Bathford and Kingsdown Twinning Association – A History by Colin Priston

The idea of a Bathford Twinning Association was the brainchild of Maureen Breeze who moved to Warleigh from Bradley Stoke in North Bristol where she had already been involved in a successful twinning exercise. Initial enquiries were made with BANES in mid 2000 but it was not until Spring 2001 that Artannes was picked from a list of ‘Communities looking for a partner’. Contact with Jacques l’Hôte (the President of the Artannes Twinning Committee) was made in June 2001 and the messages received seemed very encouraging. Maureen by now had the agreement of the Bathford Parish Council to continue with the twinning proposal and had been joined in the exercise by John Lees, a fluent French speaker. It was agreed that a party of interested Bathford residents would visit Artannes in February 2002 and nine people travelled there from 8 – 12 February (Maureen and Nick Breeze, John Lees, Jan Hooker, Brian Tilley, Annabel Andrews, Jeanette Kremer, Tony and Anne Woodcock). A full programme had been arranged and the party returned to Bathford almost overwhelmed by the hospitality shown to them.

Right at the beginning of discussions about Twinning, interest was also expressed by several residents of the Lower Kingsdown Road area about participating in any activities which we might embrace. Strictly speaking, the residents there are not only part of Box but also in another county, Wiltshire. Nevertheless there have continually been people living there who attend St Swithun’s Church and/or get involved with other activities in Bathford. Their enthusiasm was such that we were disinclined to lose their support and our decision has been fully rewarded over the years. Neither parish council nor anyone else has ever challenged the matter and the name of Kingsdown was incorporated into the title.

The Kingsdown residents had originally been amongst other people in Box who were interested in a twinning connection but their attempts came to nothing due to lack of enthusiasm at the time amongst other residents of Box. More recently however, Box has succeeded in twinning with the village of Sorigny which is next door to Artannes in the Loire valley. The success of this has been in no small measure due to the help given by some of our own members and our connections in that area.

It was decided to expand the existing small band of twinning enthusiasts by holding a public meeting in April 2002. An article appeared in the Bath Chronicle and the meeting was duly held on 18 April 2002. With an enlarged group, arrangements were put in hand for the return visit from Artannes in July 2002. The Twinning Steering Group now consisted of Maureen Breeze (Chairman), Richard Hathway (Treasurer), Tony Woodcock (Secretary) and members, Anne Woodcock, John Lees, Emmanuelle and Andy Ginn, Alison and Peter Rideal, Denzil and Ruth Longland, Jeanette Kremer, Jan Hooker, Tony Evans and Colin Priston.

The first visit from Artannes took place from 6 – 9 July 2002, 15 Artannais made the trip and were hosted at various homes in Bathford, Warleigh and Kingsdown. A full programme followed over three days. All involved agreed that the weekend had been a great success and that friendship had been well and truly cemented between Bathford and Artannes. A small group consisting of Maureen Breeze, John Lees, Wendy Allan and Ainslie Saunders attended the Annual Meeting of the Artannes Twinning Association on 15 November and had a full and useful visit meeting a wider group of Artannais. Two events took place during the period Christmas 2002/New year 2003 to publicise the Twinning Group to a wider audience. A table was taken out at the Bathford School Annual Christmas Fair and manned by members who explained the purpose and activities of the Twinning Group with photos, leaflets and a quiz, French bonbons were also popular with the children.

A larger event took place on 17 January 2003 when all people who had previously indicated interest in twinning were invited to a Soiree in the School Hall, 78 tickets were sold and food and mulled wine (made from the generous gift of wine brought from Artannes) was provided. Maureen and John both gave informative speeches on the history and aims of the Twinning Group. The evening was deemed very successful and the list of interested people expanded. Work commenced during the Spring on a video of Bathford by John Durrant of Bradford-on-Avon (video time had been bought by Maureen Breeze at an Auction of Promises). The video to be used for twinning purposes and for fund-raising.

Maureen Breeze and John Lees attended the official Twinning Ceremony between Artannes and Roccastrada in May 2003. Although Roccastrada had indicated willingness to consider a three way twinning with Artannes and Bathford, John and Maureen considered it inappropriate due to the disproportionate sizes and funds available. However it was decided that Maureen and John, together with Alison and Peter Rideal should attend the reverse formal Twinning Ceremony.

French conversation lessons under the tuition of John Lees commenced on the summer of 2003. The second Artannes visit to Bathford took place between 5 and 9 July 2003.

Twenty one Artannais arrived, many for the first time, for breakfast on Saturday morning and were hosted at ten venues in Bathford, Warleigh and Kingsdown and again a full programme was enjoyed including a visit to Avebury and a Safari Supper. Our Secretary Tony Woodcock was incapacitated for several months and unable to participate in the visit. One spin-off from the Twinning involved Richard, son of Helen and John Lees, who spent the summer helping to teach English in the school in Artannes which benefited both the children’s English and also Richard’s French.

John Lees, Alison and Peter Rideal attended the Twinning Ceremony in Roccastrada in September 2003 which turned out to be a memorable visit.

Twenty of our members from Bathford made the return visit to Artannes between 24 and 28 October travelling, not only by car but also by Eurostar or by air. It was a time again for renewed friendship and also to meet other Artannais who had not been to Bathford. The conviviality of all present was apparent.

The 1st AGM of the Twinning Group was held on 10 November 2003 in the Rugby Club. Formal elections were held for officers of the Group with the following result.

Maureen Breeze – Chairperson, John Lees Vice-chair, Tony Woodcock Secretary, Chris Eker, Treasurer, Jeanette Kremer Membership Secretary and Committee Members, Tony Evans, Jan Hooker, Julia Masdin, Colin Priston, Peter Rideal, Liz Whitfield and Anne Woodcock. A constitution as also adopted and the group will be known as the Bathford Twinning Association.

The formal meeting was followed by skittles and a Ploughman’s supper.