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HomeAbout UsAbout BTA

Bristol and Tbilisi became twinned cities in 1988 when Georgia was still firmly part of the Soviet Union. The story goes that representatives from Tbilisi were at a conference looking for a City to twin with when they met representatives from Bristol in the bar. Following an evening of toasting each other's great City it was agreed that they would work towards becoming twinned.

Twinning started as a movement after the Second World War as way for people from different countries and cultures to become friends and gain a greater understanding of each other. Twinning is about building links between the people of two Cities, the links can be economic, cultural, civic and most importantly between individuals.

Twinning Agreement between Bristol and Tbilisi

Paul Garland the first chair of the Association was a keen advocate of twinning and pushed relentlessly for the twinning to be formalised. The twinning agreement was signed on the 12th July 1988 by the Leader of Bristol City Council, Councillor Graham Robertson and the Lord Mayor of Bristol, Councillor Derek Tedder.

The twinning link between Tbilisi and Bristol was kept alive during the first fifteen years by a small group of enthusiasts because of economic turmoil in the Soviet Union. In 1991 Georgia gained back its independence but political turmoil and civil war meant that the country remained very unstable for a number of years. In 1995 Zurab Adamia the Director of Environmental Services of Tbilisi City Council wrote to Bristol City Council explaining that the situation in Georgia had stabilised but they needed the support of their twinned cities to help them to rebuild. Bristol accepted the challenge and in 1996 a delegation from Bristol Council led by the Lord Mayor of Bristol Councillor Joan McLaren flew to Tbilisi. To mark the renewing of the twinning link the original twinning agreement which had been written in Russian was rededicated and this time it was written in Georgian.

Some of its activities over the years:

1. Educational and Research Projects: In the 1990s, the British Government awarded funds for the two cities to conduct environmental projects involving specialist officers from each city council to exchange and observe different methods of operation in environmental protection and waste management. Further funding was gained for similar projects over the following two years from EU TACIS City Twinning programme. In 2008 the EU TEMPUS funding was awarded to Bioscientists and Biomedical scientists in the universities of the West of England, Bristol and Tbilisi State University, Tbilisi, to foster curriculum development through exchanges and workshops over two years.

2. Charitable activities: BTA co-ordinated a Charity Know How project with Gaia; an organisation concerned with environmental and human rights education in 1998. The association has also facilitated further successful projects by joint funding with a Rotary club in Greater Bristol: a seventeen year-old Tbilisi girl was successfully cured of Myasthenia Gravis, equipment from the old Bristol Children's hospital was transported to the Jo Ann McGowan Children's Hospital in Tbilisi; a truck and container donated by Severnside Waste was taken over by drivers from Crown Coaches. Simon Munden, owner of this Bristol company also donated an ambulance for this hospital.

Further BTA projects have involved sending specialist equipment to the Tbilisi School for the Deaf and a refuse truck filled with children's hospital equipment. Funds have also been raised by appeals, Georgian wine events in 2002 and 2004, and generous donations by students of Filton High School. Six refuse trucks have been sent to the Department of Environment, Tbilisi Municipal Council.

3. Arts and Culture: Artists in Bristol have had close links with Tbilisi since 1992, when the show “Heat and Conduct”, the first exhibition of contemporary Georgian artists, was held in Arnolfini, the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Bristol. The 2008 year Festival of cinema and video art from Georgia in Arnolfini and Cube Microplex Cinemas was a part of 20 years twinning between Bristol and Tbilisi celebration program. The Bristol Tbilisi Association completed a successful partnership with the Paradjanov Festival 2010, the Arnolfini and the Bristol Art Gallery bringing the works of the great film director Sergei Paradjanov to the people of Bristol.Complementing these the Bristol Art Gallery showed photographs of Paradjanov taken by his friend, the photographer Yuri Mechitov in the exhibition “Paradjanov through the lens of Yuri Mechitov”. In 2012 Bristol Museum & Art Gallery hosted an exhibition “21 paintings by seven Georgian Artists”. In 2016 and 2017 Georgian street artist Dr. Love took part in the Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival, Upfest, in Bristol, with a big success.

 

Twentieth Anniversary

In 2008 Bristol and Tbilisi marked the 20th Anniversary of the twinning link with an enhanced annual programme of activities which included a number of civic and cultural exchanges. Tbilisi marked the anniversary of the twinning link by the President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili granting the Freedom of the City of Tbilisi to the Chair of the Bristol Tbilisi Association Dr Henry Parry who as well as being chair had been active in developing university links with Tbilisi since 1986.

The Twinning Link between Bristol and Tbilisi has grown stronger as friendships have grown between members and a love of Georgian people and its culture. The Association continues to have an exciting annual programme of events and exchanges and we hope that more and more people will join us in enjoying the culture of Georgia and Tbilisi.