Written by Derek Butler

NKTA (Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association)  members celebrated Georgia’s Orthodox Christmas Day with a `Christmas Dinner` at The Priory Hotel, Caerleon.  Support for the event surpassed all expectations and those of us who attended enjoyed it so much we can’t think why we’ve never organised such an event before.

The event was held in The Priory’s atmospheric panelled room and its wooden wall-panels and richly coloured windows were complemented by the lighted candles and Georgian goblets and drinking horns decorating the tables

Some of the guests at the Priory

Association Chair Caroline McLachlan began the evening by welcoming the members and guests including Cllr. Jane Mudd, the Leader of Newport City Council, and her husband Steven and Jayne Bryant, the Welsh Assembly Member for Newport West.  While welcoming Jane, Caroline congratulated her on her recent election as Leader of Newport City Council.  

Caroline referred to the significance of 7th January, throughout the Orthodox Christian world and how Christmas is celebrated in Kutaisi, Newport’s sister city.

Kutaisi-born Keti Rock giving a traditional Christmas message in Georgian.

Following the Dinner’s first course, Association Secretary Derek Butler read greetings from Professor Madonna Megrelishvil, the first (and only recently retired) Chair of the Kutaisi Newport International Association, the present Chair David Megrelishvili and the members of the KNIA.  Derek spoke of the incomparable contribution Madonna has made to the friendship between Newport and Kutaisi over the past thirty years and remarked that David was a personal friend of many Association members as he lived in Newport for over ten years during which time he was deputy manager of The Priory.

Between courses, messages from our KNIA friends Lyalya & Tamriko Kobeshavidze, Maia Alavidze, Nino Nijaradze and Ziniko Chichnidaze were read by Caroline, long-serving NKTA members Sylvia Mason and Sonia Fisher, and the Deputy Head of Lodge Hill Primary School Nick Smith who has established a strong link between his school and a primary school in Kutaisi.

Caroline then proposed a toast to `Friendship` at the end of which we all stood and gave a rousing version of ”Gowmajos”, the Georgian equivalent of “Cheers” or “Iachi da”.  The messages were listened to with interest and each one was warmly applauded.  Later several members mentioned how moving it was that friends separated by over a thousand miles could come together in such a joyful celebration.

Caroline invited Cllr. Jane Mudd, Jayne Bryant AM and Dame Rosemary Butler to speak.  Jane responded by saying how delighted she and her husband were to be invited, that she was pleased to know that the link between the two cities that began with the signing of the Twinning Agreement in 1989 is as strong as ever and that she will ensure that, despite financial restraints, the Council will continue to give the Twinning and the NKTA its full support.  Jayne gave a warm speech saying how pleased and proud she was to be a NKTA member and Rosemary talked about the history of the Twinning, the difficulties it had faced in the early years, its many achievements and her love and respect for Madonna.  Both Jane and Jayne mentioned how they had been inspired by Rosemary’s dedication to Newport and her promotion of women in public life.

Jayne and Jane were presented with 2020 calendars picturing Georgia with photographs taken by Peter Nasmyth, a good friend of the NKTA who lives and works mostly in Georgia.

Caroline closed the evening by saying that it was clear from the laughter and chatter in the room that the event had been a huge success and proved that the friendship between Newport and Kutaisi remains vibrant.  She then invited everyone to participate in a group photograph taken on hotel’s staircase.

Since the event Madonna and other Kutaisi friends have written to say how touched they were to know NKTA members were celebrating Christmas Day with them and during their festive parties many glasses of `sharvi gvino` were raised to toast their friends in Wales 

Madonna asked how many of us dared to drink from the Georgian horns.

The attendees of the NKTA Georgian Christmas Day Celebrations
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Chair’s NKTA Meeting Report on Recent Visit to Kutaisi

Our chair Caroline spoke at our recent October NKTA meeting about her recent visit to Kutaisi and Georgia.

