Chair’s Annual Report 2015-16

The Chair’s Annual Report for the year 2015-16, showcasing a summary of the work the association has done this past year.

    ANNUAL REPORT 2015-2016

Please click the above link in order to view the annual report 2015-16 (file is in PDF format)

Thank you all for such a fantastic year and hope to have an even bigger and better one next year (2016-17)




Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Chair’s Annual Report 2015-16


Following an invitation from the Mayor of Kutaisi early in 2015, Rosemary, Caroline and Derek, together with Madonna and KNIA members, spent over a year organising the visit; part of the celebrations for the 25th Anniversary of the signing of the Twinning Agreement.

The visiting group consisted of 16 people including the Bishop and Dean of Monmouth , the Artistic Director of Ballet Cymru, the East Area Commander of Gwent Constabulary, the Deputy Dean of USW, the Chair of Governors of Coleg Gwent and three senior academic staff, the Secretary of the Aneurin Bevan Health Trust and a senior Consultant Nurse, the Director of Newport YMCA , Sonia fisher chair of NKTA and NKTA executive members Rosemary, Caroline and Derek.

Individual group programmes were organised during which the visitors discussed matters of common interest and areas for future co-operation and this serious aspect of the visit ran alongside interesting visits and many opportunities to enjoy unrivalled Georgian hospitality and good company. During the visit Caroline was formally presented with the Honorary Citizenship of Kutaisi in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the twinning over the past quarter of a century and the NKTA wishes to congratulate Caroline for this well earned honour.

NKTA presented the city of Kutaisi with a commemorative plaque which was unveiled by Sonia and the Mayor of Kutaisi. The plaque is situated in Newport Street.

Some of our members enjoying the informal networking after the informative talk the Mayor of Kutaisi and Professor Madonna Megelishvil were both presented with certificates signed by the Mayor of Newport and the newly elected Leader of Newport City Council Debbie Wilcox thanking them for the invaluable contribution they have made to the twinning. The two Kutaisi youngsters who will visit Wales in October for the Wales v Georgia football match (funded by GOL and hosted by the NKTA) together with an accompanying adult, were selected by NKTA members from a short list prepared by KNIA members.

The visit was hugely enjoyed by everyone, especially those visiting Kutaisi and Georgia for the first time. The possible outcomes from this visit are still being considered and discussed but undoubtedly the visit was an important milestone in the friendship between our two cities.

On behalf of NKTA, the chair would like to thank Rosemary, Caroline and Derek as well as the Mayor of Kutaisi and our KNIA friends for making this visit possible

Cake to help celebrate 25years of the twinning between the two cities.

Members of the Civic Visit receive gifts from the Kutaisi hosts

Dame Rosemary Butler and Her Excellency the British Ambassador to Georgia, Alexandra Hall


Chairs of NKTA and KNIA

The 25years of twinning friendship walk – the walk took place on Newport Street




Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on NEWPORT CIVIC LEADER’S VISIT TO KUTAISI June 2016

Talk given by Derek Pickup, Chair Bristol Twinning Association

On Wednesday 6th April at the YMCA, Newport’s Mayor, Cllr. Herbie Thomas and Mayoress, Jacqueline Mitchell together with members and guests of NKTA heard a fascinating talk given by Derek Pickup, Chair of Bristol Tbilisi Association.

He first explained how in 1947 Bristol had first twinned with Hanover and Bordeaux with successful links being established. Following the Cold War, Bristol was keen to twin with the Soviet Union and then in 1988 twinned with Tbilisi.

Derek Pickup addresses Mayor and NKTA members

At first it had been difficult to travel to and from Georgia and then civil war followed the referendum in 1991 where the overwhelming majority had been in favour of independence from the Soviet Union.

