Norfolk Day 2021: Celebrating the Norfolk and Norwich World Family
- Credit: Steve Adams
Today is Norfolk Day – what better time to honour and pay tribute to the man who introduced us to the Norfolk and Norwich World Family.
There are around three million people across the globe who have an address in either Norfolk or Norwich.
We are the originals and we can all be proud of that in this ever-changing world and remember we can learn so much from each other.
The man we have to thank for bringing us all together is the late Derek Bickford-Smith who, supported so well by his wife Huguette, visited almost all the 58 known communities named Norfolk or Norwich where he became a local celebrity.
And when he gave interviews the one question he was asked more than any other was: “Where is Norfolk and where is Norwich in England?”
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Derek wrote in his wonderful book Norfolk & Norwich World Family published in 2004: “This has been a labour of love and a small contribution to the peace of the world.
“Once we get to know one another, we can understand, we can talk, and the need for fighting is vastly lessened,” he said.
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Such wise words.
His inspiration to go searching for places called Norfolk and Norwich and introduce them to each other came by a man I suspect many of you will remember – the one and only Stanley Taylor.
Kind, thoughtful and knowledgeable Stan welcomed visitors from across the world in the Guildhall – he was “Mr Norwich” and got them to sign his visitors book?
At the start of the 1990s Derek went to work at the Guildhall alongside Stan as his assistant curator of the city regalia – the finest and oldest in the world.
It was that visitors book that got him thinking when he saw that some tourists came from places called Norfolk or Norwich across the world.
And once he started his research and investigations… he couldn’t stop.
One Norfolk led to another and it was the same with Norwich. They were popping up all over the world.
Derek reached out to the ones he could find – and was invited to visit them. First stop…the USA. The home of 14 Norfolk’s and 16 Norwich’s.
He was welcomed with open arms and given the opportunity to talk about his visit to groups, on the radio and in the papers.
Wherever he went the people were so pleased to meet him and exchange stories about their Norfolk or Norwich and ours… we really were members of one big family and every place had a story to tell.
Thanks to Derek and Huguette and their many supporters the first world gathering of Norfolk and Norwich communities took place in 1996 to coincide with the Lord Mayor’s annual street parade and join in the celebrations to mark the 900th anniversary of our Cathedral.
“We took over our equally aged castle for a final farewell with an audience of 600 to include ancient Knights, Cromwellians and our own Morris dancers, and the British Legion entertaining their Canadian comrades,” wrote Derek.
Our guests were welcomed by The Norwich Society, the Friends of Norwich Museums and the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Sir Timothy Colman.
Other gatherings followed on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific in 2000 and at Norfolk County, Ontario, Canada, to mark the Family’s 10th anniversary.
What an achievement. Derek died in 2012 but his memory lives on. We have much to thank him for.