Alan Marley Vice Chairman of the Preston Twinning Partnership has sent Podio Preston the following information telling the story of Preston’s successful twinning partnership with four European cities.
‘’At a time when the world is experiencing rapid change, where traditional relationships can become strained or broken and where crisis never seems to be far from our door, it is reassuring to know that one venerable Preston institution remains as constant, dependable and relevant now as it was when first established over 70 years ago. Preston Twinning Partnership is the volunteer run organisation that maintains and develops the City’s international relationships with its twin towns of Kalisz (1989) in Poland, Nîmes (1955) in France, Almelo (1948) in Holland and Recklinghausen (1956) in Germany. These relationships are some of the longest standing in the UK.
From its post-war beginnings with the formal signing of a twinning relationship with Preston’s Dutch counterparts in 1948 to today’s exchanges, collaborations, visits and events, twinning’s purpose of nurturing friendships, promoting tolerance and understanding and developing cultural, sporting and artistic activities remain as relevant now as ever. Indeed, some would say even more relevant as the UK withdraws from the European Union and nationalism gains ground. Tolerance and understanding of the cultural values of others are increasingly under pressure.
Derek Smith is the Chairman of Preston Twinning Partnerships and has been for longer than he would care to remember. He is not surprisingly proud of Preston’s twinning past and enthusiastic about its future. “Some of our personal relationships have lasted for decades and we are always pleased to welcome visitors from our twin towns to Preston. It is an opportunity to renew friendships and promote Preston to an international audience. We are also welcomed with open arms when we visit their countries. Through our members we are frequently in touch with the civic authorities and citizens both in Preston and our twin towns.” he explains. Over the years student exchanges between schools, colleges and UCLan have been arranged and literally hundreds of Prestonians and its European partners have benefitted. Next year the City has been invited to participate in a major football tournament in Nîmes and the Preston Schoolboys under 13 squad will represent the City. “All courtesy of our French friends!” adds Derek.
I am a beneficiary of Preston’s twinning arrangement with Nîmes over 40 years ago. “When I was a student studying French, I had to spend a year working abroad. I approached Preston Town Hall and they arranged for me to be the English Language Assistant at a school in Nîmes. It was a truly life-changing experience for which I remain very grateful. Part of my role now is to encourage others to do something similar. There is so much to learn and enjoy from the experience whether you’re sixteen or sixty.” The Partnership is always willing to assist with requests to help establish friendship links and counts a number of past students who have decided to remain in Preston and make it their home. While twinning exchanges between schools are now relatively rare, activity within the Partnership continues unabated and these are exciting times for the future of twinning in Preston.
Plans are underway to attract other partner towns to include those that would capture the imagination of Prestonians, making twinning more relevant and accessible to a larger number of citizens. Funding is another area of opportunity and, while the Partnership’s only current source of income is a modest grant from the City Council, the intention is for twinning to become a net income generator for the City from commercial activities rather than an expense. The design of a new website is expected to commence shortly.
Membership of the Partnership’s committee could hardly be described as youthful. New members are always welcome and, indeed, vital. Perhaps the final word should lie with Jurgen Voges, German by birth, a Preston resident for 40 years and Secretary of the Partnership. “These are troubled times and the importance of tolerance and respect between nationalities is as important now as at any time since the end of the Second World War. In its own humble way, twinning in Preston is spreading this message.” For further information contact Jurgen Voges, Secretary, firstname.lastname@example.org’’
More information about Preston’s Twinning Partnership and the cities of Kalisz, Nimes, Almelo and Recklinghausen can be found on the Preston City Council website https://www.preston.gov.uk/towntwinning
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