus fails to start in the ice filled conditions outside the scene of punks, bikers and ellderly villagers pushing it through the invisible rural streets at midnight was classic. ON Sat 3rd Feb they played the PLES at Czech English High school. ON Sun 4 Feb we moved to Volyne where Martha Sullivan had arrange a gig. Back in Prague, Petr Veleta, a former ballet dancer, now teacher , had arrange 2 gigs at the Kino Kiev in Prague 6. Feb 7 we travelled through the night pausing at Koln back home.

Feb 9-10 Smedley takes part in the Labour European Conference in Birmingham

March 14 is an important date. Smedley buys a computer finally.

March 29- 4 April 4 Artists from Uherske Hradiste have an exhibition at the Arts Centre and are home hosted in town led by Jana Hubena.

Sun 7-21 April-  Richard Huish student visit to Czech Republic. Travel is by coach. Teachers are Paul Evans and Ann Stringer. The group is home hosted in Ceske Budejovice and a couple of days in Prague

Sun 28 April– Andy Pole brings a group of Arabska Gymnasium (Prague) students to UK. We meet them off the coach in London by minibus then drive them to Bridgwater for home hosting. The main teacher is Dr Jan Soucek. It is the first of many visits.

7-11 May Kings of Wessex school Cheddar twins with the Nam Svobody school in Prague 6. The Czechs stay at Crowcombe. Les Hortin, Pam Holt and Trish Powell act as tutors

Fri 24 May -Sun 2 June Friendship Society annual trip. minibus group includes Smedley & Matt Bartlett + several of his Uni friends (Colin, Andrea, Gus and Sara) and the usual members- Mac, Dave Hanna, and Dave Newton plus Jim Leavy and Mike Sp. A plane group with Cy & Mary Bartlett + Dan Jordan and their friends joins us. 25 May Prague then 26-30 in Ceske Budejovice and around the region including a hilarious night in a Monastry in Novy Hrady where we are locked out at 10pm but get back in when Jim chats up the Mother Superior. Food is bread and water, the building turns out to be a secret base for Sudetenland revivalists….

Tue 11 June – Eva Kordovas CAG visit to Crowcombe-now a regular event. Meanwhile in London we stay at the seedy Eurotowers in Vauxhall. it’s cheap if nothing else.

July Frome College ‘Yellow Submarine’ tour of Czech Republic now called ‘ All you need is love’ This has been organised through Mike Walker. Smedley hitch hikes to Homberg in Germany where the band have a gig. The plan is for a series of shows in Prague, Ceske Budejovice and Uherske Hradiste.  In Prague they play Scarlett O Haras and stay at Strahov. Petr Veleta and Irena Rejskova are our assistants. In Ceske Budejovice Eva kordova has organised a show and in UH Jana Hubena has. However, on 9th July Brian receives a call from Elaine via Dave Hanna via Martin Vorisek via Jan Zahradnik that his mother has been rushed to hospital. He has no money to get home quickly. Jan Zahradnik drives him at once to Prague airport and  pays for his flight. He reaches her bedside in time and she dies on Wed 10 July. Petr and Irena run the rest of the tour.

Jan Zahradnik & Brian Smedley

18 July Through TU links with Ken Biggs we home host Bosnian Miners. Suljic Fikret and Tihomir Babic.

July 20-30 Somerset College of Art and Technology take us up on a minibus tour to Czech. 2 busses -1 driven by Brian and Matt 2nd by Sue Habgood and Ian Cunningham. There is a problem at Ostend as one student Louise Callaghan, has her drinks spiked on the ferry by lorry drivers she’s drinking with. She is comatose on arrival and we have to take her to Ostende Hospital where she is left in the care of Belgian Health Authorities while her mother has to come to collect her. In Ceske Budejovice the group stays at a new hostel on Nerudova. Returns to UK on 30th July

August 19 -25 The Czech folk band KUNOVJAN from Uherske Hradiste tour. It is organised by Lea Slovackova. A joint visit by UH and Prague 6 business people is taxcked on. Antonin joins the tour. The entire group is home hosted. There is a party at the art centre on 22 Aug. However, there is some tension and it isn’t clear why.. The group play the art centre on 23 Aug and then move up to Towersey festival on 24th where they play. On 25th in London Brian is glad to leave the group with Radana-who is working in London.

The tensions in this group bring some matters to a head. There is an assumption that we are making money from the trips…which no one is. The whole thing is done on a shoe string to encourage maximum participation. There’s a different approach amongst some of our contacts in Czech Republic. Slovackova and Painter say they are ‘businesses’ and expect to make money and so expect that we are. At this time I start to have a rethink about how to make sure that shoe string doesn’t mean hit or miss……

Sept 30-Oct 8 Czech visit. Jitka is in town living with Gareth

Fri 22 Nov – 29 A small overland car trip to Czech to plan future business and LA links sees Smedley drive Housing officer John Griffiths, Councillor Adrian Moore and new Lib Dem councillor Marilyn Wallace across to Prague. They stay in Homberg on the way with members of the German Friendship Group. In Prague they stay FOC at Hotel Praha- a massive hotel inherited by the council.  They are joined by Russ Comer (Chamber) and Dick Langridge (new twinning officer). In Prague the group meets with the Mayor of Prague 6 in Orechovka-a strange night club with glass floors and live snakes under them. This is the start of discussions for formal links with Prague 6 District. The group returns to London on 29 Nov and attends a LGIB meeting to report back.

Sat 7 December Sedgemoor Twinning Conference is again organised by us and keynote speaker is MEP Graham Watson

Leave a Reply