Town twinning celebrations under review

AMBITIOUS plans to mark 40 years of twinning between Alnwick and towns across Europe look set to be scaled back, after a lower-than-expected response from foreign guests.

Forty dignitaries from Lagny-sur-Marne in France, Stadt Voerde in Germany and Time Kommune in Norway have been invited to attend the two-day celebrations, due to be held in Alnwick over the weekend of May 13 to 15.

But Mayor Eileen Blakey told the town council on Thursday night that only 15 had so far responded, with time now rapidly running out for finalising arrangements for the international get-together.

A deadline of March 25 has been set and Coun Blakey said she would be contacting the remaining number to confirm their plans.

She conceded, however, that at this late stage it would be unlikely to expect a full turn-out and asked councillors whether the event – which was anticipated to cost around £3,000 – should be scrapped, given the current economic climate.

“Six from France have already booked their tickets, including the Mayor of Lagny and his wife,” she said.

“However, we have been told that there will be no young people coming from either Germany or France, which is disappointing.

“At what point does it become an embarrassment for the town council to go ahead with these celebrations? I’d like to ask members for their views.”

But Coun Alan Symmonds said: “I think this is more than just a twinning exercise, it’s the celebration of an important anniversary and I would be highly embarrassed if we were not to go ahead with appropriate hospitality.

“We have invited people and I think we have to somehow face up to our responsibilities and be good hosts.

“If the numbers are down, all of the costs will also come down.”

It was agreed to review the scale of the celebrations, which had been due to include evening functions such as a ceilidh and dinner for 60 people, cultural visits and accommodation for around 25 of the foreign visitors.