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Visit of  Maka Khesuriani, Nana Doghonadze, Aana & Pati Chankvetadze 5th September – 12th September 2012




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Wednesday 5th September.
After what was a very difficult journey, Maka, Nana, Ana & Pati arrived safely in Newport having been met by Chair Sonia Fisher at the airport. Sylvia & Colin Mason, Derek Butler, Caroline McLaughlin and Liz Luck, all members of Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association, warmly welcomed the group at the Priory Hotel in Caerleon.

Thursday 6th September 
Accompanied by NKTA member Vera Brown the group made a visit to the SHARE (Stow Hill Access Resource and Enterprise) centre.

They were met by Nina Finnegan, the Chief Executive Officer who was able to share her memories of visiting Georgia some years ago after it achieved independence.
Nina explained the activities of the centre, particularly those which focused on women and family issues and building bridges between different ethnic communities.

She explained how funding was obtained and the role of Communities First, located at the centre. After being introduced to the staff the visitors were shown some of the activities taking place that morning. These included a women’s relaxation session with massage and an art group. A notice board at the entrance has details of many of the various events at the centre.

Afterwards there was time for a short visit to Newport Cathedral. By coincidence, member Brian Cox was there and recalled the clergy exchange visit made some years ago. Here was seen the Georgian icon that was given to Newport by Kutaisi and now placed in St Luke’s chapel.

In the afternoon the group visited Bristol with Sonia, Caroline and Derek. They had a lightning tour of Bristol’s Georgian House before it closed. Explanations needed to understand the two meanings of the word ‘Georgian’ * 

Comparisons were made between Bristol Cathedral and that of the churches and cathedrals in Georgia. Then walking along King Street to see the Old Vic, the oldest working theatre in Britain and the 17th century pub ‘The Llandogo Trow’.

The day ended by attending an especially glamorous gala performance of the musical ‘The Lion King’ at the Bristol Hippodrome theatre. The performance was amazing and very much enjoyed by the Georgian visitors who needed no understanding of language to follow the story or enjoy the wonderful music and sets.  It received a standing ovation, cheered on by our visitors.

* Georgian – as in this context. The name given to style of architecture constructed during the reigns of the King Georges l; II; III & IV – 1720-1840
Georgian – as we know, a native born person from Georgia,

Friday 7th September
A shopping trip to Cardiff with Rosemary & Derek Butler which was declared very successful, followed by lunch. During the afternoon a visit was made to the Welsh Assembly buildings in the Cardiff Bay area. During the tour Rosemary explained how devolved government works in Wales. Afterwards they had a short walk around the Bay and the Millennium Centre – Cardiff’s opera house. 

Dinner was held at the home of Mrs. Laila Bevan. As a Norwegian, Laila showed everyone certain Norwegian customs such as removing shoes on entering the home and showing many beautiful photographs of her country and it’s national costume.  Having written her autobiography ‘Stolen Childhood’, Laila presented Ana with a signed copy. Ray, Laila’s husband, having been a recording artist before he became Pastor of Kings Church Newport, presented Nana with two of his albums.

Saturday 8th September.
In the morning NKTA Member, Mike Singleton gave a guided tour of Caerleon – full account see - 

Later, after lunch with the Rector of the University of Wales Newport, the graduation ceremony took place where Ana was conferred with her Master’s Degree in Education & Management. It was wonderful for her to have her sister Pati and friends present.
At an evening meal they were guests of Caroline McLachlan and friends.

Sunday 9th September
Trip to London: Maka Khesuriani, Nana Doghonadze, Aana & Pati Chankvetadze

With Sonia & Derek our visitors took the train to London. They travelled by taxi through Hyde Park to the Victoria and Albert Museum where a visit was made to the ‘Ballgowns Exhibition’– glamour of the 1950’s and onwards’

This was followed by lunch in the ornate dining room and afterwards a visit to the V&A’s jewellery galleries.

Then by red London bus along to Knightsbridge and Piccadilly Circus where the journey ended prematurely due to traffic restrictions resulting from the Paralympics’ Marathon, that had taken place that morning.

The group walked down the Haymarket, across Trafalgar Square and on to Whitehall. The crowds were very much larger than usual but everyone was still able to see many of the sights of central London. They also witnessed the colourful array of flags from around the world, which have decorated London for this Olympic Summer.  Another London bus ride via Regent and Oxford Street took them to the superb Wallace Collection, one of London’s finest attractions, which is little known to visitors from abroad.  Here they had an English Afternoon Tea in the elegant surroundings of the Wallace Collection’s restaurant.

Then an underground train took them to Westminster where they they saw the Abbey and Parliament with a panoramic view of London and the River Thames while crossing Westminster Bridge and listening to Big Ben chime 6 o’clock.



