First Dates - for Getting Acquainted
In late August 2006 the Prestonpans community and its neighbours Cockenzie, Port Seton and Longniddry, joined together as twins with the Tuscany hilltop town of Barga in Italy. Our Roving Reporter had been despatched there in advance on one of life's toughest assignments, both to see and to believe.
The signing ceremonies took place in Prestonpans during an extended inaugural visit to our communities which involved many groups meeting our Italian twin town's leaders. A comprenehsive report is linked here. And then in Spring 2007 retiring local Councillor/ East Lothian Provost Pat O'Brien and civic officials led school children from Scotland on their first major visits to Barga. Their experiences were documented at the barganews.com website.
The selection of Baraga as our twin had much to do with John Bellany, East Lothians' first ever Freeman and most distinguished living artist, who has spent much of his recent life painting in the Barga hills whilst remaining strongly loyal to his home town of Port Seton. Barga also happens to have very strong Scottish links dating back to the early 20th century when significant migration brought many family members here.
But .... What Happens Next?
Barga's Jazz Society and Annual Festival
Barga is particularly famed amongst many other attributes for its Jazz Club and its Annual Festival normally in August. And it is hoped that an annual visit by such music lovers can be made each year with Barghini making their way to Scotland for the Three Harbours Festival.There is so much to inspire artistic creativity no matter what one's discipline.
Once again, our reporter had the toughest of assignments in travelling back to Barga again to assess from the comfort of the Alpino Hotel the BargaJazz Festival in 2007 where Kenny Wheeler led the Master Classes.
Arts Festival Plans Regular Visits
In Spring 2008 the Prestoungrange Arts Festival gathered an artists' set together to visit Barga and lodge at The Alpino there - led by Gillian Hart. They were delighted to meet Musician-in-Residence Hamish Moore, small pipe maker and player extraordinaire.They returned to share in his Farewell Concert in Barga in September and excitingly now Hamish Moore is in residence in Prestonpans making Acoustic Music monthly premiered on November 1st - with many a friend - at the arts hub of The Pans, The Prestoungrange Gothenburg, each month. Amazing what twinning can trigger if you care for it!
Mayor Umberto Sereni returned again to The Pans in January 2009, prior to standing down from that office, and a Reunion of all thore who had earlier visited Barga was held.
And in June 2009 that Hamish Moore Farewell Concert in Barga gets its Scottish Premiere at The Three Harbours Festival in The Pans.
In May 2010 the Prestoungrange Arts Festival, with Tom Ewing as lead tutor, once again ventured to Barga- the visit known as Barga II was finely described by Martine Robertson. Hamish Moore accompanied the party and a fine exhibition of their art works was presented at the 3Harbours Festival jointly with Preston Lodge HighSchool - where the 2009/ 2010 cross-curricular project part funded by the Arts Festival had focussed on Italy and Barga in particular.
In August 2016 the Prestoungrange Arts Festival took the Scottish Diapora Tapestry to Barga for exhibition - with the text translated into Italian.Brga had pioneered the Diaspora Tapestry [along with Gothenburg] as Prestonpans TwinTown. Arrangments in Barga were co-ordinated by Petra Wend, Vice Chancellor and Principal of Queen Margaret University, who has enjoyed many a summer vacation in Barga since she came to Scotland and met 'our' tiwn!. After Barga it travelled south to Picinisco sponsored by Marietta and Cesidio do Ciacca of Port Seton/ Cockenzie.