LtoR Mayor Cllr. Herbie Thomas, Mayoress Jacqueline; speaker, Derek Pickup BTA; Chair Sonia Fisher NKTA

He spoke of how his involvement began when he was an officer in Bristol City Council. A letter was received from the Environment Department in Tbilisi City Council asking for help. As a result, Derek went to London to see the Georgian Ambassador and successfully applied to the Know-How Fund for money for two

Mayor with Member Derek Butler R

projects. As one was for a civic delegation exchange Derek went first to check the arrangements. He stayed for a week and referred to the many banquets, which took place and the traditional toasts, which they included.

Bristol carried out environmental projects in Tbilisi. At all times the Georgians were very friendly and hospitable, with invitations into their homes. Eventually he went there on holiday with his wife. Personal friendships were forged, to the extent that he would be met by these friends on arrival at Tbilisi Airport.

Later, among other activities, the Bristol Tbilisi Association took aid into Georgia at the time of the Russian invasion and then Derek took the first group of businessmen to Tbilisi. Often such a visit would be filmed by Georgian TV for the whole stay. Finally he personally was honoured to be given the title of ‘First Guardian of the City of Tbilisi’.

He commented on the difference in the city since 1988, when it was firmly set in the Soviet era, and the present. Now Tbilisi feels like a developed West European city.

Derek Pickup with Stephen Marshall centre speaking with members of the Youth Exchange visit in 2014

Mayor and Mayoress with NKTA member Catherine Philpott









2018 will be the 30th anniversary of the twinning and this is to be marked by a group visit to Tbilisi.

Derek was thanked most warmly for his talk. References to the friendliness and hospitality of the Georgians certainly echoed experiences of NKTA members who have visited Georgia.

Members and guests including R to L Esther Keller, Secretary of the BTA; Derek Butler; Sylvia and Colin Mason.









In thanking Derek, Sonia Fisher expressed her hope for more links to be established between the two twinning associations.

Following the talk, everyone enjoyed refreshments of Georgian food and wine. Esther Keller (Secretary of the BTA) supplied delicious khachapuri, Georgia’s national dish

Enjoying Georgian wine with katchapuri

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Talk given by Derek Pickup, Chair Bristol Twinning Association

Dr. Ana Chankvetadze PhD. MA

1 2Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association wishes to congratulate Ana Chankvetadze on gaining her doctorate last month from the Faculty of Arts at Kutaisi, Akaki Tsereteli State University. Her dissertation on ‘TIME’ IN MODERN ENGLISH AND GEORGIAN PHRASEOLOGY was based on English and Georgian Phraseology.

Head of the Programme: Prof. Madonna Megrelishvili                                          Research Supervisor:  Dr. Maia Chkheidze Prof. Philological Sciences.                       Opponents: Dr.Tinatin Sinjiashvili Prof. Philological Sciences; Dr. Rusudan Gotsiridze, Prof. Pedagogical Sciences.


The defence of the dissertation took place on 20th February 2016 in the Faculty of Arts at Kutaisi, Akaki Tsereteli State University.



Ana came to Newport in Sept 2010-11 to take up a place at the University of Wales, Newport on the MA Degree course – Educational Leadership and Management, graduating in 2012.



5 2

L to R: Ass. Prof. Nino Demetradze; Ass. Prof. Irma Rusadze; Dr. Ana Chankvetadze; Ass. Prof. Keti Doghonadze; Ass. Prof.Nunuka Charkviani


She returned home to join the staff of the Kutaisi City Hall, Department of Foreign Relations and International as principal projects specialist with Head of Dept. David Megrelishvil, also a past UWN student.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Dr. Ana Chankvetadze PhD. MA


Catherine Philpott made a return visit to St Mary’s Primary School to talk to Yr 4 on image2Georgia and it’s people, especially of Kutaisi and the friendship groups that have grown through the Twinning Associations.
This Spring term the children are focusing on ‘The CITY of NEWPORT’, its rich industrial history and development throughout the ages.