Caroline recently spent a few days in Tbilisi where she attended the `Start of the Season`, an event organised jointly by the British Council and the British Embassy. While there she met Madeleine Moon, MP, the Chair of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Georgia.

They held interesting discussions and this connection will continue.  She also met Timuraz Murghulia, one of the first group of children to visit Newport in 1991, and he talked about how the visit has influenced his life.

While in Kutaisi, she participated in a full programme organised by David Megrelishvili, the recently appointed Chair of KNIA (Kutaisi Newport International Association) and this provided opportunities to consider future collaborative projects and revisit continuing initiatives.

Caroline had also visited the Mushroom Art House in the village of Kursebi, not far from Kutaisi, where earlier this year Newport student Oktawia Van Tienderen spent a month with her host Mariam Zhorzhikashvili supporting the development of conversational English with children and adults. The local people forage, prepare, cook and store a special type of mushroom that grows in the area and which is of particular interest to mushroom aficionados worldwide, an important part of the community’s plans to develop rural tourism.

Caroline also went to The Bridge for Social Inclusion, the Kutaisi centre for children with learning difficulties that has been supported financially by the fund-raising activities of the staff and students of the School of Care, Coleg Gwent, Newport, led by NKTA members Alice Butler-Bright and Clare Munro. Caroline reported that the renovation work being undertaken as a result of the funding has considerably enhanced the provision The Bridge is now able to offer and has enabled some very valuable initiatives to take place i.e. early yeas assessment, innovative practices for children on the autistic spectrum and home visits to support parents with children with a range of disabilities.  Caroline noted she was privileged to accompany an early year’s specialist on one of her home visits, where she modelled a range of play behaviour for the parents to use with their young son.

She spent a day in the English Philology Department at ATSU, a Department she has been visiting for the past 29 years and which has been central to the development of the Twinning. It was the first day of the Autumn term and as a result she was unable to meet the students but she held an interesting and informative meeting with the Rector.

Caroline ended her report by saying that she enjoyed many social gatherings with old friends and KNIA members, eating delicious Georgian food, drinking Georgian wine and enjoying Georgian hospitality generally. She noticed how many good restaurants there are in Kutaisi now which are catering for a greatly increased number of international visitors.  As a result, she thinks the NKTA could explore the possibility of supporting tourism in Kutaisi by encouraging work visits by young volunteers from Newport.   She added that there are plans to link The Bridge centre with a special educational needs school in Newport.

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Letter received from the Mayor of Kutaisi


Dear Caroline,
Our warmest greetings from Kutaisi.
Many years of friendship and partnership connect our cities. As you know, during these years,
Georgia has overcome many challenges to become a truly independent democratic country.
Today, the country and our city are facing new challenges.
On June 21, 2019, the Russian Federation banned flights to Georgia, which could prevent
Russian tourists from visiting Georgia. In response to this, a new campaign started with the
slogan “Spend Your Summer Holidays in Georgia”, which is aimed at supporting Georgian
tourism industry. Because tourism is one of the most dynamically growing sectors of our city,
we would like to ask you as our twinned city and great partner to join the campaign and spread
information about Kutaisi as a tourist destination. Please find video detailing some of the city’s Landmarks https://www.facebook.com/tourismcenterofkutaisi/videos/1757405371037820/

