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The Club – 10 Years Young -1998

Club – Ten years young!

Tony Hooper, published in Inter-Comm – winter 1998

Over the current three Months, the Club International d’Andorra will be celebrating its tenth birthday. Here Tony Hooper tells us about the early history of the Club.

When I meet members at the coffee morning or on Club functions, I realise that many of our present members have no idea of how and when it all started. November and December this year mark the birth, or at least the gestation period, of the International Club.

One reason for its formation was that in the not-too-distant days no more than twenty foreigners were allowed to meet together unless they were part of an officially recognised organisation. Some members still have memories of the police coming to a party to count how many were present!

The original concept

This situation obviously had some bearing on the need for a club, but the real seeds came from Kerstin Walker who dreamt of an organisation which would welcome all nationalities and through social intercourse bind them together. She tells me that she first had the idea whilst recuperating in hospital, and later she discussed it with members of the Andorran Inner Wheel.

During the last two months of 1988, a series of meetings were held to find out what was needed and the interests of those who attended. On 10th January, a Steering Committee was formed of Doreen Woollen (President), Emyr Hughes (Co-President), Inge Miller (Treasurer) and Morna Hughes (Secretary). A week later, following an announcement on Radio Valira, an open meeting was held. To fulfil the requirements of an Andorran President, Alan Hartree was invited to fill the post and the members of the Steering Committee were confirmed as Officers until the Club could become “legal”.

The next day, 18th January, the first meeting of the Wednesday Coffee Morning was held at the Hotel Valira. Almost without a break, this weekly meeting has taken place, and is the forum where many of our present members first came into contact with the Club. For the first two years, meetings continued at the Hotel Valira, then after a short period at the Roc Blanc we moved to Hotel Paris-Londres which in many ways has become our “home” .

The initial committee meetings were held in the Inner Wheel offices, a rather small place that over some time provided a base for a number of activities. I well remember painting scenery there with Ron Richards. With the very limited space, it was a wonder that we did not paint every wall as well.

A meeting with Paco Rodriguez at the Comu d’Escaldes-Engordany led to an agreement to allow us to use two rooms on two afternoons a week. In fact, the Comu became our first base for a number of activities. These included language classes in Catalan, Spanish, French and English, practice facilities for the choir, committee meetings of both the Club and various groups. This continued until pressure on the facilities (which we had been getting free) meant that we had to look elsewhere. But the Theatre Group continued, presenting only two Cabarets and one play away from Escaldes.

The early activities and Groups.

During 1989, an attempt was made to have a social event each month of lunches and dinners with speakers (I was honoured to be amongst those), a picnic lunch hosted by Jacquie Crozier, and a dinner at the Hotel Coma. A large number of groups had been formed, and the forerunners of our International Singers had become part of the Club. It is interesting to note that these singers had a male majority whilst today the choir is female. Where oh where have all the men gone?

Throughout the year, proceeded on writing and submitting a Constitution. Approval of it was given by the Minister of Education and Culture on 7th September and by the Government on the 17th, and the Secretary was notified on the 1st November.  On 30th November, the first elections were held combined with a dinner at the Hotel Comtes d’Urgell , and the initial “official” Committee were in office. Of our “active” members, only Jacquie Crozier was on the Board.

The groups and their activities have always been the strength of the Club. Again only Jacquie continues as a Group leader from the original leaders. The original groups were: Art, Naturalists, Music (choir) , Bridge, Tennis, Wine-Tasting, Helpline, Computers – all of which have survived – and cooking, Languages and Drama. Some have not had a continuous history, but we are fortunate that when one seems  to be disappearing someone comes forward to resurrect the group.

Ten years have seen many changes, but it is my belief that we have always gone forward, and continue to do so. I introduced the Magazine in September 1991, and I am very pleased that it now only gets better each issue under the editorship of Margaret Shaida. Jacquie, who was co-editor with me of the magazine (and the rather meagre newsletter which preceded it) launched the AWN – Andorra Weekly Newsletter five years ago, a publication which is of immense value to our members. The International Singers have become a very important part of the cultural life of the country, and act as excellent ambassadors of the Club. In some ways they epitomise the true spirit of the Club in that they have fifteen different nationalities singing.

During the past years several members have taken responsibility for organising “activities” .

This has enabled members to travel and visit many places both within Andorra and in some cases far afield. The last two or three years these activities have been truly organised in a very professional manner by Ann Price and Josefina Martinez. We certainly missed their efforts when they took a short break recently. Now, once more back in the saddle, members can look forward to an exciting programme.

There was a period when the Club was viewed with suspicion by others in the country. Even ex-pats who worked here and were members of Andorran institutions were wary of becoming members. We were viewed as an elitist group who wished to keep separate from the life of the country. Oh, how things have changed, and much of the credit for that must go to Caroline Colvin-Smith who took on the post of Publicity Officer and spread our name and our activities far and wide. Today, we are regarded as an integral part of the cultural life of Andorra, and the media search us out so that they can report our activities.

Although there will always be further summits to climb, further standards to achieve, I believe that we have started to attain the dream of our founders – a Club which through social interaction brings together people of all nationalities who live in this beautiful country of Andorra.

Tony Hooper, Inter-Comm Winter 1998