Many questions were asked and the classes are looking forward to researching in depth all the aspects that Catherine touched upon such as landscape, architecture, dance, art and music.
A showcase of the year’s work will take place before the end of term.

NKTA would like to thank St Mary’s, especially teacher, Emma Wilkinson for giving them the opportunity to involve the wider community.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ST MARY’S PRIMARY SCHOOL, NEWPORT

2016 Georgian Christmas


Members & friends of NKTA

2016 STARTED WELL with the annual gathering of NKTA members hosted by Chair Sonia Fisher at her home.  It was to celebrate the Georgian Christmas Day that falls every year on 6th January. Many members joined her on this social occasion and once again, as in years past, they not only enjoyed good food but also admired her most remarkable Christmas decorations. Thank you Sonia for a wonderful evening.


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 2016 Georgian Christmas

GEORGIAN STUDIES DAY 2015 University of Westminster on Thursday 5 th November 2015

The Studies Day begins

The Studies Day begins


Chair: Tamara Dragadze

HE Prof. Gachechiladz stated that 6% of GMP was generated by tourism. In 1991 the USSR was dissolved but borders remained as per Soviet republics. In 2012 there were 700,000 Russian tourists coming to Georgia drawn by the temperate climate and the Black Sea coastline but there had been the need to address security issues.

The Studies Day begins

The Studies Day begins

By 2014 it was easier to do business. There have been many improvements put in place in regards to human rights and democracy since 2012.

Today almost no one is afraid to walk out at night. There is less than 5% loss of property. Lack of safety is no longer an issue.

Georgia would like to see more tourists from UK even though there has been a 70% increase since 2013.

Question – Why there is a lack of direct flights from UK?
Prof. Gachechiladz replied there was a rumour that Easyjet is looking at providing a
service. He added that there is a new airport in Kutaisi with flights from Istanbul and other airports.

There are plans to develop small tourist companies to promote Georgia.
It was suggested, from the floor, that themed tourism was an idea, eg – wine tourism as next year the World Wine Conference will be held in Georgia.

1. Teona Chachua from Brand Development Department of Georgian National Tourist Administration. “ The Tourism Potential of Georgia”.
Ms. Chachua said that Georgia was unique – it was at the crossroads of Europe and Asia – the silk route to Turkey from the Far East. Lifestyle rated Georgia to be 4th out of the 10 safest countries in the world with police service controlling highways day & night.

Wine Making/ Food
Culture; Music
UNESCO heritage sites
Birthplace of European civilisation
European Heritage sites
Tbilisi’s History from 1st Century
Incorporation of different civilisations
Batumi – entertainment and leisure; botanical gardens; boulevards ​

2. Nino Pavliashvili of Tbilisi State University spoke on “Georgian Tourism and University Education”.
Ms. Pavliashvili said that there are now degree courses at various universities e.g Kutaisi Batumi for tourism, hotel and event management etc with currently 1,000 students enrolled.

3. Giorgi Kalandaze gave an overview of “ Adventure Tourism in Georgian”.
Ski Resorts – Gudauri at 3000 meters was only 50 minutes journey from Tbilisi.
Mestia, another beautiful resort at 1800 meters with ski lifts will be opening next year. Bakuriani is a suitable ski resort for beginners.

Adventure Holidays – 4 X 4 drives; para-gliding; mountain biking; walking.

Many articles on travel to Georgia appear online. International hotel chains have now
been built throughout the country including Radisson, Marriot, Hilton etc. and although
there are many direct flights to Georgia there are still none from the UK at present. Apart
from the tourist numbers from Russia there was a 7% rise in visitors overall.

Most visitors come from neighbouring countries travelling by car or train.
UK numbers are increasing, 7,000 UK visitors in 2013 and 15,000 in 2014.