As you know Kutaisi International Airport
offers very convenient directions for tourists, namely citizens from 24 towns of 15 countries
can arrive by direct flights in our city:
The wizz air, low cost airline offers the following directions:
Italy, Spain, Austria, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Greece,
Cyprus, Lithuania, Latvia.
1. Rome
2. Milan
3. Barcelona
4. Vienna
5. Prague
6. London
7. Paris
8. Berlin
9. Memmingen
10. Dortmund
11. Budapest
12. Warsaw
13. Krakow
14. Wroclaw
15. Gdansk
16. Katowice
17. Athens
18. Thessaloniki
19. Larnaca
20. Vilnius
21. Riga
From September wizz air adds 6 new directions:
1. Brussels, Belgium
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
3. Basel, Switzerland
4. Eindhoven, Holland
5. Bar, Italy
6. Tallinn, Estonia
Other directions:
2. Kharkiv, Ukraine
3. Odessa, Ukraine
The answer to the question why to visit Georgia and Kutaisi can be found in our image clip on
the following link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1757405371037820
On the website of our Tourism center
https://www.facebook.com/tourismcenterofkutaisi/?hc_location=ufi you can find plenty of
special offers of the private sector for tourists.
Finally, if possible, we would like to ask you to put this clip on your communication channels
using the hashtag #Spend Your Summer In Georgia Kutaisi. This will be an invaluable aid
for our country and city, and another proof that the relationship between our cities is fruitful,
result-oriented and productive.
We are counting on your support.
Thank you in advance!
With Regards,
Giorgi Tchigvaria
Mayor of Kutaisi Municipality Mayor of Kutaisi Letter

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Model United Nations Delegates Presentation to NKTA

Our two Model United Nations Participants had shared their memories and experiences of their time in Kutaisi. It was a packed meeting, seeing His worshipful the Mayor also attend. Both participants, Edward and Libby provided excellent accounts to members present.

They shared their experiences of the Model United Nations session itself where they had been assigned to Moldova as the country they needed to represent to the session. They also noted the various excursions hosted by both Kutaisi City hall and friends in KNIA. Both had attended `Rustavi`- a famous Georgian dance ensemble.

They advised that they have made many new friends from across the world but have a very positive long lasting memory of Kutaisi and Georgia. Both Edward and Libby thanked the members present for being able to have had the chance to attend the session and life changing experiences it has brought. Members were also invited to ask any questions of which were related to their experiences of food, culture and general experience in Kutaisi and Georgia.

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2 Newport Young People attend Model United Nations Conference in Kutaisi


Recently two young people in cooperation with Kutaisi City Hall Participated in a Model United Nations Event within the city. The young people were invited via the Mayor of Newport Cllr Malcolm Linton, who was asked to select two students to represent the city during this activity.

The Mayor, upon recommendation from NKTA had chosen Mr Edward Jones and Miss Libby Jones (no relation) to represent the city. The activity was held between 13th and 15th September seeing 30 participants from other sister twinned or partner cities, alongside 30 participants from across Georgia. Kutaisi City Hall and partners had covered the expenses relating to accommodation, meals and inner city transportation.

Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association had paid for the flights to Georgia. Our Friends in Kutaisi Newport International Association had assisted by welcoming them into the city as well as being fantastic hosts and entertaining them by showing them around the city and local areas.

During the Model United Nations event itself both Edward and Libby had been assigned Moldova, as the country to represent in the set debate. Both done the city of Newport proud by coming second in the best Delegate category.

We are very thankful to all who had provided such an opportunity to Newport Young people, they had a fantastic time and have many lasting memories of the hospitality as well as the beauty we ourselves in NKTA had fallen in love with.

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30th Anniversary Celebrations of Bristol Tbilisi Twinning Association

Report by Sylvia Mason on last nights (Saturday 17th February) Supra celebrating 30yrs of the organisation.



Members of the Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association travelled to Bristol on Saturday evening as guests of the Bristol Tbilisi Twinning Association.

The event was a Georgian Supra to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the Bristol Association and the appointment of Derek Pickup, its chair, as Honorary Consul for the South West.
Other guests included the Georgian ambassador, the mayor of Bristol and representatives of Bristol’s other twinning associations. The toastmaster was the Romanian Consul.

