What can I say about Twin Town 2022?! It was an amazing community effort to raise awareness and of course, a bit of money for a vital Oxfordshire charity. That charity is SpecialEffect, who exist to change the lives of people with disabilities, making computer games and learning accessible again.

To give you a quick idea of just how vital they are, this is a tiny bit of what they do:

“I can’t do much by myself, but I can play games, which gives me a great sense of independence and achievement.” Becky has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and mainly uses eye gaze technology to communicate and play games.

“We saw such a change in him straight away – he was just loving life”. Stewart, who couldn’t move his arms and hands after an accident, was able to reconnect with family and friends online following the introduction of a computer he could control by moving his head and chin.

And the community effort? Well, that was around 120 teams of Oxfordshire business people, setting off from Blenheim Palace on a Friday morning, to Witney’s French twin town, Le Touqeut in £500 bangers, and home again by Sunday evening. So many people with one sole purpose was very moving.

As well as being part of a team, ‘Radio Heads’, with Ben Thompson, Jane Fryatt and Sara Southey, I was privileged to be able to interview the other participants of the challenge and get their feelings on the whole event, for Get Radio’s Business Brunch with Ben & Mike. The word used by every person I spoke to was ‘community’. ‘Fun’ was used a lot too, and so was ‘hard work’, which gives you an idea of what the atmosphere was like on that Friday night when we finally reached our destination and celebrated the monumental efforts of everyone involved.

Nick Streeter, fundraiser for the charity said, ‘This community is so strong and so important. And it’s not our charity, it’s your charity, and we just really, really feel that, strongly. I think this year we’ve managed to raise over a quarter of a million pounds for sure, but there’s more that comes out of this challenge. There are conversations for future opportunities, awareness of the things the charity does, and it’s long term. It’s not just the money that’s important, but the sense of fun, community, and personal contacts too.”

Highlights of the TT22

Speaking to Paul from the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, Abby from Hexagon Business Centres (and major contributor to the smooth running of the event), and Hamish Law from Jack FM, they all said Friday night was the highlight of the weekend for them. That’s the night when the teams have all arrived safely in France and they perform their most nerve-wracking individual challenge – Performing their chosen song on stage to the entire crowd. Winners of the TT22 challenge, The Village PPEople, led by Darren Aston of Aston & James Office Supplies performed YMCA to thunderous applause. Nick later told me, ‘Friday night was a bit surreal and very special. We just want people to have fun and I think everyone deserves something like this.”

However, Nick’s personal highlight is usually the Sunday, “After a tense morning making sure everyone gets off the start line, then across the channel and a big fundraising night on the Friday, the weekend starts to relax everyone, and then the fun begins. People can do hot laps in a Porsche, and of course there’s the street party.”

My Business Brunch colleague, and Radio Heads team member, Ben of Thompson and Terry Recruitment said his highlight was the Sunday race, although it’s not really a race, where the cars are in competitive activities on the Abbeville race circuit.

Then there are plenty of other challenges such as making a music video for your chosen song, Rockaoake, and car jousting on Abbeville.

Let’s talk fundraising

When I spoke to Hamish Law, he said, “What they do is incredible, right? And anything we can do to raise their profile and help progress the work they do, we should all try and do something like this. They’ve raised over a million pounds so far since 2014 and hopefully we’ll give that a terrific boost this year. SpecialEffect are wonderful and the work they do is incredible. Long may they continue and hopefully we’ll come up with more ways to help support them in years to come.”

Brendan Cross, founder and lead organiser of TT22 confirmed, ‘Originally in 2014, we thought we might raise £35,000 with a little car rally to Witney’s twin town in France. Here we are, eight years later, having raised probably £1.3 million now. And it’s been quite a journey, but this is the fourth and final Twin Town challenge. Lots of people have told me it can’t be, that we’ve got to do it again, but I think we’ve run our course.

On top of the money given in donations, most of the cars will be auctioned off to raise even more money, which could raise around £1,000 per car, which adds a phenomenal amount to the total.

So, will Twin Town be back next year?

That’s the burning question. Lots of people have clearly stated that 2022 was the final challenge, but there were hints dropped all over the weekend that there might be a new team of event organisers ready to bring it back.

“I don’t think so. But you never know. For now though, I think this is the last one. It’s good to go out on a high” – Jo Sensecall, Marketing Sense

“I don’t know. I think it might be the last one. But if it does happen again, that would be epic. Fingers crossed. We’ll have to wait and see.” Neil O’Regan, Shawcity

“I think the current crop of amazing organizers are probably going to break away. But I think a few people in the wings are talking about doing another one. So, I’m going to sit on the fence.” John Silversides, Carter Jonas

“Well, never say never. But if the will was there from the sponsors and the participants then yes, we could probably do it.” Brendan Cross.

You heard it here first, folks, we just don’t know if the amazing Twin Town Challenge will ever return again, or if 2022 was indeed the pinnacle, and finale of this crazy fundraising event!

Thank you on behalf of me and the Radio Heads for all the support that has come from the amazing Oxfordshire business community, and I’m sure I can speak for my fellow Twin Towners when I say it has been an honour to be part of this event. Make sure you follow SpecialEffect so you can continue to raise awareness of their support within the community, and for news of more fun fundraising events to come. You can catch a recording of the full Business Brunch show on the Get Radio website.

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