Marketing. The use of CNN, Euronews and world travel market/international exhibitions.
Stephen raised concerns at this point that it was not overly clear what audience they were
targeting. When asked they said everyone was advised. Steve highlighted that CNN and
Euronews were not sources generally viewed in the UK, especially by young people. More
needs to be undertaken online through social media and videos. They replied that this was
being done but mainly using Georgia as a brand name and not by different packages,
eg back packers, wine tasters etc. effectively enough.

4 Jonathan Djanogly MP for Huntington spoke of his experience visiting Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Batumi saying that Georgians were looking to the west rather than the east for trade and work.He had been to Georgia as part of the UK parliamentary Georgian all-party committee. He referred to Adventure Tourism including walking in the national parks of the Caucasus region, camping & skiing. He hoped that more British would start to visit Georgia – the new destination in Europe.

5 Helen Farrell spoke on “ Sustainable Tourism” .
Ms. Farrell talked about community participants as being the core of any development.
It was rural Georgia that tourists were being drawn to; being so attractive it was the very
reason they wanted to visit. But the rural communities will have to be prepared to embrace
such development of tourism but this won’t happen overnight. It was important that the development of hotels and facilities did not change the face of Georgia.

6 Alistair Watson – An athlete who had completed a marathon in Tbilisi gave his personal reflections as a sportsman in Georgia supported by a delightful power point presentation. Only one marathon is staged in Georgia but even this could be promoted in other countries.​

7 Go Barefoot Travel & Original Travel Co – an interesting presentation reinforcing many points that had already been made about tourism in Georgia.
Go Barefoot is an interesting project looking at having trails/walks through the Caucasus mountains with Tbilisi excursions. This project is in the early stages and being led by a UK

8 Peter Naysmith walker, bookseller, guide, photographer gave a “ Georgia in Pictures” presentation.

9 Michael Bloom – personal reflections as a tourist in Georgia. Married to a Georgian he regards himself as an honorary Georgian. He shared his holiday photographs of a recent trip.

10 Jason Osborne – reported on the Georgian Film Festival.
There are more films being produced in Georgia which is very much welcomed.

Centre Sonia Fisher, Chair NKTA with L Cllr. Derek Pickup, Chair Bristol Twinning Association and R Representative of Newcastle Twinning

Centre Sonia Fisher, Chair NKTA with L Cllr. Derek Pickup, Chair Bristol Twinning Association and R Representative of Newcastle Twinning

For the first time Bristol and Newport were joined by Newcastle who have links with manytowns and cities around the world who share their name of Newcastle, includingAKHALTSIKHE a small city in Georgia’s southwestern region.

BRISTOL reported on their past successful year holding a trade fair in the centre of Bristol and also funding a Georgian street artist to come to Bristol. The artist was asked to paint some pictures on canvas which were auctioned and enough money was raised to cover his expenses.

NEWPORT Sonia Fisher and Stephen Marshall gave a joint presentation of NKTA’s
activities over the past year that included:

  • Reception given by the Mayor of Newport for members of the Georgian Rugby team who were training in Newport during the Rugby World Cup.
  • Visit made to Tbilisi and Kutaisi by Dame Rosemary Butler AM, Derek Butler &
    Caroline McLachlan.
  • NKTA’s support of the Tbilisi Flood Appeal.

    Right -Nestani Nebulishvili, resident of Kutaisi on a visit to London.

    Right – Nestani Nebulishvili, resident of Kutaisi on a visit to London.

  • St Mary’s School Newport – work on All Things Georgian.
  • Growth and development of NKTA Facebook Page exchanging up to the minute
    news of both cities.
  • Launch of new NKTA website

There followed a wine reception where there was the opportunity for Sonia and Stephen to
meet and speak with the Ambassador, delegates & friends. Appreciation was expressed
for the continuing friendship with Georgia especially with the city of Kutaisi.

Stephen Marshall commented:
Overall a really good event – very interesting and informative on how Georgia is focusing on making itself the place to go, more so now than ever. The country of Georgia is becoming well known by many due to sport such as the Rugby World Cup and football.

