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The Charter of Friendship Group

(Town Twinning News)


Nov 22011

Visiting Sedlec-Prčice

Two Sutton Bridge residents have contacted Bridge Watch to tell us about a holiday they had recently spent in Sedlec (pronounced locally as Sedlesh) in the Czech Republic as the guests of members of the Charter of Friendship Group, the name given to the twinning arrangement that exists between Sutton Bridge and the Czech town.

Aerial view of Sedlec-Prčice
Aerial view of Sedlec-Prčice

Their holiday was a purely private one and the invitation was extended to them by one of the visitors from Sedlec-Prčice who visited Sutton Bridge last year as a way of thanking them for their hospitality in acting as a 'host' to themselves. On arrival Carol and Tony were greeted with this notice on the Town Information Board.


The welcome notice on the Town Board

When asked about the trip, Carol said it was 'unbelievably fantastic—out of this world', so much so that she and her husband, Tony, are planning a return trip next year to explore the city of Prague by themselves.

They were specifically invited to attend the Festival in Sedlec-Prčice, which takes place every June. The festival marks the joining together of the two towns of Sedlec and Prčice and involves fierce competitions between the inhabitants.

Among the activities that take place each year are: clay-pigeon shooting, tournaments in football, tennis, table tennis, and boule; target shooting, a tug-of-war competition, Seduko matches, and a display by the fire brigade. As a guest of honour, Carol was asked to present the cup to the winning team. When asked who won, she replied: "We did – Sedlec!" The day was rounded off by a barbecue and rock band and a plentiful supply of drinks! Everyone was happy and out to enjoy themselves and although the beer flowed freely, there were no drunken fights!


(L-R) the Mayoress (wearing a wig!) Mirka Jaerbkova, a member of the winning Sedlec team holding the cup, Antonin Pdzimek, who coordinates the exchange visits between Sutton Bridge and Sedlec and Carol Judd, from Sutton Bridge.

A member of the Prcice team holding the runners-up cup, applauded by Carol Judd from Sutton Bridge

Carol and the captains of the teams after the presentation to Sedlec

Carol and Tony left Stansted on the Friday and were met at Prague by two of their host, Antonin and Romana, who drove them to their Pensione in Sedlec-Prčice.

The sporting activities took place on the Saturday and on the following day, Sunday, the couple were taken on a visit to a newly constructed village that incorporates many old buildings that have been saved from demolition because they represent the 'old' Czechoslovakia. As the buildings are rescued, they are carefully restored, using modern techniques and materials to preserve them for future generations.

The preservation village of Vysoky Chlumec
The preserved village of Vysoky Chlumec

Following this visit, they were treated to a traditional Sunday lunch of Dumplings in sauce, which Carol described as delicious!

A visit to Prague had been arranged for Monday and for this trip, Carol and Tony had their own personal tour guide, Stanislav. They went by train to Prague and were met at the station by Stanislav, who first of all took them to their base for the day, a hotel in Wenceslas Square. Carol described Prague as 'beautiful' adding that she and Tony "are not really city people, we prefer the countryside, but that Prague was breathtaking." She said that "in every street, there was an archway, a door, a window, even the patterning on the cobbles that was unique and beautiful."

The highlight and surprise of their trip to Prague was that their guide, Stanislav (who is a professional tour guide), had been granted a special dispensation to visit the Bishop's Palace and entry into the Audience Chamber. It was here that they were shown the Pope's signature in the Visitor's Book to mark his recent visit.

inside the Bishop's Palace
Inside the Bishop's Palace

Later they were taken up onto the roof to look out over the town stretched out below.

Before they left they were taken to visit the nephew of Karel Stibor, whose grave lies in Sutton Bridge churchyard, and had tea with him. He was very pleased to see the couple.

Tony and Carol took many photographs to commemorate their trip and to remember the kind hospitality and friendliness of all the people they met while in Sedlec-Prčice. As a measure of Sedlec's regard for Sutton Bridge, is a bridge which, as you can see, has been named 'Sutton Bridge'.

Sutton Bridge in Sedlec-Prcice
Sutton Bridge in Sedlec-Prčice

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Sept 222010

The Sedlec-Prčice partnership with Sutton Bridge

During the Parish Council meeting of 23rd February 2010, the question of the unofficial ‘twinning’ arrangement with Sedlec in the Czech Republic was raised. Councillor Brandon-King asked what percentage of the £1500 set aside for a visit by a party from Sedlec would actually be spent and, since the ‘twinning’ appeared to be for the select few, he wondered what benefits there were to be had from the arrangement. Councillor Wall observed that there were probably better ways of spending £1500.

