The towns of Darlington and Amiens have been united for nearly 60 years but still manage to find new and exciting ways to connect and exchange cultural insights. Tom Nutt, the Chairman of Darlington Town Twinning, tells us more.
Eleven hours by coach from Darlington, via the Channel Tunnel, brings you to the beautiful city of Amiens, our twin town. In the past 8 years, members of our Town Twinning Association (TTA) have made this journey 4 times, always for the F�te Dans la Ville in June. We have been captivated by the warmth of welcome, the F�te entertainment, the hortillonages (floating gardens) on the Somme, the Jules Verne experience, the fabulous H�tel de Ville and of course the magnificent spectacle of the laser lit Cathedral.
Why are Darlington and Amiens twinned? This was a question raised with Mayor of Amiens, Gilles Demailly during this years visit to Amiens for the British tea-party themed F�te. We concluded that it was to do with the railways. In 1825 Stockton to Darlington was the first passenger railway journey in the world, and a few years later the first French passenger train was from Lille via Amiens to Paris. Over many years frequent exchanges took place between railway workers of the towns.
The twinning of the towns dates back to 1953. The first project was an exchange of school children, arranged through the French Consul in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. A formal Declaration of Town Twinning was signed on 8 May 1973 by the two local authorities. Since then there have been many educational, cultural, citizen groups, musical and sports club exchanges. At present the Colleges are discussing links between catering departments, both of which have great reputations, and next year we plan to send sports and music groups to Amiens. Last year a group of 12 TTA members cycled from Darlington to Amiens and as the average age was over 60 this was no mean feat!
2013 is the 60th anniversary of our successful partnership and we are planning on big celebration to mark this special occasion. The future of Town Twinning is in the hands of the young people and we hope to involve them as much as possible.