Georgian wine complemented the food, which was all prepared by members of the Bristol association under the direction of Esther Keller. The wonderful Bristol Georgian choir sang Georgian folk songs. Video found via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYkyrDMCcw8&t=11s

Video Credit – Sonia Fisher


Sonia Fisher, chair of the Newport association, in her speech, thanked and congratulated the Bristol Tbilisi Association and spoke of our mutual love for Georgia

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New Mayor of Kutaisi

New Mayor of Kutaisi, Giorgi Chigvaria born in 1980 in Kutaisi is Associated Prof. in Akaki Tsereteli State University in the Department of Social Sciences.
In 1997–2002 he finished the faculty of History, specialty: History of Eastern Countries. In 2002-2003 he was a researcher and language teacher of ‘Ankara University’ in Turkey. In 2010 he got PhD degree in History (Title of the dissertation – “Geopolitics of Turkey in 1990s of 20th century’’). As for work experience, during the last period he worked as the Vice-Governor of Imereti region.
At last, his wife, Tamta Popkhadze works in Akaki Tsereteli State University, Faculty of Humanities, Center of Languages as English language teacher. Tamta is also PhD student and studies Contrastive Linguistics.

Mr Chigvaria is one of our two Joint Presidents, who we welcome and  send our best wishes to him for his time while in office.

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Mayor of Newport – Christmas Party in aid of the Mayor’s Charities

NKTA members and friends enjoyed a wonderful evening last night at the Mayor of Newport’s Christmas Party held at Junction 28 restaurant. The annual event was held in aid of the Mayor’s Charities.

Those present, all had an excellent time and it was good for NKTA to support our President the Mayor of Newport.

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Reviving Rugby Ties between Newport Rugby Club and Kutaisi Rugby Club

Recently Newport was visited by 2 members of the Kutaisi Rugby Club, the visit was hosted by Newport Rugby Club and saw the club members attend both a local match but also the Wales V Georgia match within the Principality Stadium.

Newport Rugby and Kutaisi Rugby Clubs are looking to revive ties among one another. As part of their visit to the city, they met with His Worshipful, The Mayor of Newport (Cllr David Fouweather), hosted by NKTA (Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association) and Newport City Council.

Our visitors were kindly welcomed to the Mayor’s parlour for light refreshments and discussion before undertaking a brief tour of the Civic Centre and chance to admire the famous murals.

Below is the Newport RFC article noting the visit :


By John Barrett | 23/11/2017


Newport RFC bid farewell to our two Georgian guests from AIA RC Kutaisi this morning, as they set off for home after a week’s stay in the city. Dimitri Pularia (manager of the AIA rugby school) who was also here 19 years ago, and David Nemsadze (AIA’s S&C coach) had time out to visit the Principality Stadium and the Centre of Excellence at the Vale, together with watching Newport RFC defeat Ebbw Vale last Sunday. During their stay they experienced rugby at all levels from the regional game to schools and also witnessed training sessions.

The highlight of the trip was at Cardiff last Saturday when Georgia went down narrowly against Wales. David’s brother, Giorgi, was lock forward in the Georgian pack and it was his match jersey that David presented to Newport, Wales and Lions legend, Brian Price last night, on behalf of the club (pictured).

The Black and Ambers are famous world-wide and are delighted to make rugby links with AIA RC Kutaisi. It is hoped that Newport RFC will be able to tour Kutaisi in the future.

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Wardrop Strategic Dialogue at Lancaster House 24th Oct 2017

The Chair (Sonia Fisher) of Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association (NKTA) attended the Wardrop Discussions as invited by the Georgian Embassy based in London.

Ms Fisher was invited to provide a brief presentation noting the activities and work of NKTA.  She was joined by the two other twining organisations along with many other organisations and businesses.

The theme of the day was centred around  ‘People to People-Culture and Education Pillar’  



Please find notes as written by Ms Fisher

The following areas are split into a number of areas that being

  • Education
  • International Higher Education Links
  • Culture and Creativity
  • Professional Development of health/ Bio-Medical Professionals
  • Twinning
  • British Georgian Society


 English Language learning and teaching:

 Objective: Outline new areas of focus, including more and wider access to English learning opportunities at the community level, and increased teacher development programmes.

