Chairman’s Report 2018

Chelmsford Town Twinning Association  AGM  July 6th 2018

 Agenda item 3:  Chairman's report


         This report will not, of course, cover a 12-month period since our last AGM in October 2017 because of the committee's decision to bring the event forward to now. This move is permissible in the Constitution and was done in good faith in order to encourage better attendance with the light evenings of summer. We would welcome feedback as to whether we've done the right thing!

        As last time, I'll use an alphabetical approach, starting with A for Annonay...

The visit of the our Chelmsford-based Caprice wind orchestra to Annonay in October, which was referred to in the 2017 AGM Minutes, was a great success. The orchestra had asked me to help renew the contacts and three of us from the committee were able to go out and join them for their joint concert with their Annonay counterparts. There had been some muddle with the venue and the concert was given in the large hall of a new Community Centre in Paugres rather than the usual theatre in the Place des Cordeliers, but we returned afterwards to an excellent reception in the town. Earlier in the day my host Patrick Largeron took me a meeting I'd been asked to attend at the Hotel de Ville with the new mayor of Annonay, Antoinette Scherer and Councillor Daniel Misery. I was given quite a grilling and my French was stretched almost to breaking point. They expressed concern at the lack of working links between our two towns, particularly between schools and youth councils, and that we no longer had input to their Gourmandise event in November. I was hampered by the relative newness of my position as chairman, never having attended, for example, the Gourmandise or being involved in earlier negotiations. Consequently, I cannot describe it as a convivial meeting but I was later 'rescued' by the arrival of Patrick Charrier, my new counterpart in Annonay, and we parted with the hope for improvements. By contrast, the reception with the two orchestras I've already referred to was a very pleasant event, celebrated with specially-made cakes iced in our respective national colours. In our discussions, a number of suggested new links were made which we hoped to follow up. These included possible links between Rotary groups and Youth Councils, my having found out since then of the existence of the Essex Youth Forum. Liz, Gloria and I even had a meeting with Vicky Young at the youth service's office in Moulshan St. back in February. Regrettably the hoped-for progess with possible lin s has stalled, the impetus has been lost and we are struggling to get things back on track. We may have to face up to the possibility that twinning with Annonay is in name only. If it's any consolation, we've had a few hints that ties between Annonay and Backnang are coming under strain but we're steering well clear of interfering!

       Which brings us on to B for Backnang.. We were delighted with the success of the Advent Market in Backnang in December, in spite of the intense cold – certainly the coldest I've known. We had been allocated a new site on the Stiftshof, in the same smart hut we'd used for the Murrspektakel instead of the exposed stall we'd had at the top of the steps below the church. Margaret and I were joined by Michael Whalley and  David Vint which meant that together with the efficiently organised rota of stand helpers from the Backnang Partnerschaftsverein, we had a successful and fairly stress-free weekend. But I need to mention also the brand new venture when a team of five from Backnang manned a stall at the Cathedral Advent Fayre on the same weekend. This, of course, only took place for a few hours on the Saturday instead of two days, so we're not quite comparing like with like, but it was a roaring success which is going to be repeated this year. For our Backnang visitors, there was also a very pleasant get-together at the Chinese restaurant in Broomfield Road on the Saturday evening. Additionally, the Backnang team attended the Cathedral morning service on the Sunday at which the Advent candle which was brought over as a gift from Backnang was ceremoniously lit by the Dean, Nicholas Henshall, who himself has become an enthusiatic supporter of twinning.

The usual Strassenfest took place on the last weekend of June but for a variety of reasons we had minimal representation from Chelmsford and only Liz was brave enough to go along as the sole Chelmsford representative. However, she says she had a great time and came back with lots of news about the event. She also found that, unbeknown to her, a small delegation from Caprice had gone over privately to meet up with colleagues in the Backnang Blasorchester in preparation for their visit to Chelmsford in October.

            Finally, to C for Chelmsford...

We have continued to organise social events throughout the year to maintain contact. These have been largely successful and better attended than last year. There was an excellent turnout for our twinning meal at the Il Palazzo restaurant in January in spite of noisy competition from party-goers and theatre visitors. On a personal note, I 'd like to thank those who supported our afternoon tea at our house on Easter Saturday, when we only just had enough chairs for everybody. Some important events are in the pipeline; the Full Council meeting on July 18th is to include an Agenda item on twinning, dealing particularly with the forward planning in 2020 of celebrating 30 years twinning with Backnang and 20 years twinning with Annonay.  A group from the committee hope to attend and we are pleased that the City Council is still on board with the aims and objectives of town twinning.  Then on Saturday, October 13th  the Backnangblasorchester are giving a joint concert in the Cathedral with Caprice, which we are listing in our newsletter as a twinning event and which we hope as many members as possible will support. Our usual Autumn quiz is going ahead here at the GHC on Friday, Nov. 16th but this time will have a different style, since the chair of Gt. Waltham twinning has agreed to be our quizmaster.

  Can I end by thanking you for your attendance and support and in particular thank my committee members for their faithful background work. There's still a lot to do, particularly in boosting membership and bringing new, younger blood on board,  but the ship is still very much afloat and keen to explore new waters.


Alan Arnot

July 2018