Annual General Meeting 17th January 2009

Chairmans Report

2008 was something of a standstill year as far as the Twinning Association was concerned. The issues raised at last year's AGM are still prevalent and we are certainly struggling to maintain a viable Twinning Association at this end. The team is getting older and lack of fresh blood has to be a real concern. To make links run smoothly is frustrating and time-consuming, especially when the lions share of the work falls on our shoulders. Furthermore we didn't really get our social programme off the ground in 2008. The annual quiz night was the one exception and a real success, but other planned events didn't attract enough interest and even the Treasure Hunt fell foul to insufficient numbers.

After the best part of a decade as chairman I have decided to call it a day. There are five main reasons for this:
1. A major health scare means I will have to slow down somewhat for the foreseeable future.
2. The Malaunay Link seems to be going nowhere and there is no indication of any key changes of personnel within the Jumelage.
3. I do not feel the committee as a whole has been prepared to support the Polish link with any degree of enthousiasm and Iremain very concerned about the sustainability of the link at this end.
4. Lack of interest and involvement by both our local Middle and Upper Schools is a major concern and one which I am not well placed to do anything about.
5. Communications at this end are poor. We have not had a newsletter for two years and have relied solely on my weekly article in the Chronicle.

I have however been involved with links abroad for as long as I can remember and am not about to renounce that interest now. I hope to continue to manage the Polish link, which has had notable success, and am more than happy to continue handling the linguistic demands for both our links if required.

Whaat did happen then in 2008? In respect of the link with Malaunay we had a thoroughly successful visit here by a party of 38 in early May. The French party really enjoyed the day out at Blenhaim Palace despite the unseasonable weather, and all the families seemed content with the warm hospitality accorded them. There was however no community group, just the same old faces. Concern about the link at both ends did lead to an invitation from the Malaunay Town Council to attend a seminar in October to mull over the future and we were represented by Jasmine Dorricott, Alan Wicks and Deputy Mayor Geoff White. Gallic hospitality was again excellent and our representatives returned home with a clear message that the French want the link to continue for as long as possible. Improved communications was seen as a priority.

As for Poland,the link with Skarszewy continues to be diversified and largely successful. The English summer schools in early July attracted 24 willing volunteers from Stratton and around 150 Polish children in Skarszewy and Starogard combined. This was followed by a small community visit by a party of young Polish singers and dancers who had a full five day programme here and were looked after by a variety of local families. The event was not well supported by the committee as a whole with a couple of notable exceptions, and I strongly believe that when it comes to hosting foreign delegations, something we only do every two years, members of the ocmmittee must put themselves out and make our guests as welcome as possible. Expecting one or two people to do all the work is just not acceptable. We took the Poles to Bletchly Park, Cambridge and a number of local venues and they performed a concert at the Upper School on Saturday night, which was a super evening 'though sparsly attended. The one big disappoinment of the year was that the joint Sandy-Skarszewy Calender, which had been worked on for many months, was not delivered by the final deadline. It was in fact printed but we haven't seen the final version. This was nevertheless a really good idea which should be pursued, perhaps with Christmas Cards for 2009.

What of the future? The December meeting agreed some important changes which should at least enable us to breath new impetus into the Association but the big question will be, whether or not we can find enough willing volunteers to put the ideas into action. On a positive side we do now have a complete list of all those who have shown some interest in the Association over the past three years and the numbers are quite impressive. However, to date we have just not had the means to get many of the newcomers motivated and on board and improved communications at this end has to be our number one priority and getting the message across as to what the Association is about and can offer is essential.. The one notable exception has been our website, which contiues to attract an amazing level of interest from home and abroad and we must congratulate and thank Alan Wicks for all the effort he has put into this. If we can get our social programme to run as planned this will also help greatly with spreading the word! Communications by E-mail may also prove a major step forward.

2009 is the year for us to travel. We are off to Malaunay at the beginning of May, hopefully by coach, 'though only 30 are signed up at present. The English summer schools will run in Poland at the start of July although there is still much work to do as the response from students has been very disappointing to date. At the very end of July there is the opportunity of a community visit to Skarszewy to coincide with the Kings Arms AC trip. A party of a dozen, including 9 anglers is already booked to go and help the Skarszewy Angling Club celebrate its 50th anniversaary, and we may also take another group, although trying to get any sort of committment from our local secondary schools has been like 'trying to get blood out of a stone'!

Despite the demise of language learning in English Schools, Twinning still has an important part to play in todays society and the Association can offer local residents of all ages a variety of opportunities, from cultural to aesthetic. We need to 'blow our own trumpet' with greater gusto and with a committee determined to work collectively to make this happen. Twinning is however a long term committment and we need to find more people at this end to give us active suppoirt.

Max Hill, Chairman.

Election of Officers

Chairman - David Gale
Vicechair - Geoff White
Minute Secretary - Jacky Frood
Treasurer - Steve Higgins
French Sec. - Steve Higgins
Polish Sec. - Max Hill
Council rep:- Martin Pettit
Auditor:- D. Rowntree
Website:- Alan Wicks
Press & Newsletterrs:- Steve Higgings/Max HIll
Committee members:- Jasmine Dorricott
David Gunns
Babs Wicks