Delegates from both Soham Town Council and Soham Twinning Association visited Andrézieux-Bouthéon, near Lyon in the South of France, where they were guests at the official twinning of the two towns on Saturday 15th April 2006. The ceremony began with the laying of a wreath and then the playing of both National Anthems from each country in conjunction with the raising of the British Union Jack, French Tricolor and European Flag (performed by 12-year old Callum Ross, son of Soham Town Council’s Vice-Chairman Mrs Fiona Ross).
The Head of Tourism in Andrézieux-Bouthéon, Monsieur Gerard Brot, then welcomed the visitors from both countries within the Council Chamber of Andrézieux-Bouthéon, followed by a series of speeches by a number of significant people from each of the two towns. Soham Town Councillor, Mr John Kirkham and Madame Martine Crawford, heading the respective Twinning Associations, headed the proceedings’ by emphasising the huge benefits to be gained by both communities in bringing about a better understanding between two societies with both similarities and cultural differences. Both speakers stressed the immense importance that there is no better way to get two foreign communities to get to know each other better by the way of exchanges between schools, sports clubs, performing arts groups as well as other organisations representing every imaginable interest in all areas of life.
Soham Town Council Chairman, Mrs Rosemary Aitchison, confidently and eloquently spoke in French to thank the French hosts not only for their warm welcome and generosity but also for all the hard work that had gone into preparing the ground on both sides of the Channel, which had culminated in the official twinning of the two towns. The Mayor of Andrézieux-Bouthéon followed on by saying the main aim of twinning with Soham was to ultimately bring the European Union closer together by the bonding of the two towns and two nations, which in the past had had their differences but had worked together in a more than troubled world. After an exchange of official gifts, the twinning charter was officially signed by The Mayor of Andrézieux-Bouthéon, Monsieur Jean-Claude Schalk and the Chairman of Soham Town Council, Mrs Rosemary Aitchison.
Soham was visited by an official delegation from Andrézieux-Bouthéon where the counterpart of the Twinning Charter was finally signed in a ceremony that was performed during the 53rd Soham Carnival and Heavy Horse Show on Bank Holiday Monday 29th May 2006 on the Recreation Ground in Soham. The week preceding the Carnival in Soham saw several events taking place with a very French flavour forming part of ‘Soham’s French Week’ organized by the Soham Festival Society.
An English Week in France
The official twinning ceremony between Soham and Andrézieux-Bouthéon which was held on Saturday 15th April 2006, marked the climax of an week of several activities and events in the French town.
On Sunday 9th April 2006 a group of four runners travelled from Soham to take part in the annual international race ‘Eurofoulee’. The group consisted of team manager, Chris Scurrah, Editor of Soham On-Line, Duncan Carmichael, Head of PE at Soham Village College, Mark Ingham, a trainee teacher at the Village College plus Les Yorke and Wayne Bloodworth who are firemen based at Ely. The race concluded with giving of prizes to the winners of the races and a special plaque from Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service was presented to the Mayor of Andrézieux-Bouthéon by Mr Yorke & Mr Bloodworth.
An ‘English Week’ began on Monday 10th April 2006 with an hour-and-a-half long talk and video presentation about Soham by Mrs Anne Pallett who talked solely in French to schoolchildren in the afternoon and then to adults during the evening.
The following day, Mr David Tickner, Head of Drama at Soham Village College lead an excellent performance of song and dance routines with 20 pupils from the College at the impressive ‘Theatre Du Parc’.
On the Wednesday an ‘English’ Cinema Night was held showing ‘Pride and Prejudice’ staring Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen in English accompanied with French subtitles.
‘English Castles & Gardens’ was the theme on Thursday by an enthusiast from Andrézieux-Bouthéon along with an ‘English’ book sale.
Fridays entertainment, again at the ‘Theatre Du Parc’ was a concert performance of contemporary classical music conducted by Grzegorz Nowak with an amazing performance by the famous French Cellist, Emmanuelle Bertrand backed by a 20 strong orchestra.