Display of Georgian illuminated script and alphabet

Display of Georgian illuminated script and alphabet

Display of Georgian illuminated script and alphabet

Display of Georgian illuminated script and alphabet










For fuller accounts and pictures of all NKTA’s 2015 activities see below
under Latest News.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on GEORGIAN STUDIES DAY 2015 University of Westminster on Thursday 5 th November 2015

News of David Megrelishvili MSc.

David was one of NKTA’s postgraduate students who came to Newport from Kutaisi in 2004 to start his MBS studies at the University of Wales, Newport – as it was known then.

He wDavid_Megrelishvilias hugely popular, making many friends in both Newport & Caerleon. He gained his Masters Degree in 2007 but continued on working gaining experience in the business world – hotel and hospitality.

Finally in 2011 David returned to his home city of Kutaisi where he found employment in the Civil Service. He is making good use of his excellent English representing dignitaries both home and abroad. Here you will see he is with a Georgian delegation in the deep south of the USA.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on News of David Megrelishvili MSc.

Meeting with members of the Georgian Rugby Team

MEMBERS of the GEORGIAN RUGBY TEAM met the Mayor, Councillor Herbie Thomas & Mayoress Ms Jackie Thomas of Newport on Monday 28th September ahead of their historic Rugby World Cup clash against New Zealand later that week.


Mayor & Mayoress centre with NKTA members L-R Vika Tegelbeckers; Vera Brown; Sonia Fisher; Catherine Philpott & Derek Butler meeting members of the team


Lock Giorgi Begadze and from Kutaisi, prop Irakli Nariashvili, wing Giorgi Pruidze & Giorgi Nemsadze with Newport’s Mayor

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe Lelos had been training at Newport High School and staying at the Celtic Manor Resort Hotel in preparation for their first ever tussle against the mighty All Blacks at the Millennium Stadium.

The reception at the Mayor’s parlour in Newport’s Civic Centre was very significant because of Newport and Kutaisi’s very special twinning relationship.

Lock Giorgi Begadze and from Kutaisi, prop Irakli Nariashvili, wing Giorgi Pruidze & Giorgi Nemsadze were all in attendance alongside assistant coach Michael Bradley to meet, not only the Mayor and Mayoress, but the Association’s Chair Sonia Fisher, Vera Brown, Derek Butler, Vika Tegelbeckers and Catherine Philpott.

In a lively meeting, both parties discussed Georgia’s growing stature in world rugby and the pride both cities shared in being twinned with each other.

Presents were exchanged, with the Georgians presenting the Mayor with a team tie and plaque.

Assistant coach Mr Bradley, who won 40 caps for Ireland as a player, said: “For all the people of Kutaisi, it’s fantastic to have connections all over the world. Keep it up and keep supporting Georgian rugby.”

The Mayor of Newport said that he had learnt much from meeting members of the team and had found out a little more about Georgian rugby that he hadn’t previously known. ‘As Kutaisi is our twinned city, we do not miss any match of the Georgian team; we support them and glad that our friends from Kutaisi are with us today. This day is memorable and will become part of our history.

The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff can hold 75,000 fans. I have information that 5,000 fans have arrived from New Zealand. I assure you that the other 70,000 people will support the Georgian team!’.  Chair, Sonia Fisher, added: “Sport is a wonderful way of crossing boundaries and making friends.”

Later in the week the team went on to play a very commendable match with New Zealand who won by 43-10. Headlines in the press declared All Blacks stutter to unconvincing win……’ Telegraph. The good quality of rugby played by the Georgian team was widely recognized by the pundits.



Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Meeting with members of the Georgian Rugby Team

The Visit to Georgia by Rosemary & Derek Butler and Caroline MacLachlan 2nd – 12th June 2015

This event resulted from the visit to Tbilisi by NKTA members in 2014 when we were invited to attend the UK Embassy’s Queen’s Birthday Party as part of the twinning’s 25th anniversary celebrations.  During the planning stage held in the National Assembly with the UK’s Ambassador to Georgia, Alexandra Hall Hall, and others present, Rosemary asked the Welsh Rugby Union’s President, Dennis Gethin, if he would look at the possibility of a Welsh rugby tour of Georgia.  Dennis was interested as few Welsh teams have played there and it was a rugby playing country he had long wanted to visit and he offered to investigate the possibility of a tour in 2015. At an Assembly lunch Rosemary organised for the Ambassador in March, to which Dennis was also invited, he confirmed that arrangements for the tour were underway and that the team would consist of a selection of Wales’ best Under 21 players.  Dennis’s information was that that they would be travelling as a `Crawshay’s XV` and that the travelling party would consist of around 25 players and 40 Crawshay `Vice Presidents` (largely ex-Welsh International players), together with him and his wife Jan.  As the tour was taking place as a result of a request from Rosemary, Dennis suggested that Rosemary and I accompany the visitors and the Ambassador asked Rosemary if she would be willing to talk to political and civic groups while in Georgia.  Martin Jardine and Paul Roberts from the Wales Food Technology Centre and four Welsh military bandsmen joined the visiting party later. Caroline was intending to visit Kutaisi this year for important talks with the Rector of Akaki Tsereteli State University on developing closer co-operation between ATSU and the University of South Wales and she, too, was invited to join the group.

The rugby players and officials flew to Tbilisi on 1st June and we, together with Dennis & Jan, travelled a day later. We were met at the airport by senior Embassy officer John Geddes and our friends Dr Mamuka Melkadze and his wife Eka and driven to the Holiday Inn. The following morning around forty KNIA members travelled the 150 miles to Tbilisi by coach to greet us.  But before their arrival we were met by the Ambassador and Senior Embassy Officer Sophiko Katsarava  and taken to  a gathering of political and civic representatives (mostly women) at the Radisson.  Rosemary was introduced by the Ambassador and she gave a talk on `Women’s Participation on Politics in Wales`.  The discussion that followed centred on the opportunities for women in politics in contemporary Georgia.

Madlen, Rosemary, Jan and Gethin at the reunion lunch.

Madlen, Rosemary, Jan and Gethin at the reunion lunch.

We left for a restaurant in central Tbilisi where, together with Dennis and Jan, we met many of our Georgian friends headed by the marvellous KNIA Chair Madonna Megrelishvili and enjoyed a joyful reunion lunch. It was a highly animated party with hugs, socialising and many informal speeches. Dennis and Jan were amazed by their first experience of a truly Georgian welcome.

Welsh supporters at the first ruby match.

Welsh supporters at the first ruby match.

Later we were taken to Rustavi, a small town outside Tbilisi, for the first of the
international rugby matches,.  It was a big event for Rustavi and the stadium was full.  The teams were well matched but the Welsh team won by a narrow margin.  This was the first time we had met the Welsh team and officials since our arrival and they were full of praise for the hospitality they were receiving from the Georgian Rugby Union.  The evening ended with a splendid meal back in Tbilisi hosted by GRU President George Nijaradze and the many speeches of friendship were accompanied by a dramatic thunderstorm and exceptionally heavy rain – a prelude to the floods that devastated Tbilisi ten days later On Thursday morning we, together with one of our dearest Georgian friends Madona Tkeshelashvili, attended an enjoyable event organised by the UK Embassy entitled `A Taste of Britain` where Martin and Paul presented a tempting display of Welsh produce. It was held in a pavilion similar to the traditional bandstands found in British parks. Throughout their visit Martin and Paul did a magnificent job promoting Welsh food products and as we tasted welsh lamb and Welsh whisky accompanied by welsh airs from the military band, we could have easily imagined ourselves back home – except for the soaring temperature.

Rosemary and the Ambassador then departed for the Georgian Parliament where they had formal discussions with the Speaker.

