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Contact Club Weekend

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International Fellowship in Banbury Town Hall:
Thursday 29th May saw the arrival of 58 Rotarians from France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, all ready to enjoy (we hoped!) a weekend of fellowship and entertainment – the culmination of 10 month’s planning by the Banbury Contact Committee. 22 visitors to be hosted in Rotarian’s homes and the rest cosseted in the Banbury House Hotel.
Our guests were collected from a wide variety of locations, either by coach or volunteer drivers in their own cars, the whole operation masterminded by Phil Cavill. After registration and a reception at the hotel, it was great to see so many people enthusiastically meet up with old friends.
Arrangements had been made for hosts to entertain their guests that evening at a variety of hostelries around the Banbury area.
On Friday we congregated at the Rugby Club car park to be collected by two coaches, which transported us to our first venue, Compton Verney.
On arrival coffee was served in the Adam Room and we were given a brief history of the development of Compton Verney. We were then free to roam around the gallery to view their impressive display of artworks, as well as this season’s special exhibition of sculptures by Henry Moore and Rodan.
At 1 o’clock we returned to the Adam Room for an excellent lunch, after which we returned to the coaches and departed for Stratford upon Avon.
We had arranged tours of the recently redeveloped Royal Shakespeare Company theatre. Our guides took us round the building, explaining some of the history and indicating the structural changes which had been made. We were also able to view the new stage of the main theatre as well as the auditorium of the Swan. As the tours had to be split into two groups there was free time to enable our visitors to explore some of the sites in Stratford.
At 6 o’clock we boarded the coaches again, to be deposited at Banbury Town Hall where, after a drinks reception, we enjoyed a meal and were royally entertained by the Susan Taylor Dancing Academy, Graham Anker and his magical friends and the talented students of the Sibford School House Band.
After a leisurely breakfast on Saturday morning, we assembled at Broughton Grange around 10 o’clock for an introduction to the fantastic gardens by the head gardener Andrew.
We were then free to explore the extensive grounds and rounded the morning off with copious cups of coffee on demand.
With lunch time fast approaching, we drove the short distance to the Wroxton House Hotel for pre- meal drinks and an excellent lunch, served under the eagle eye of Rotarian John Smith.
The proposed visit to Banbury Cricket Club to educate our guests on the finer points of the national game was rained off, so the afternoon was free for site seeing around Banbury and district, or to relax.
At 6.15 p.m., the coaches were summoned to transport us to Heythrop Park, where, after yet another drinks reception, this time taken on the terrace in bright sunshine, we retired to the Enstone Suite.
There President John welcomed the guests and the President elect of the Aalen-Heidenheim Club invited us to join them for next year’s Contact gathering in Germany.
Speeches over, we sat down to dinner and then danced the night away – well, till midnight. Our “Barkers Carriages” delivered around 100 tired but seemingly happy Rotarians back to Banbury and bed.
The official programme having been completed, Sunday morning was spent socialising with our guests and bidding them farewell as they started their journey home.
We have received some really good feedback from the visiting clubs and it seemed to me that friendships and acquaintances made on previous Contacts had been strengthened and expanded. If you hosted or joined us at some of the events we organised, thank you for your support. If you couldn’t make it this time, give it some thought for the future – it’s a great event.
John Bennett