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Saturday 23rd May 2020:

Virtual Twinning Soirée

Under normal circumstances, on this date, the Friends of Oignies would have been enjoying an evening fun and amitié hosted by Les Amis de Buxton in our French Twin Town. 

As we all know, due to the current health emergency, the 2020 visit was unavoidably cancelled. However, the annual visit is the principal event in the Buxton-Oignies Twinning calendar in normal times, and we didn't want to let the date slip by without at  least some sort of celebration.

Thanks go to Sue Quas-Cohan, for the initial suggestion of organising 'a virtual party on ZOOM' as a way for members to get together, in spirit at least, on both sides of La Manche / the English Channel.

"Great idea!", I thought as I read the email Sue had sent to the other committee members, and then I read the final line "...over to you Chris", and I started to wonder if it was such a great idea after all! How to organise a ZOOM session with potentially dozens of people simultaneously online, all wishing to contribute and say hello / bonjour? - and in two languages to boot!

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Recognise anyone? - A selection of screenshots from the soirée

In the end, I think it all went remarkably well; largely due to the spirit of fun and friendship generated - as always - when we get together with our Amis from Oignies, even in virtual reality. There were 35 French and English households on-line in total, and

with two or more people joining in from most locations, I estimate we had well over 70 people 'present' on the night. Derek did a fine job as chairman, just about managing to maintain control, whilst marshalling multiple contributions from the Twin Towns; though I must admit the 'Mute all' facility on ZOOM came in handy now and again, when total cacophony threatened to ensue. 

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Georgina Bloomfield plays the English and French national anthems, with mum Helen accompanying on piano.

For our part, it was great for Catrin and I to exchange a few words with our lovely French couple, Hugo & Rosy Alleaume, providing at least some consolation for being unable to do so in person; and for those of us old enough to remember the 1970s, the evening provided a nostalgic reminder of those quaint old Eurovision Song Contests from a bygone era... " - and now we go over to Oignies for the votes of the French Jury, are you there Oignies? M'entendez-vous à Oignies? Can you hear me...?"

In the 'Buxton Oignies song contest', the UK entry consisted of a rendition of the English and French anthems played on violin by Georgina Bloomfield. For the French entry, les Amis de Buxton all sang "Les Corons"  (The Mining Villages), a wistful pop ballad from the 1980s, 

about mining communities in le Nord de France. The result? A victory for both sides, bien sûr

Earlier in the day there was a ceremony in Oignies to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the tragic events that occurred in and around Oignies during the Second World War in June 1940. Events which were key to forming the bond that exists between Buxton and Oignies to this day. You can read more about these events and the history of our Twinning by clicking here.


Under the current circumstances, no one from Buxton was able to attend the ceremony. We did however, in cooperation with the British Legion, arrange to send 18 small wooden crosses over to Oignies, in order that they be placed on the graves of the British soldiers buried in the cemetery there, including the six from Buxton.

By Chris Clegg


The ceremony at the Mausoleum in Oignies.

Visit 2021

Given that it is impossible to predict how the health situation will develop over the coming months, we have decided, along with our colleagues from Oignies to abandon any thoughts of attempting a group visit to Oignies this year, and to postpone the planned trip until next year. Consequently, we now plan to visit Oignies in 2021, exact date TBA. Such a postponement will allow les Amis de Buxton to conserve planning efforts and deposits paid for this year. The usual biennial sequence will then continue, with a visit to Buxton in 2022.


Véronique Bernard places wooden crosses on the British graves.

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