The Embassy’s annual Queen’s Birthday Party was held that evening and amongst the many guests the large contingent of rugby players and officials were especially noticeable in their smart red outfits while the military bandsmen again provided a musical background.   As at last year’s QBP, Welsh flags were prominent and this was much remarked upon – a sign of the growing links between Wales and Georgia.  Many of our KNIA friends had also been invited and the evening soon turned into a genuine `party`.

A  break on the journey to Telavi.

A break on the journey to Telavi.

On Friday, we, together with the Ambassador and Embassy staff, Dennis & Jan and Martin & Paul were driven to Telavi in the Khakheti region of Eastern Georgia.  We travelled through idyllic and largely unpopulated countryside in the Embassy’s mini-bus, a vehicle smothered with large images of the Union Flag.  No occupants of the few cars we met en route could have doubted our nationality.  The purpose of the visit was the second talk by Rosemary, this time to the region’s civic leaders on `Welsh Political Identity – Wales in the UK and the EU` while Martin & Paul again organised an exhibition promoting Welsh produce.  It was a long day but we had time to chat with the Embassy staff, see parts of Georgia we hadn’t visited before and try a few `samples` at one of Khakheti’s vineyards.

Saturday morning and afternoon was largely free and we were hosted by Dr Mamuka Melkadze, Nick Okreshidze and their families in one of Tbilisi’s finest restaurants.

The Welsh rugby team enjoying Georgian cuisine.

The Welsh rugby team enjoying Georgian cuisine.

But before lunch we had time for a quick visit to the National Museum to see the paintings by the country’s best known artist Niko Pirosmani, works dating from the turn of the 20th century that convey the essence of Georgian life and culture. That evening we attended the second match between the young rugby players from Wales and Georgia and at the end if the game the RU Presidents Dennis Gethin and George Nijaradze, the Ambassador & Embassy staff, both teams, both sets of officials, all 40 Crawshay Vice Presidents  Martin & Paul, Jan Gethin, the bandsmen and Rosemary, Caroline and I, were taken to one of Tbilisi’s largest restaurants  to celebrate the outstanding success of the rugby tour.  Many of the Welsh sportsmen visiting Georgia for the first time told us they would never forget the hospitality they had received and several Vice Presidents claimed it was “the best Crawshay tour ever”. In scenes recalling a Pirosmani painting, there was much carousing and speechmaking and many remarked that the Welsh sportsmen, like the Georgian youngsters, had been a credit to their country.  It was a fitting end to an unforgettable five days.   On the following day, Sunday, Rosemary, Jan and Dennis and the rugby contingent flew back to the UK while the ever obliging Dr Mamuka Melkadze drove Caroline and me to Kutaisi.

On arrival we were taken to the Bagrati Hotel where we were met by close friends Maia Alavadze and Maia Abdeladze and shown to our rooms which were modern and extremely large. We were then taken to a nearby restaurant for an early dinner where we had ample time to catch up with the news of the many people we know and recent events in Kutaisi.

Caroline and Derek meeting Mayor Shota Murghulia at City Hall.

Caroline and Derek meeting Mayor Shota Murghulia at City Hall.

A full programme for our short visit had been prepared enabling us to meet a variety of different people and discuss future developments and collaborative activity. The meeting with Mayor Shota Murghulia focussed very much on the plans for the celebration in 2016 of the 25th anniversary of the twinning. The Mayor expressed his commitment to making this an occasion to remember and pledged his full support to publicising the wealth of activity that has taken place between the two cities since 1989. An interesting thread which emerged during this meeting was that one of the children, Timouraz Murgulia, who came to Newport more than twenty years ago with a group of children and their two teachers is a relative of the Mayor. Over the years, and prior to his election as Mayor, Shota Murghulia had heard about Newport through his family connections.

Nino, Madonna, Caroline, Lyalya, Eka, Maia, Tamriko & Elise .

