|Balalaika bashing in Bridgy|
Leaving Monday they slept through Poland, dreamed through Germany and woke up on a ferry crossing the English Channel early Thursday morning. None of them had visited England before. Least of all the drivers , who made a point of testing the ongoing traffic at their earliest opportunity.
We met them at Greenwich at 7am Thursday morning. 'We' being the Bridgwater International high command (Cllr Smedley) alongside the executive committee of the Exeter Yaroslavl twinning group (David and Julija). Their first sight of London was from atop the Greenwich observatory and their first site of an English breakfast, a Turkish cafe alongside the Cutty Sark.
Old Friend Vlad
|The biggest balalaika in Bridgwater College|
Julija, a Russian speaking Russian, was a star for the day. Her interpreting and communicating skills made our swift guided tour of Greenwich, Docklands, Tower of London, St Pauls, the Globe and the Tate fall into place swiftly and smoothly and without losing many of the 50 strong group en-route.
And then it was off to Somerset where Nigel had swapped his drivers flourescent jacket for a chefs hat and was cooking up a Thursday roast for them. Delicious though it was, most of them slept through it or in it. They were a bit tired.
Mino helps out
But they were here! A coach load of some of the most talented musicians Russia could
|Authentic Russian folk singing on stage in Somerset|
Off we went to Bridgwater College where the ever helpful Mino De Francesca and his Media department organised a special concert for students which he then filmed and recorded. By the afternoon it was being played on BBC Somerset Sound advertising the evening show at the Art Centre. Also on hand was Irena the Russian teacher and some extra Russian speakers to help the day flow smoothly. A meal at the college and a walk round Bridgwater and then a ploughmans lunch in the Duke of Monmouth and the first day had almost gone.
|Mayor Dave meets Conductor Pavel|
Peter steps in
The next day the group visited Wells. What could be better than the magnificent gothic Wells cathedral we thought. "Where is Asda?" they asked. We compromised on Clarks Village.
That evening they were on stage at the Princess Theatre Burnham thanks to the support
|Washboard blues at the Princess|
Sunday was a day off. A day in Cheddar. to see a gorge, sample a cheese and scamper headlong up a cliff-face after a goat.
Andy comes in 'andy
|Another sensational victory for England....|
Milans mealtime munchfest
Milan (a Slovakian) and his friend Milan (a Czech) turned up to make a Czechoslovakian
|Laura stirs Milans Goulash|
Monday was an important day for the Russians as it was Exeter Day. Yaroslavls actual real twin town had rolled out the red carpet for them. Twinning organiser David Parsons had a full days programme, civic reception,guided tour and to conclude a concert at the White Ensign club. Yet another triumph for Pavel and his merry melodians.
And that night it was Bath. They'd moved up country slightly as their next target was Oxford. After a guided tour of the Romano-Georgian city with the assistance of Simple Simon, the man with the golden pasty, they pointed the bus in the direction of Avebury. Please don't climb on the stones....too late. Not to worry, they've only been there several thousand years.
Staying at the Ridgeway youth hostel we fed them that traditional olde Englishe staple 'Tortila wraps and chilli con carne'. Then put them to sleep.
Richard hits the bottle in Jericho
|one of many talented soloists|
Balalaika it like Brian
And they had their fair share of groupies too. Brian Hulme, one of Britains leading Balalaika bandleaders and exponents of the dark slavic art of balalaikaing, had come all the way from Manchester to shadow their every move, help with translation, technical advice, sign autographs and show his students the authentic artistes in action. He watched every gig, filmed at least one, fixed a couple of instruments, walked with goats up Cheddar gorge and then appeared at the church in Oxford to introduce the band and plug his own.
The final day took them back to London. A bit of a heatwave, another supermarket sweep and a mad dash around the most touristy bits of the capital and suddenly they were gone.
But what an achievement! For Pavel Sergeev he'd managed to bring his talented orchestra 3,000 kilometres across Europe to England for the first time and achieved widespread acclaim which could only bode well for the future . For us in the West Country we'd got a dead good band playing on our provincial stages and for internationalism a great leap forward in these times of far right hysteria and the closing of minds all over Europe.
Lesson 2:- How to herd cats.