There was some discussion about this but no firm conclusions were reached. Some questions remain unanswered, especially in relation to the weekend visit this year (2010): how much money was spent on entertaining the visitors? What was the cost of the trip to Lincoln? How did the ‘select few’ Councillor Brandon-King referred to benefit this time? What was left over from the £1500 set aside for the weekend?

Subsequent to 23rd February, a special meeting of the Parish Council was arranged to discuss this issue and Robert Middleton’s offer to look at possibilities for the future was accepted. Currently, however, it seems that the Parish Council, of which Robert is now a member, has re-assumed responsibility for the connection between Sutton Bridge & Sedlec.

Sedlec-Prčice coat of armsSedlec-Prčice is a small town of approximately 3,000 people, situated in a beautiful valley, near the border with Bohemia, and 70 km south of Prague, in the Czech Republic. Until 1957, Sedlec and Prčice were two independent towns.

The Czech town of Sedlec-PrčiceThe countryside remains unspoiled today and is a very popular tourist destination, offering good walking, cycling and fishing in summer and excellent skiing in winter. The towns suffered hardships during the poor harvest and famine of in the late 18th century and were not included in the railway development of the 19th century. Consequently there was no industrial development and few job opportunities.

While Sutton Bridge trained Czech airmen during the Second World War, their own country was occupied by the German army and in May 1945, during the Uprising, which began in Prague, on May 5th, twenty-one citizens were shot and the school burned down. Some of the young airmen that trained at Sutton Bridge are buried in St Matthew’s Churchyard.

The graves of WWII RAF Czech airmen in St Matthew’s Churchyard

The grave of WWII Czech airman Sergeant Jan Kurka in St Matthew’s Churchyard, Sutton Bridge
Jan Kurka
Sergeant 787661, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 6 O.T.U.

The grave of WWII Czech airman Sergeant Jiri Schwarz in St Matthew’s Churchyard, Sutton Bridge
Jiri Schwarz
Sergeant 787592, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 56 O.T.U.

The grave of WWII Czech airman Pilot Officer Tomas Patlejch in St Matthew’s Churchyard, Sutton Bridge
Tomas Patlejch
Pilot Officer 81898, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 56 O.T.U.

The grave of WWII Czech airman Pilot Officer Jan Zerovnicky in St Matthew’s Churchyard, Sutton Bridge
Jan Zerovnicky
Pilot Officer 102528, Royal Air Force.


There are many fine churches and historic buildings in the area. In 1959, Sedlec-Prčice’s historical legacy was recognised when its oldest part was declared an Historical Monument.

Importantly, in Sedlec since 1999, there has been co-operation and partnership between local authorities, civil organisations, land and business owners on all important projects and activities.

It is to be hoped that the new partnership between Sutton Bridge and Sedlec-Prčice may produce similar goodwill and co-operation. It is also hoped that residents of Sutton Bridge will be encouraged to welcome stronger links with Sedlec-Prčice in future.

Councillor Jenny Rowe was on the Parish Council when the first visit took place back in 2001. We asked her about the background to the arrangement with Sedlec.

It seems that it is over nine years since the current Parish Clerk was contacted by Eileen Hopkins from the War Graves Commission who was trying to find Karel Stibor’s grave; they had looked all over the country — everywhere with the word ‘Sutton’ in its name. The Parish Clerk contacted Tom Rowe who went to the Church to look for Karel Stibor’s grave — he found it!

The grave of WWII RAF Czech airman Karel Stibor in St Matthew’s Churchyard, Sutton Bridge
The grave of WWII Czech airman Karel Stibor, Sergeant 787985, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 310 (Czech) Squadron in St Matthew’s Churchyard.

Karel is a hero in Sedlec where a memorial has been erected for him.

In 2001, the Parish Council arranged for people from Sedlec to visit Sutton Bridge. This was a civic visit rather than anything that could be called a ‘twinning’. It was Karel Stibor’s nephew who came over the first time, along with dignitaries including a member of the War Graves Commission. In September 2010, his nephew was not well enough to travel.

A return visit to Sedlec was organised for 2002. When Councillors went to Prague they paid for themselves and Tom Rowe (then a Councillor) also paid for an interpreter to stay in the hotel with them.

