08 Aug 2022 |
Posted by Jonathan Radnedge | 0 Comment.
** The visit to which we had all been looking forward for so long, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Bristol’s partnership with Hannover, started a little earlier, with a ‘prequel’.
This was the great idea of Hannover landscape gardener Joerma Biernath, to bring a barrel of his Hannover Gin – the contents to be sold for charity – all the way from Hannover, along with a tree to be planted in the Bristol University Botanic Garden, carried in a Second World War wooden German Navy training boat.
The ‘Spirit of Niedersachsen’ braved the weather of North Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the North Sea, and arrived in a historic mooring near Tower Bridge in mid-June. Some of us went up to meet the boat and its crew and to sample some of the gin.
We visited again in Bath, and later in Hanham, as the boat (with a new crew) was preparing to row into Bristol Harbour on the Thursday before Harbour Festival weekend. Through the good offices of Jon Chamberlain at Visit Bristol, we received considerable local media attention: local celebrities Joe Sims and Jayde Adams joined the crew on the boat, we had several interviews on Radio Bristol, mentions on Points West and ITV.
Our own visitors from Hannover arrived during the same week, both an official group, led by Councillor Lars Kelich, in the absence due to Covid of the Oberbürgermeister, and also a group from the Gesellschaft – altogether not far short of 40 people, as well as the crew of the boat! The Gesellschaft group had a full day on Friday, with a guided walk in German around Clifton and the Suspension Bridge.
Then came a fish and chip lunch nearby, a visit to the lovely community gardens of member Sylvia Supple, a visit to the Grayson Perry exhibition at the City Museum and finishing off with a splendid celebration in City Hall, complete with 75th birthday cake.
The Lord Lieutenant and the Lord Mayor, delegations from Bordeaux and Hannover, including the crew of the ‘Spirit of Niedersachsen’, were present, and we were treated to a dance performance by the dancers from RISE Youth Dance group, who will also travel to Hannover to dance at the Rathaus ceremony there in August, along with their Hannover dance partner group.
Saturday began with the planting of a Cornelian Cherry tree (‘cornus mas’) which had been travelling for four months from Hannover in the ‘Spirit of Niedersachsen’ alongside the gin barrel, and subject to the vicissitudes of the weather and the salty air of the North Sea. But it survived and was duly planted by the crew, after speeches by the Lord Lieutenant, the Lord Mayor, the curator of the Botanic Gardens, Nick Wray, and the initiator of the project, Joerma Biernath.
The rest of the day was spent by all groups enjoying the fun of the Harbour Festival, with Mayor Rees giving the official group an introduction to the background of the Colston Statue, now in store in M-Shed, until it is finally decided what will happen to it.
Sunday was taken up by a visit to Bath by train, in order to visit the Herschel Museum – William Herschel, who discovered Uranus, came from Hannover, and he and his sister Caroline were also accomplished musicians and gave many concerts, both in Bath and in London.
After the visit to the museum, we were delighted to be able to go to Bath Abbey, where we were addressed by Wera Hobhouse, Bath’s MP, but originally from Hannover, and to have an introduction in German to the history of the Abbey by Jeremy Key-Pugh of the Bath-Braunschweig twinning.
Chair Judith Spencer and Councillor Ruth Malloy were most helpful throughout our visit, having also joined us when the boat was moored in Bath.
Above: Wera Hobhouse and Jeremy Key-Pugh in Bath Abbey
Throughout the weekend, the gin barrel was on show in M-Shed and visitors were given flyers and told about the project, the proceeds of any sales going to the Invictus Games and the German War Graves Commission. On Sunday evening, after the Harbour steam train had finished its trips along the quay, the barrel was lifted back by crane onto the boat, ready for it to be transported by road back to Hannover on Monday.
Monday was the final day of the Gesellschaft visit – the official group had left on Sunday – and we were glad to welcome an albeit small number of the German committee (including Chair Robert Nicholls – unable to come as he had tested positive – by WhatsApp) into the Hannover Room of City Hall.
Part of our discussions, which included a very positive response to the weekend programme from our guests, was to set the dates for the Hannoverians’ next visit to Bristol in 2023: 6-11 July.
The rest of the day was free, until our evening farewell meal at Watershed, where friends old and new enjoyed a meal and conversation together, especially Margaret and Ethne, who have been friends for more than 60 years.
We were delighted again to be joined and addressed by the Lord Lieutenant Peaches Golding, who gave us a fascinating insight into the role of the Lord Lieutenant.