Nino, Madonna, Caroline, Lyalya, Eka, Maia, Tamriko & Elise.

Our time spent at Akaki Tsereteli State University was extremely positive and we were able to see many friends who teach in the English Language Department and to participate in selected student seminars. A particularly interesting project, being led by Elise Pantshava and Natia Kvachakhidze, involves the translation of `The Mabinogian` from an English translation into Georgian. This is clearly a challenging venture and at the meeting attended by Derek it was suggested that Welsh speakers here could provide guidance as the translation work moves forward.

Issues impacting on effective Quality Assurance procedures are being addressed through an involvement with a TACIS project with a number of European partners. Whilst Derek met with those working on the Mabinogian project, I had the opportunity to meet Professor Irma Grdzelidze, Head of Quality Assurance, to learn more and consider any possible opportunities for future collaboration. Of particular interest was that of Peer Review as an evaluative tool for both staff and students and the importance of CPD to bring about an attitudinal change.

Our meeting with Rector Giorgi Gavtadze proved very fruitful as we learnt that there is a heightened interest in the development of inclusive practice and in the positive support of those with special educational needs. Very recently the Rector had received a government directive highlighting the role of universities in promoting this approach. This fitted in very well with a proposal from the Course Director of MA Creative Therapies in Education (Music), University of South Wales, that one or two students could join ATSU for a certain length of time and carry out a placement in an appropriate organisation in Kutaisi.

This potential for collaboration was further enhanced by the involvement by Professor Nino Nijaradze, Head of the English Language Department, who arranged for me to visit a centre for children with special educational needs entitled `First Step Georgia, Every Child is Special`. This is an NGO run by a psychologist who has introduced a range of inclusive practices for both children and their parents. There is considerable enthusiasm for the student placement to take place at this centre and discussions will continue with the psychologist through e-mail and at meetings with the MA course team at the USW.

A visit to Kutaisi would not be complete without a visit to the English Language Centre led by Professor Madonna Megrelishvili. On this occasion we heard presentations from the Executive Director of the International Centre for Caucasus Tourism, Marina Metreveli and also the Dean of the Agrarian Faculty, Professor Ketevan Kintsurashvili, about the need to promote Georgia as a centre for tourism. Much debate ensued with Kote Charkhalashvili, Head of Tourism in Imereti, keen to highlight the many strengths of the Imereti region.

One particularly heartwarming experience was our visit to the Kutaisi Botanical Gardens, firstly to enjoy the Gardens themselves and secondly to attend a concert for pensioners. We weren’t quite sure if we constituted the pensioners or if there were others of similar age attending! It transpired that there were a group of Kutaisi pensioners who lived nearby and they joined us in the audience for the concert. However when the pre-booked choir failed to turn up, they took to the stage and entertained us with music, recitations and songs. The whole experience was extremely moving and one which neither Derek nor I will forget.

Manana Karkashadze’s school has undergone considerable restoration work using natural materials and provides an interesting and creative environment for those children who attend. It was interesting for us to view all the recent developments which have taken place since our last visit. A visit to School No 9, arranged by Madlen Giorgadze, enabled us to reinforce the existing link between this school and St Mary’s School, Newport.

Throughout our four day stay in Kutaisi we experienced a wealth of hospitality in the Georgian tradition from our many friends. Special thanks must be given to Zaza & Tamriko and David & Manana who kindly invited us into their homes. The kindness, warmth and generosity extended to us was truly outstanding. Didi didi madloba! Rosemary, Derek, I, and indeed all NKTA members, believe it’s a huge privilege to have such a wealth of longstanding friendships lasting over so many years.

Madonna leads our friends as they prepare to wave us goodbye!

Madonna leads our friends as they prepare to wave us goodbye!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Visit to Georgia by Rosemary & Derek Butler and Caroline MacLachlan 2nd – 12th June 2015