International Higher Education links:

Objective: Understand and explore education links in higher education, science and research, particularly international student mobility, and including the Study in Georgia campaign.


Objective: Discuss opportunities for further capacity building in the arts/creative industry sector, with a focus on SMEs, the media as creative industry and festival development.


Objective : Share an overview of he collaboration with the British Medical Journal on professional development schemes for health and bio-medical professionals.


Objective:   To better understand priorities , future plans and scope for further                             cooperation in the 3 UK -Georgia twinning schemes.


Objective: Share an overview of the British Georgian Society and the society’s plans.



  • There are new areas of focus – access to early language
  • British Council to help institutions in Georgia -widening the access beyond cities.
  • Aim to build stronger educational links/UK/Georgia.
  • Partnership with the Ministry of Education.
  • 3000 English language teachers engaged by the British Council.
  • Teacher/Education programme in Georgia. Links for continuous development.
  • Promotion of English language throughout primary schools.
  • Ministers of Justice /Ministry of Science in Georgia to extend English language teaching which is a priority.
  • Training the trainers.
  • An international Education Centre to be established with funding for students – with English language a priority.
  • There is an aim to strengthen English language teaching and British Council ready to co-ordinate.
  • Open foundation – British Council to provide support.


International Higher Education Links:

  • Scholarships available for Georgian students particularly scientific students.
  • Many projects which can be implemented and it is an ambitious plan attractive to foreign students.
  • 25 programmes for Higher Education which will give students the Diploma in International Education.  High quality with Quality Assurance attached.
  • Joint Degree programmes with foreign universities – accredited programmes.
  • Cooperation already with USA and France.
  • Double degree / Masters degree programmes.
  • A large campus to be developed in Kutaisi to attract foreign students.
  • A need to expand additional programmes.
  • Inform UK Universities that this opportunity is there!
  • Further UK cooperation required :-
  • Teaching of English
  • Vocational education.
  • Staffing exchanges


International Education Centre:- Funding by Georgian Government.

  • Network with UK Universities required.
  • International cooperation and training needed to improve quality assurance mechanisms in Georgia.
  • Scientific opportunities to be established in Georgia and exchange programmes for research students . Georgia offers cooperation with UK.


 Georgia Regional Hub: for Education .- Director of Education , Professor Rebecca Hughes.

  • Innovative Centres which are interesting to teachers.
  • Keen to support international credit mobility.
  • Erasmus British Council  to act as agent. Expansion needed – student .staff exchange.
  • ‘Go International Go Live’ Programme being launched by the British Council.
  • Already 20 universities have signed up and probably all universities will sign up to the programme.


CULTURE AND CREATIVITY.- Nick Dodds Executive Director Festivals and Events Ent.

  • Strong cultural links . Institute of Creative Georgia / creative industry strategy.
  • Focus on creative industries.
  • Value of creative sector in UK = £24 Billion.
  • This important sector in UK could be a valuable sector in Georgia.
  • Festival events in UK are increasing in popularity .
  • British Council supports publicity of Arts Centres. and the broad range of festivals which are an important part of the mix.



  • Collaboration with the British Medical Journal on professional development schemes for health and biomedical professionals.
  • British Medical Journal is not a big organisation. British Council has helped with the translation in Georgia.
  • It is an immediate resource for current information but the challenge is cultural and need to resolve to get it embedded .  BMJ are looking for partners to assist.



  • Each representative of the Twinning Associations gave an account of their recent and future plans .
  • The Georgian representatives thanked all three Twinning associations for their work and were impressed with the amount of activity which took place between the two countries.  It was appreciated how important these links were to Georgia.



  • Reported details of their current membership, Many events organised but mainly in London . Hope to organise events outside of London so wider membership can attend.
  • Re education – Will  fund  individuals who are BGS members for research in Georgia.


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