As a Parish Councillor and member of the Twinning Committee I was delighted to be invited to join Ruddington Community Choir on their trip to Grenay, our Twin Town in France. Then it occurred to me, I love singing, why not join the choir?! I’m very glad I did. I’m not a confident singer by any means, but I was soon put at my ease. Choir leader Bernie and all the members of the choir are very friendly and supportive, making choir practice great fun.
Late morning on Friday 19th October we all piled on to the coach on The Green and were soon heading for the Channel Tunnel. We arrived at our Hotel in Lens around 10pm that evening. On Saturday, after a short rehearsal at Grenay’s ‘Ronnie Coutteure’ Concert Hall, we were treated to a delicious lunch.
A coach tour around Grenay was next, where the Mayor, Christian Champire, pointed out places of interest. He told us a little about the community and, fortunately, choir member Martine was on hand to provide an excellent translation. In the past, Grenay relied upon the coal mining industry but the pits are all closed now. Large slags heaps are visible on the edge of the town and vegetation has been planted to make them more attractive. A slag heap at a nearby town has been made into a ski slope. Grenay is not a wealthy town and has 20% unemployment. The bakery and the Post Office were saved from closure by intervention from local government. Grenay has an impressive media centre, “Mediatheque Estaminet”, a large modern building.
We saw a large cemetary, containing the graves of many British troops who died in the area during the First World War and enjoyed a little walk to look at the many fabulous murals created by local young people, with assistance from professional artists. Around 3.30pm the choir assembled on Grenay’s splendid new bandstand. The sun shone brightly and people attending the market stalls in adjoining streets listened to the purple-clad singers perform some lively numbers.
The highlight of the trip was, of course, our concert on Saturday evening. The band, ‘Harmonie Municipale de Grenay’, consisting of musicians of all ages and an all-female percussion section, performed a varied programme, ending with a rousing piece that had the entire audience clapping along. After an interval, Ruddington Community Choir made a dramatic entrance, walking in two files whilst singing a simple French song. We sang 12 songs, with our finale ‘Hot, hot, hot!’ being very well received.
The band and choir then came together to perform a beautiful French song, ‘Les Choristes’, and a Coldplay medley. It was my first time on stage and I found it quite thrilling! It was then time to celebrate with a glass of bubbly and a chance to make new friends. A lovely supper was shared and despite the language barrier, a jolly good time was had by all. Music, dancing and laughter are universal languages!
The musicians and singers exchanged thoughtful gifts and, on behalf of the Parish Council and the residents of Ruddington, I presented the Mayor with our ‘Ruddington welcomes the Tour of Britain’ sign. Mayor Christian assured us that, whatever the future holds for our country, the people of Ruddington will be made welcome in Grenay. We returned home with lasting memories of a wonderful weekend and genuine friendship.
New choir members are always welcome, so why not give it a try? We meet at the Methodist Church on Tuesday evenings from 8pm to 9.30pm. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
If you’re interested in helping to develop Ruddington’s friendship with Grenay, please contact me.
Councillor Jill Reedman, Twinning Sub-Committee