The Friends of Montclair are a group of people who live in and around the London Borough of Barnet. Our association promotes friendship and cultural ties between Barnet and Montclair. The Friends of Barnet are our sister association in the U.S.A.
We organise cultural exchange trips for adults of all ages and educational exchange trips for Sixth Form students.
This means that you will have the opportunity to host an American for up to two weeks and you will stay with them in their home in Montclair, New Jersey for a similar time. During the exchange a varied programme of events is laid on by the Friends of Montclair, but you will provide bed, breakfast, some meals and the occasional evening’s entertainment for your guest. You can also join in some of the events if you wish.
You will not just be a tourist. You will live with real people in their homes and participate in activities with them and the Friends of Barnet.
Some of the past events in the Montclair programme have included Broadway shows, sightseeing tours in New Jersey and Manhattan, concerts, attending American Football and Basketball games, a Murder Mystery evening, and shopping, shopping, shopping at the many malls and designer outlets.
The cost to visit Montclair would merely be the airfare and spending money whilst you are there!
How does The Friends of Montclair raise the funds to lay on the programme of events for our American guests?
We hold various social events throughout the year. These have included Quiz Nights, Galloping Gourmet Dinners, Candlelight Suppers, Whist Drives, Movie Nights, Tea Parties, Coach Trips, our own Montclair Olympics, walks in Barnet and London, our Independence Day Supper in July, and the highlight of our year, our annual Thanksgiving Dinner in November.
At the beginning of World War II many British children were evacuated to the U.S.A. The Town of Montclair organised a citizens’ committee under the chairmanship of Mrs Helen Speers. The committee found homes for 52 children. Mrs Speers died in 1943 and a group of her friends planned, as a memorial to her, to send collections of books from the United States to all the localities in England and Scotland from which children had been evacuated during the war. In return, plans were made for an exchange of British books to be housed in Montclair Public Library. In addition, Montclair played an active part in the ‘Bundles for Britain’ aid in the war and the Montclair Rotary Club sent food packages to Finchley.
Finchley was one of the thirty-three communities which acquired a substantial collection of American books which generated a widespread interest in the United States. An organisation was formed, known as the Finchley Atlantic Fellowship, the aim of which was to promote mutual understanding and friendship between Great Britain and the United States. As the organisation developed it was decided to establish friendly contact with a town in America and Montclair was chosen as it was perceived to be similar to Finchley in many ways.
The American Ambassador to Britain, John S. Winant wrote to Montclair Mayor George K. Batt in April 1945 enclosing correspondence from Finchley councillor R.J.N. Norman (whose brother lived in Montclair) about twinning Barnet with Montclair. After the war the twin town relationship continued through visits and correspondence. Councillor Norman visited Montclair in 1956 and met Montclair’s Mayor Dill and was able to observe the conduct of local government elections.
In the late 1950’s the relationship dwindled but revived again when a Mayor of Montclair, Frank Nye, visited Finchley. He attended ceremonial functions and visited Mayor Frank Gibson. In 1962 former Montclair Commissioner, Robert Hooke, visited Finchley and was entertained by Mayor Jimmy Sapstead. He met Finchley’s Member of Parliament, Margaret Thatcher. In the following years further exchange visits took place.
In 1964 Finchley was merged with Barnet, East Barnet, Friern Barnet and Hendon to form the London Borough of Barnet.
In 1967 Margaret Thatcher visited Montclair for one week, during a five week visit to the United States.
The relationship dwindled again, with few exchange visits, until June 1989 when Councillor Frank Gibson journeyed to Montclair. Councillor Gibson and Montclair Mayor Grant Gille discussed the future of the sister city relationship and their interest in re-activating it. On his return to England Councillor Gibson wrote to Mayor Gille about his intention to set up the ‘Friends of Montclair’ and inviting the Mayor of Montclair to be ‘President of Honour’. Councillor Gibson held an inaugural meeting to set up the ‘Friends of Montclair’ to which Mayor Gille’s successor, Mayor Mochary, sent official greetings. In Montclair the ‘Friends of Barnet’ became an active association.