When the visitors came to Sutton Bridge in 2005 they stayed in residents’ homes at no cost to the public. The town council not only had a service for them at the church but also a reception at the British Legion open to all, well advertised, and attended.

A group of visitors from Sedlec-Prčice arrived in Sutton Bridge on Friday, 10th September where they were met by members of the Parish Council and the general public. After a trip to Lincoln to visit the Castle and the Cathedral, the Czech visitors attended a service in St Matthew’s Church on Sunday, led by the Bishop of Grantham. After lunch they began their journey home.

It is still the case that if the ‘twinning’ arrangement were properly organised by a committee set up specifically for the purpose it might get more grass roots support.


Detailed below is a copy of the Charter of Friendship given to the reception committee on the arrival of the visitors from Sedlec to Sutton Bridge.

A Charter of Friendship
between the towns of Sutton Bridge and Sedlec-Prčice

The Mayor of Sutton Bridge and the Mayor of Sedlec-Prčice sign this charter today to affirm, according to the will of the citizens of their towns, to support the mutual development of friendship and co-operation between the citizens of the English town of Sutton Bridge and the Czech town of Sedlec-Prčice.

The signing of this charter arises from efforts to meet the needs and interests of our people and nations while being aware of our European cultures and their historical development, and considering the need for the strengthening of ties and growth of friendship between our towns.

We solemnly pledge today:

Signed: …………..................................... (Sutton Bridge)

Signed: ………………….......................... (Sedlec-Prčice)

Possible areas of co-operation are:

The collaboration should involve all age groups and ensure mutual understanding of people of diverse interests.

We owe it to future generations to fulfil the principles and objectives of the charter, and also to those who lost their lives in the struggle against the common enemy.

We believe that this will honour the heroes buried at Sutton Bridge, including our own Karel Stibor, whose memory is still revered by the citizens of Sedlec-Prčice.


How do other towns do twinning?

From the South Holland District Council (SHDC) Website we could just take the example of Crowland:-

In 2004 Crowland celebrated 10 years of twinning with Parigne L'Eveque in France.

Parigne L'Eveque is a small town (population approximately 4,660) lying a few miles to the south-east of Le Mans in the beautiful Sarthe region of France. During the exchange visits, the visitors stay with host families and participate in various activities arranged by the twinning organisers.

The Website quotes examples of mutual visitings.

‘The benefits of belonging to a twinning association are enormous: long term friendships, warm hospitality and the opportunity to experience a different way of life are just a few. For our younger members, the opportunity to speak French with ‘real French people’ in their home environment is something a school trip to France cannot hope to match.

‘In between visits, each side is busy fundraising and our ‘Goulash Evenings’ have become part of the social calendar in Crowland, as have our summer barbecues. We are always looking for new ways to raise money and will be planning some new events before our French friends return next year. We are always keen to welcome new members who would like to become involved.’

This sounds like the proper way to organise twinning. It is not something set up by the Parish Council for its sole benefit as seems to have been the case in Sutton Bridge until now. There needs to be a proper organising committee and fund-raising activity so that events don’t become a drain on the taxpayer.

Council Jollies

There is evidence to suggest that unless there is total openness about arrangements for twinning, the suspicion arises that it is nothing more than an excuse for ‘councillors’ jollies’. This point is made, for instance, and followed up in www.towntwinning.org.uk/forums — scroll down to Council Jollies...

A contributor to that Website says: ‘Many members of our local communities, and I am sure we have all met some of them, totally believe that town-winning is just an excuse for their local councillors to have a free trip abroad at public expense.’ This is an opinion shared by some in Sutton Bridge!

The useful question is posed to the contributor’s fellow twinning enthusiasts: ‘What is your answer when people speak their mind in this way—do you just shrug your shoulders and mutter, "Oh well, think what you like," or do you try to explain the benefits both to the individual and to the community as a whole?’

Members of Sutton Bridge Parish Council should be encouraged to find a good answer to this same question.

Under ‘Council Jollies’ (as above) you’ll find a reference to the Stocksmoor and Villages Twinning Association; there you will find two cynical letters (posted October 2008) about council junkets which were seen by Brian Harrison-Jennings, founder and past chair of the Stocksmoor and Villages Twinning Association. He describes the inception and growth of his association and argues for twinning as a fundamental way of supporting » the growth of world harmony and peace » .

His whole reply makes a great Case Study about how proper Twinning should be done.

