The Bristol-Bordeaux Association was founded in 1947 with the aim of promoting educational, economic and cultural links between the two cities. Inspired by a deep desire to contribute to a peaceful world after the war, two friends, Professors William McCausland Stewart from Bristol and Jean Loiseau from Bordeaux, suggested a linking of the two ‘capitals of the South-West’.
Both civic authorities keenly supported the idea, signing the official twinning charter in 1947. The first schools exchange – with just 27 pupils and two teachers from Fairfield Grammar School – took place in the same year, and, with numbers increasing each year, peaked at over a thousand participants in the late 1970s.
Over the years, thousands of young people have enjoyed their first experience of a language and culture different from their own, with strong friendships forged, some lasting a lifetime. Members included not only individuals but also professional bodies, such as the Post Office, Avon and Somerset Police Constabulary and the Fire Service. Social events such as wine tasting, lectures and informal meals were arranged, as were choir tours and art, sporting and nautical exchanges.
In 2022, with funding from Quartet Community Fund children from St Barnabas Primary visited Bristol Central Library to research the long standing relationship between Bristol and its French counterpart in preparation for an afternoon in City Hall interviewing Bristolians with a connection to Bordeaux to capture the memories and experiences of those early exchanges.
The stories that emerged were woven into short plays, telling of politely declining oysters at their first evening meal, pulling the leathery ear of a 300 year old mummy in the Basilica and school dinners served with wine.
Thank you to 3rd year UWE History students Alexis Evans and Jack Troup on placement with Local Learning for their support with collecting the stories and for Dawn Dyer and Sophie Evans for coordinating the research at Bristol Central Library.
Thank you to Mark Atherton, Ethel Barquero, Sally Beddoe, Ron Brooks, Jeanette Brooks, Vivien Brown, Pam Fowler, Teresa Goodall, Wilma Gough, Gilly Laidlow, Warwick Moreton, Mike Murch, Sally Pitman, Evelyn Reston, Thomas Sanchis, Gill Slee and David Vowles for sharing their stories with us.
An extra thank you to Vivien Brown, Teresa Goodall, Kate Holberton and Mark Packham for all their organisation and efforts behind the scenes to ensure such an enjoyable afternoon.
To find out more about the Bristol Bordeaux Partnership visit Bristol Bordeaux Partnership – Twinning Business Culture Education.