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1999 Millenial Break out

By 1999 the Bridgwater Czech Slovak Friendship Society was operating through it’s business arm Bridgwater International. We started employing Czech staff and our first was Lenka Fikarova from Prague.  We expanded our projects from Crowcombe Youth Hostel to the first ‘Round Britain’ trips. In Czech we had Eva in Ceske Budejovice, Jana in Uherske Hradiste, Zdena in Kladno, Petr in Prague 6, Jarka in olomouc and Milos in Slovakia.

Feb 4th Lenka Fikarova arrives. She stays at Alfoxton rd with Brian and Elaine and also helps look after Cathy while Brian is away.

Feb 15-21 Smedley’s annual planning trip. Travels by train >London>Euroline to Brussels >Koln>Night train to Prague. This time the trip includes Bratislava, seeking new Slovak contacts and Olomouc where the strangely behaving Martin decides to pour a beer over the buffonted head of Mrs Cardova who was his head teacher…..until this moment.

Round Britain trip. The tour goes around Scotland. Lenka comes too..but gets the food quantity wrong first night..she is traumatised.

During May and June the Crowcombe projects start up again. Mayor of Bridgwater during this time is Roger Lavers who continues the tradition of hosting Czech visitors for a reception.

Roger & Christine Lavers, Eva Kordova, Brian Smedley

October Sedgemoor Unison football team join us for the first of a series of annual football tours. They play 2 games in Prague losing 3.0 to Prague 6 and 7.1 to ABC Branik.

October 1999 Gareth and Jitka get married

Nov 15-17 Milos Salus and some Slovak Social Democrats visited Bridgwater to celebrate the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution.

In December the Smedleys decide to see the New Millenium in from the Slovak Mountains where they stay with Milos and Jane

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1998 Brave New World

In 1998 the Czech-Slovak Society was at its busiest ever. Formally linked now with Prague 6 district (despite not being supported by Sedgemoor) we had a viable business model with the Crowcombe youth hostel hosting busloads of Czech students from every school in Prague 6. Everyone who helped was now paid – guides, cooks, teachers, drivers. The society was now a business.

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1997- Doing the Business

1997 we had expanded around the county, around the Czech Republic and the only direction now was across the border and into Slovakia. The opportunity of twinning with 2 countries from the ashes of 1 would be a potential money spinner as the LGIB was keen to fund projects involving more than one partner.

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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…

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1988 The Vernon Bartlett Show

In 1988 Smedley wrote the stage play ‘The Vernon Bartlett Show and performed it via his Sheep Worrying Theatre company at the Bridgwater Arts Centre.

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1986 Smedley visits Czechoslovakia

The origins of Bridgwater renewing it’s Czech link go back to 1986 when Brian Smedley first researched the 1938 Vernon Bartlett connection and in 1987 wrote a book and a play about it. In 1986 He visited Prague for the first time, going with his newly found mother . They stayed in the Hotel Panorama in Prague 4.

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2017 and 2018 Bridgwater International Projects

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2015 The Bridgwater Internationalist Year

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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!

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1994 Jizda Kralu – (the bad one…)

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….