Saturday 9 November 2013


Czech Family Centre workers at Eastover Childrens Centre
Our second major EU funded project of the year saw 13 Family Centre and related workers from our Czech  twin town Uherske Hradiste and it's environs spend 2 weeks in Bridgwater to study social inclusion in the Eastover ward. Well, some of them spent a bit of that time in Worcester studying the Snoezelen project, but they were all here for carnival.
Simon Hann enthusiastically gets down to work

This is the 4th project fronted by Akropolis Director Dagmar Mega, and the aim this time was to do a thorough survey of Eastover, match 'needs' to 'resources' and meet the people from all walks of life who made up that Community. To make sure something tangible came out of this we roped in Cambridge Graduate Simon Hann and are expecting the 'Hann Report' by the  end of the month.


Sadly not roped in anyway was Cllr Julian Taylor, who was on the scene on Day 1 to share
Julie Simmonds explains Eastover visions and values
his Social Work expertise with the Czechs and provide them with the methodology for the project and  lay out some ground rules whilst trying to convince them of the relevance of 1940's sociological theories.

The key visit for the Czechs was to the Eastover Childrens Centre, where centre manager Julie Simmonds and her staff were available to show them round the place and to introduce them to centre users so they could ask for themselves.

Bridgwater Senior Citizens get stuck in

One extremely rewarding day involved a meeting with the Bridgwater Senior Citizens Forum who instantly proved warm and friendly and immediatly engaged them with a list of problems in the town and district as long as their combined ages. 

For a weekend break they popped down to Devon and stayed overnight on Dartmoor -which in between the showers turned out to be rainbow central. You couldn't move for them. And a special treat was in store. Having been moved out of the hostel we were meant to stay at we found ourselves in an obscure little moorland hostel yet with the only other 2 guests being a possibly fictitious elderly couple from a Middle England that long ago ceased to exist, who had brought their concertinas and entertained the Czechs with traditional English songs and dances into the early hours.

The Czechs join the crowds at Carnival

This of course prepared them well for the Bridgwater Carnival - a 400 year old saturnalian feast commemorating the hang drawing and quartering of catholic rebel Guy Fawkes - but who knows that these days...mind you when people say the only man to enter Parliament with good intentions was Guy have to think that maybe re-introducing a feudal dictatorship from Rome might not have been 'such' a good outcome...But the carnival these days has very little (maybe nothing) to do with persecuting catholics and was a merry night out for everyone concerned which the Czechs loved. Especially Zdenek the cave dwelling didgeridoo player (don't ask) who had to stop the bus 3 times the following morning to 'take the air'.
Simon and Eeyore (Simon is on the left)

The group were able to visit West Somerset to compare and contrast the Eastover experience, and were welcomed to Alcombe Childrens centre in Minehead by cllr Maureen Smith and the staff there. This was accompanied by talks in the new Minehead Eye with staff from Homestart.

Back in Bridgwater the group visited the newly established 'Food Bank'. Shown around by volunteer Ted Stock who explained it was a sad reality in modern Britain that such places existed.

In Bridgwater the group had to study all levels of Government and were invited around Sedgemoor District offices by Chairman Cllr Peter Downing and supported by Communities officer Julie Cooper 

The key youth provider in Bridgwater, the YMCA . was host to a session on youth networking and workers from various sectors welcomed the Czechs to take part in a mapping session of wider youth provision . 

Marcela sums up for the Czechs

A wash and brush up session at Bridgwater Town Hall included contributions on Housing from Deputy Mayor Cllr Steve Austen and community engagement from cllr Ian Tucker. A working buffet lunch was provided by Mayor Cllr Dave Loveridge who also spoke of his triple hatted role as a town,district and county councillor. 

But it wasn't all work  for the Czechs. They were able to sample the wider delights of Somerset in their free time and outings included climbing Brean Down and shopping in Burnham on Sea, Climbing Glastonbury Tor and shopping in the Hippy Bazarres, pebble gazing in Watchet, Cathedral roaming and shopping in Wells, and yet more shopping therapy in Bath and Bristol.

And it wasn't just shopping. On a couple of nights we had a bit of a sing song. Noticeably at the Bridgwater Arts Centre and again at Cllr Tuckers house. Where we also had a firework display. Thanks Ian and Sonia.

On one weekend they found time to visit Oxford where they were invited to observe a Family Centre group run by the Russian community and follow this up by a fish and chip supper in Stratford on Avon. Exactly the traditional British night out that Shakespeare himself would have had.

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