Secondly, the possibilities of a visit to Kutaisi alongside other cultural exchanges, particularly with our twinning arrangements, would be looked at. 

Thirdly, it was suggested that the best links for student exchanges would be through the University, and therefore Professor Stephen Hagen may be the best contact as Pro-Vice Chancellor for Newport University.

It was explained by the delegation that whilst this hasn’t been encouraged in the past because it was difficult for them to find funding and adequate provision for accommodation, they now have suitable accommodation for exchange visits, and the University in Kutaisi would plan students’ programmes for exchange visits. 

Sheila Davies would prepare a quick note of this meeting and make the necessary referrals to Nic Young and Stephen Hagen with a view to a request that they follow up these introductions. 

The following points were raised and discussed.      

• The organisations are non-governmental and develop projects in the arts and business from donations

• Poland has recently given £250k for project funding along with the Bill Gates Foundation

• The city of Georgia has a great cultural tradition and following the Rose Revolution it was felt important that the cultural traditions were revived and renewed

• There needed to be consolidation and areas brought up to standard. In addition women who were successful in the arts needed to share their experience with others in order to disseminate good practice 

• There are two different but complementary objectives a) to help artists and b) to help young artists 

• One of the aims of the organisation is to make links with other organisations in order to raise standards through exchange programmes and making links with international arts organisations

• Discussion ensued around how Newport could engage in this co-operation – ideas suggested included musicians form Georgia participating in a Newport arts festival e.g. Big Splash

In the afternoon a visit was made to the St Fagan’s Folk Museum near Cardiff with NKTA members Lydia Clark, Keith Dodd and Olive Young. Here to see examples of restored houses and farm dwellings of long ago Wales.

In the evening members of NKTA met at Sonia’s home to enjoy good food and wine and to say farewell to our guests.  Vitali Donghvani and Katie Rock were particularly pleased to be able to meet the Georgian visitors.  Mike Singleton, recently returned from the mountains of Georgia brought his frying pan and cooked traditional Georgian bread.

Wednesday 12th September
An early morning departure – Ana & Pati to catch their flight back to Tbilisi and home and Maka & Nana to London for an extended stay.

Monday 10th September
Maka and Nana came to the Riverfront Theatre with Vera and were shown Kutaisi Walk. In particular the plaque commemorating it’s opening in 2010. Afterwards they went to the Civic Centre. Here Mayor of Newport, Cllr. John Guy & Mrs Guy entertained everyone to lunch in the Mayor’s Parlour. Following lunch they were shown the Council Chamber where, among other matters, the Mayor explained where the councillors and members of the public would sit during debates, his role as Mayor, and the proportion of female to male councillors.

In the evening the visitors were guests at an informal meeting of Soroptimist International of Newport and District. This took place in a member's home where a girl guide, who had been sponsored by the Soroptimists to attend an international rally, gave us her account of the experience showing us photographs and memorabilia.
Maka gave a presentation about the aims and objectives of the Women’s Development Club in Kutaisi whose aims are similar to those of Soroptimist International. Ana acted as interpreter during the evening and was very efficient in this onerous task.

Tuesday 11th September
Meeting with Art Music and Women for Regional Development  
report by Sheila Black

Date: 11th September 2012
Attending:  Cabinet Members Cllr. Gail Giles; Cllr. Debbie Wilcox; Managing Director Tracey Lee; Corporate Director Sheila Davies; representatives from the Georgian Delegation.

Introductions were made and it was explained that the representatives were from a non-government organisation called the Rural Regional Development Agency for Women, but were funded by the Local Government for their salaries. 

The focus of the organisation was in the areas of art, young artists, international links, and musicians, and they were actively looking for exchange programmes in relation to concerts, competitions, and festivals. 

Most of their events and activities were funded by donors, and last year they received €250,000 from Poland and they have also received money from the Bill Gates Foundation. 

Having received a full presentation of the range of activities that the foundation organise in their main base in Kutaisi (the town twinned with Newport), a discussion ensued regarding the possibilities for exchange cultural visits and the type of areas that the organisation were interested in.  It was quickly identified that the main contact for taking forward this kind of cultural exchange would be Nic Young, the Manager of our Riverfront Theatre and responsible for Arts and Cultural Activities in Newport.  This was due to the fact that Nic Young would have the specialist knowledge and expertise regarding the possibilities, potential funding, and timing to tie in with other events around this arena. 

It was agreed that Nic Young would be contacted in order to liaise with representatives of the organisation to see what potential there was to participate in competitions and festivals in the first instance, and possibly to have a look at the possibility of joint working. 

Home >> The Beginning >> Diary of Events Archive 1989-2013