Still an 'awful lot of gain' for Ashington and Newbiggin from twin town relationship with Remscheid in Germany
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Representatives were invited by the Oberbürgermeister (mayor) of Remscheid to the city’s day of associations, celebrating its links to other towns around the world, and speeches were delivered on behalf of both towns.
Remscheid was first twinned with Wansbeck in 1952 during post-war reconciliation efforts and has maintained a close relationship with the area ever since, which was reaffirmed as two town twinning arrangements in 2015.
Deputy Civic Head of Ashington Vicky Brown said: "The visit was very informative, and it was good to see many of the other members from towns twinned with Remscheid, some of whom we have met in previous visits.”
Mayor of Newbiggin Alison Sutherland said: “It was an honour to represent our community at the recent twinning event. We have rekindled the foundations of a great partnership going forwards.”
The bond between Wansbeck and Remscheid was most evident during the miners’ strike, when the German city donated substantial sums to the Miners’ Hardship Fund in December 1984. The city also hosted 45 children for a holiday after the strike ended.
Bill Gale, secretary of Ashington and Newbiggin Town Twinning Association, said: “The people of Remscheid really got together on a non-political basis to support the miners and their families.
“That legacy is still held close to people's hearts both in Remscheid and here.”
He added: “It was absolutely amazing what the people of Remscheid did and it is still remembered, in Ashington in particular.”
Bill, 76, has been involved with the association for over 40 years. He said: “We did not actually go off to the Costa del Sol or anything. We went over there for our holidays, believe it or not.
“Our kids learnt an awful lot from that, as I know dozens of other kids have as well over the years, and I want to see that resurrected.”
Despite the countless connections forged and youth exchanges organised over the years, as evidenced by a hallway in Remscheid’s town hall adorned with pictures taken in Wansbeck, Bill says Brexit and the pandemic have impacted people’s willingness to get involved.
He is hoping to organise an event next year and local football teams have been invited to a tournament in Germany, but says fresh enthusiasm is required.
He said: “I sincerely hope that we can take it forward and find some new blood because it would be a shame to lose those opportunities.
“There is an awful lot of gain from town twinning right across the spectrum. Social, cultural, education, and sporting links, we need to pursue them.”
The most recent political exchange has already proved fruitful. Since the visit, the Newbiggin by the Sea Town Council has agreed to a new tree planting scheme inspired by Remscheid’s ‘twin trees’ project, which plants a sapling for every child born in the city.
It is also considering taking inspiration from a park refurbishment project and a war memorial restoration underway in Remscheid.
Deputy Mayor of Newbiggin Fiona Rowley said: “It was a very busy and productive weekend and on a council and personal level I have learned of many new and interesting projects I would hope we can replicate in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.”