CHAIRMAN’S REPORT FOR THE YEAR 2013
2013 was another busy year for the Twinning Association. I know I say this every year, but it is surprising how much is going on, including new initiatives with France, exchanges with Germany, foreign film seasons, art projects and successful social events.
In May, at the time of the annual Adult Education exchange with Saint Maur, organised by Betty Cox and her committee, we hosted the biennial committee meeting with our French twin town. We welcomed Mme Annie Bigand, deputy mayor responsible for international partnerships, M Alain Merigot, councillor responsible for twinning, and Mme Dominique Soulis, president of the twinning committee. In addition we were joined by Patricia Laurent, who has been appointed representative for the Bognor Regis twinning in Saint Maur, following the retirement of Edouard Graziel, and who was taking part in the exchange for the first time. The meeting was very successful, with a great spirit of co-operation. Many ideas for links and visits were exchanged and clear lines of communication drawn up. The committee and I have been working with Patricia and representatives of local groups to try to bring some of these ideas to fruition. We know from past experience that these links are very difficult to establish, as they depend on group leaders on both sides of the Channel being motivated and having enough time to overcome the various challenges posed. However, I am very pleased to report that, thanks to the work of twinning member David Roche, 12 tennis players from Bognor Lawn Tennis Club will be visiting France in May to play a friendly match against a club in Saint Maur. A rambling group from Saint Maur’s equivalent of U3A has invited ramblers from Bognor to visit them in June, and I am currently trying to co-ordinate this with various rambling groups in our area. In October, Sarah Jouault from Bognor once more took part in the Saint Maurienne 10K race, coming first in her section, and making a lot of new friends into the bargain.
In the early part of the year, a small sub-committee, comprising Roger Leat, Bob Bonner, Terry Armitstead, David Roche, Thea Sydenham and myself, was formed to plan the visit from Weil am Rhein and Trebbin, planned for August. We had the task of living up to the wonderful 25th anniversary visit to Weil last year. We did not have the resources to offer anything on such a magnificent scale, but nevertheless managed to plan some innovative events which were very well received. These included: a magical mystery tour of the Sussex Downs (and when the coach pulled in at Harting Beacon, we were waiting behind the bushes with surprise coffee and biscuits for all!); a visit to Hampton Court Palace, followed by a boat trip up to Richmond; and a day exploring Bognor Regis, which our guests complain often gets overlooked. Who can ever forget the Friday reception, where a group of twinning association members provided some side-splitting home spun entertainment, ably designed and produced by our very own Maralyn Green. We are also very grateful to Bognor Regis Town Council and Mayor Paul Wells, who not only gave us a grant to help fund the visit, but also laid on a lavish reception with jazz band for us at Butlin's, where our visitors were able to tour the site. Thanks must go to Heather Knight at the town hall, for her unstinting help in liaising with the council over both the German exchange and the French committee visit.
During the visit a joint committee meeting of all three towns was held, at which it was decided to continue with the student programme, whereby two students from each visiting town accompany the group. This encourages a younger generation to get involved in Twinning, and has led to some positive spin-offs.
Our social programme has continued this year, the most notable event being the annual Beaujolais Bistro. A record 50 tickets were sold, and some late applicants had to be turned away. Due to the hard work and hands-on cooking of a dedicated team of helpers, led by Thea Sydenham, we were able to keep the cost of tickets down, but still provide a tasty French meal in a convivial atmosphere, and make a good profit for the Association. We depend on being able to raise money from social events to help fund our triennial visits from Germany; in fact our aim is to raise £1000 per year. I think we have just about achieved this in 2013. I would like to thank Hilary Nicklin, Brig King, Alison Merriman and Thea Sydenham, of the committee, for their hard work and support in organising social events, and also other members who have generously given their time when asked, notably Margaret Howard and Diane Sparks.
This year we tried to cut down on the social events we organised, hoping instead to share the load with our neighbouring twinning associations and attend one another’s functions. We have all agreed that this has not been successful, as members are not inclined to support events in other towns or villages some distance away, where they may know few people. For 2014 a fuller social programme has been organised for Bognor Regis, and you should already have received this by e-mail. We are still having regular meetings with Littlehampton, East Preston and Angmering twinning associations, and have recently been joined by Rustington. We have decided to put just two joint events into the calendar this year, a quiz on March 15th, and a boules competition in May. These will be hosted and organised jointly, with profits shared, and we hope you will participate.
Another project which helps to boost our funds is the Foreign Film Season, which finally got up and running in June, thanks to the persistence of Maralyn Green and Sue Crockford, who encountered many difficulties along the way. In conjunction with Picturedrome manager Adam Cunard, foreign films are shown, normally on the second Monday evening of the month, and the Twinning Association receives 50% of any profits made. The films are always interesting and attract a regular audience from the Twinning Association and elsewhere. Come and give it a try – you will find many friends already there!
This year’s Art Competition, organised by Terry Armitstead and Bob Bonner, was restricted to primary school-aged children from Bognor Regis, the idea being to design a cover representing Bognor for the folders of information to be given to each of the German visitors in August. The competition was won by a pupil from Bishop Tufnell School, and her design made the folders look really attractive. 2014’s art project is an idea from Trebbin Twinning Chairman, Baerbel Bartl. Secondary school-aged students are to be encouraged to make a DVD about their town, which can then be shared with young people in the other twin towns. Again this sort of project helps to raise awareness about Twinning among the younger generation.
Last year I mentioned our hope of finding a new twin town in Poland, and we set up a sub-committee to look into this. Several meetings were held between them, and representatives from the town council and the Polish community. Sadly this project has now been abandoned as it proved insuperably difficult to find a town in Poland that would answer our communications. Language also proved a stumbling block. The town council is now considering instead setting up an Anglo-Polish friendship group in Bognor Regis, which may in turn lead to a future twinning.
This is the end of my last year as Chairman – as it is I am the only person ever to have done the three year stint twice, so I can’t see myself standing here and addressing you in the future. I would like to thank all the members who have served on the committee in the past three years for their help and support. I would particularly like to thank Thea Sydenham, who is standing down this year after several years of hard work on the committee. She was a very efficient secretary for three years, and has also master-minded our Beaujolais Bistro. I know she will continue to help out where she can. We are quite a small committee at the moment, but one in which every member pulls their weight and takes responsibility. Although we struggle to find new committee members, and can always do with more help, particularly with social events, our membership numbers are holding up, with some new members lowering the age demographic. I am confident that we have turned a corner, and that the Association will continue to thrive under new and able leadership in the years to come.
Heather Perrott, Chairman, 19th January, 2014