Bere Regis & District Twinning Association

What is Twinning all about?

Twinning aims to promote and foster friendship and understanding between the people of a community in this country with those of one overseas. In particular it aims to encourage visits by individuals and groups between the two communities, and the development of personal contacts, and in doing so to broaden mutual understanding of social, cultural, educational, recreational, civic and commercial activities.

How does it operate in Dorset?

The County of Dorset is twinned with La Manche, a Department of north west France in the Basse-Normandie region. A total of nineteen towns or villages in Dorset have twinning partners in La Manche and eight towns are twinned with locations in France outside La Manche. Individual twinning groups are supported by the Dorset Twinning Association whose aims are to support those groups and promote activities to further the aims of twinning and to continue to develop links between Dorset and La Manche.

How did Bere Regis become involved in Twinning?

A group of villagers who had a love of France and wanted to know more about the people and their way of life than can be found out just by taking holidays there, decided to set up a twinning group. The Dorset Twinning Association assisted the process by providing details of three French communities of a similar size to Bere Regis who had expressed a desire to twin with an English one. Opportunities were provided for visits both ways to explore the other communities. The information gathered on the three French communities was circulated throughout the village, and as a result of a vote Bere Regis opted to twin with Cerences, a village in Normandy between Coutances and Granville, about 1½ hours drive from Cherbourg.

The association between the two communities has continued to flourish and the twinning achieved its fifteenth anniversary in 2012. We believe we are one of the most successful twinning groups in Dorset with a membership of around thirty families involved. This size of membership enables us to make our formal visits to France by coach, which is probably advisable, bearing in mind the enthusiastic and alcoholic hospitality proffered by our French counterparts!

So how does Twinning operate between Bere Regis and Cerences?

We visit each other’s village, as a group, on alternate years. See Photographs from the 2011 Trip to Cèrences below (click each Photograph to enlarge it) -

Families from both communities are matched up and entertain one another for a weekend, usually in September. Some families group together for meals and other activities, which helps by mixing the different levels of language. Entertainment basically means providing sleeping facilities, meals and visits to places or events of interest on the Saturday and Sunday. All this, plus simple interaction between the families gives the visitors a flavour of the host’s way of life, what the local community is like, what they eat and drink, and the culture and traditions of the country they are visiting. The full English breakfast will produce cries of amazement from first time visitors and the traditional English roast on the Sunday is a winner! On Saturday night everyone assembles for an evening of feasting and entertainment provided by the host community. The two communities exchange corporate gifts and the host association provides a small locally themed individual gift for all the visitors. It is expected that the visiting family will bring a gift for their host family in thanks for their hospitality. The pairing of families can change from year to year but some pairings have formed lasting friendships and also visit one another outside of the umbrella of twinning.

It is important to emphasise here that fluency in the language of the visitors is not a necessity, and this should not put anyone off. Natural reserve and concern about communication soon disperses as friendships and understanding develop from the convivial atmosphere of a group of people sat around a table enjoying good food, with perhaps a little something liquid to loosen tongues and dispel inhibitions. It is surprising how the odd word of the foreign language, some sign language or mime, and a good English/French dictionary on the table can lead to a hilarious and relaxing time. Without exception, we have always had positive feedback, even from those people on their first twinning with little or no knowledge of French.

This sounds interesting. How can I/we get more information or become involved?

The Bere Regis group holds regular fund raising events throughout the year to enable us to provide the formal entertainment and welcome for our guests and to contribute towards the cost of transport when we visit France. We have just held our main annual formal Twinning event this month (September 2014) when Cerences visited Bere Regis for the weekend. We will be going to Cerences for a similar event next September.

If you would like to join us, please contact our Membership Secretary, Sue James on 01929 472113, or by e-mail here. The current annual membership fee is £10 per family. We will then include you in our circulars and give you information on our next fundraising event.

If you would like more information, please contact our Chairman, Roger Angel on 01929 472163 or e-mail here or our Secretary, Bob James on 01929 472113 or e-mail here. If necessary we could arrange for a Committee Member to visit and talk to you on an individual or group basis.

Bob James, Association Secretary, September 2014

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