Information Gathering

The following information has been collected from www.lga.gov.uk. Reading it enables one to gain a number of ideas about twinning, and raises a host of questions that can be asked about the Sutton Bridge Parish Council’s link with Sedlec.

Apparently the twinning movement was widely promoted at the end of the Second World War to contribute to peace and reconciliation. The UK’s 2000 or so twinning links now include a wide range of themes and activities.

Although official twinning requires the endorsement of the local council, it is very much a grass roots movement, often led by a community-based association.

It seems that there are many different types of partnership. Some are formal agreements or twinning links, involving the signing of a document, charter or memorandum of understanding, some involve time limited projects and some are informal links with no kind of written agreement or protocol. It looks as though Sutton Bridge Parish Council’s link with Sedlec falls into this latter category. Unless the Parish Council can prove otherwise, there does not appear to be a formal agreement, charter or memorandum of understanding; it is all very ad hoc. It is quite clear that the aims and objectives of any partnership should be open and transparent in order to avoid problems of accountability. Has the Parish Council even defined its aims and objectives and negotiated these with their counterparts in Sedlec?

Since tax payers’ money is being used to finance the arrangement with Sedlec, there should have been from the outset firm mechanisms in place to involve the wider community.

The only interest that the people of Sutton Bridge & Sedlec seem to have in common is the unfortunate Czech pilot who is buried in the churchyard.

A Proper Twinning Arrangement

It seems that if the link with Sedlec were a proper twinning arrangement the following would be the case:-

It is customary for twinned communities to have some sort of written agreement or charter, drawn up by both partners and signed by senior elected representatives from the two communities. The text of the charter may be in two languages, and each community should retain a copy. The document is not legally binding but should describe the rationale for setting up the link and reflect the interests and aspirations of both communities.

Agreements should cover a wide range of issues, in line with the philosophy that twinning should involve as many sections of the local community as possible and should not be restrictive.

From what little has been said at Sutton Bridge Parish Council meetings, it appears that there are loose arrangements with the school, but the Local Government Site says explicitly that ‘an agreement that relates solely to the development of educational or economic links would not be considered to be a twinning partnership... Any charter should be as relevant in 20 years' time as it is on the day it is agreed...’ It would therefore be based on principles that go beyond the present day and beyond the lives of those currently involved.

It is customary for charters to be formally signed at official ceremonies in both communities. While this procedure is important, in order to maximise the benefits of a visit to the partner community, the ceremony can be organised as part of a much wider programme, with a number of other activities, including future planning.

Charters may also be developed to reflect different types of links, such as informal, time limited or project specific. These are often referred to in a memorandum of understanding or cooperation between the participating communities.

To get the best from a partnership...

It is important to make it accessible to all; it should have these three parts:-

With clear aims and objectives it becomes easy to monitor and improve activities and procedures. What’s more, it will be easier to communicate the purposes of a partnership to the wider community; and the funding process is more likely to be acceptable.

Pressures on Budgets

With pressures on local government budgets, twinning activities must be able to demonstrate clear benefits, for example, amongst other things, linking to statutory services such as social services or education.

Financial and staff resources are important components to maintaining successful twinning links. Where there is no dedicated twinning budget available, local authorities and community groups need to be creative and innovative in finding the resources to support an international partnership.

Does Sutton Bridge really want this?

Financial Accountability

There is a whole section in www.lga.gov.uk on financial accountability. It is suggested that:-

TWO FURTHER QUESTIONS THAT MIGHT BE ASKED

What has been done in Sutton Bridge to attract sponsorship for the link with Sedlec?

For many businesses, small and large, contributing to the local community is important and some businesses already have their own community strategy. To attract sponsorship for a twinning link, it is necessary to provide information about activities in a clear, concise format. Promotional material shouldn't be too long and it should be eye catching and interesting. The aims and objectives of the project should be explained and the benefits and beneficiaries detailed.

Businesses need to understand what they may gain by providing sponsorship. This may include increased publicity through the use of the corporate logo on the twinning association's printed materials, sports shirts, banners etc or the opportunity to publicise this support in promotional materials, in-house magazines and the local press.

What has been done in Sutton Bridge to organise fund-raising to cover a link with Sedlec?

Although fund-raising requires imagination and effort, the rewards can more than outweigh the input. In addition to providing financial resources, activities can promote the partnership, helping to attract more participants. Events can also increase knowledge about overseas partners and bring different groups of people within a community closer together. Popular fund-raising activities include wine tasting, themed dinners, quizzes, language classes and selling related produce.


What is the way forward?

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