The weekend of 17th- 21st September saw Ashford as the host town for the 2015 civic exchange. The theme for the weekend which is chosen by the council members was to be based on business and commerce with the aim to learn from each other and become commercially stronger. The planning for the weekend is the responsibility of a committee made up of members of the twinning association and council members. Our Chairman Gillian has the task of finding hosts for all the guests, not easy when 50 guests need accommodation. She would like to thank all who helped her out with this especially to a few who had no previous experience of twinning.

All hosts met together at the civic centre on the evening of Thursday 17th September where a buffet reception had been arranged to welcome our guests. They soon arrived and were introduced to their hosts, many meeting up with old acquaintances. The Mayor of Ashford Cllr Geraldine Dyer welcomed Louis Feuvrier  Le Maire de Fougères and Burgurmeister Alexander Buttner and their delegations to Ashford before all gradually departed to spend a relaxing evening with their hosts and recover from their journeys.

Friday morning was spent at Ashford Business Point where the guests were welcomed with a presentation by representatives from local business, based on the economy of Ashford. This was followed by a seminar, debate and question and answer session with the aim to build business relationship between the three towns. During the weekend a separate time table had been planned for the three youth delegations lead by John and Sue Rowland. They joined in with the other guests in the morning, during the afternoon they went to Highworth School to finish the final part of their presentations ready for the following morning. The afternoon was free for everyone else to spend with their hosts. For us this was a pleasant afternoon enjoying fresh scones cream tea style, and a wander around Singleton Lake just beating the rain when the thunderstorm started.

St Marys Church, Ashford was the venue for Saturday morning’s presentations. The students arrived early to enable them to set up and rehearse. The guests arrived and were welcomed by Matthew Sharp, the three youth delegations made interesting presentations on historical and present business in the towns, together with aspects for improvement and stronger future links. Musical entertainment by Matthew Sharp and Revelation Strings. Mayoral speeches followed and a buffet lunch was enjoyed by all. Our thanks go to Highworth School for allowing their students to take part in this project, to Duncan Beer, Assistant Head and German teacher Susie Gerstlauer, excellent representatives for our town.

The final formal event of the weekend was the gala dinner held on Sunday evening at the Kent Suite at the International Hotel. As the guests arrived they were greeted with a glass of Pimms and entertained by a fascinating magician- Nicolas-performing tricks before they were shown to their tables. The meal was excellent and while it was being served and between courses the magician continued to show off his skills around the tables. After the meal the entertainment started with us all singing happy birthday to Louis Feuvrier, then Andy Crust (the man with many voices) a local resident and entertainer treated us to a variety of well-known songs and artists such as Elvis and Frankie Valli, soon the dance floor was full and Sarah Jayne as Dolly Parton came to the stage performing many old favourites and bringing a successful weekend to a close.

Monday morning was an early start with everyone meeting at the Stour centre car park at 7.45 where the coaches were waiting, after a round of farewells, hugs and kisses and photos taken our guests boarded their coaches and we waved them of as they started their homeward journeys.

Written by Gillian Lines

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