Malvern & Bagneres de Bigorre Twinning Association
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Visits Here and There

 

MBTA aims to involve people from all walks of life and all ages in twinning activities, both here in Malvern through events organised by our Friends group and by supporting exchange visits. To date the following events and activities have been instigated through MBTA and nearly 200 individuals have participated so far in visits and exchanges.

 

YOUNG PEOPLE

 

Initially school links were set up between, at primary level, Malvern’s Somers Park School and, in Bagnères, the Ecole Jules Ferry which offers a curriculum giving special emphasis to English teaching. There have been exchanges of information between classes, photos, SKYPE sessions and blogging, plus an innovative pedagogical study programme organised in October 2018 for 10 teachers from the French school who immersed themselves fully for a week into the life of Somers Park. This proved a wholly enriching experience for all concerned.

 

French Teachers
French teachers visit Somers Park School
French Classmates
French classmates for Somers Park School

 

At the same time a wonderful exchange programme for 27 lycée students and their teachers was taking place here in Malvern thanks to the enthusiasm and participation of colleagues from Malvern College, Hanley Castle High School and RGS, Worcester. Participating in workshops run by the RSC in Stratford was a highlight of the French students’ visit.

 

Shakespeare
Education as Shakespeare knew it
Windsor
French students visit Windsor

 

To date our most ambitious venture took place in April 2019 when a group of 23 young rugby players from Malvern Rugby Club, accompanied by 28 adults (parents, coaches, siblings) enjoyed a magnificent rugby-centred tour to Bagnères. With the opportunity to engage in local life, indulge in local cuisine, meet their French counterparts and enjoy international travel – for several boys their first time abroad – this was a hugely exciting experience.

 

Bienvenus
Rugby Tour, Bienvenus à Bagnères
Chez Lulu
Rugby dinner Chez Loulou!
Fancy Dress
Tour de France themed Fancy Dress night

 

ADULT VISITS

 

During 2016 official civic visits involving the Mayors and other dignitaries of both towns took place to seal the twinning agreements and in 2017 there were reciprocal visits of twinning supporters to each town.

 

All these occasions have helped create close and enthusiastic friendships, which quickly transcended any linguistic barriers experienced by individuals. Shared moments of hospitality, appreciation of other cultures and human warmth have been treasured.

 

Local Produce
Sampling local produce...
Pic du Midi
Top of Pic du Midi, Oct 17

Several individual family groups have also been involved in private visits over the past three years; in two cases joining in the excitement of the Tour de France as it passed through Bagnères, in another case two supporter Friends enjoying a 24 hour gastronomic welcome by the French committee as they passed through the area on holiday and in Malvern a young French teacher and his family spending their summer holidays here as part of a house-swap.

 

 

WHAT NEXT?

 

May 2020 should have brought a further cohort of 21 Bagnérais citizens to Malvern but, for obvious reasons, this visit remains on hold for the present time.

 

In the meantime we are experimenting with joint Zoom sessions … with all the hilarity which this medium provides!

Zoom
Reunion Zoom

 

Connections have already been made for the next exchange to involve local choirs, (the Severn Voices and a similar styled choir from Bagnères) and it is hoped to pursue this project actively as soon as conditions allow.

 

Needless to say Bagnères offers immense potential for those interested in cycling at any level; it is also a centre of some renown for tennis among young people so both these sports would seem promising areas for fruitful developments over the coming year or two.

 

Essentially, if there are groups out there (anything from boules to yoga) who would like to find a French partner, we would like to hear from you! We now have a good range of very willing contacts in France, who would love to help.

 

As MBTA continues to grow, we are considering how twinning could contribute to the tourist industry in our two towns. We feel that the profile of both could be raised by working with local agencies and perhaps B & Bs to promote the range of activities which might be accessible to the visitor over a wider geographical area, using the host town as a base. Any ideas for developing these thoughts would receive a positive response from the committee.