Are You Taking The Mickey!
The phrase ‘the place where dreams come true’ doesn’t spring to mind when you think of the Wiltshire town of Swindon however, despite much controversy, Swindon actually was twinned with Walt Disney World Florida in 2010. One young resident’s plight to demonstrate the similarities between Swindon and Disney Land through what can only be described as a highly imaginative and entertaining video was not only successful but it begged the question, are there any more weird and wonderful partnerships?
Recent press coverage of the twinning of “Dull”, a small Perthshire village, with the equally stimulating, “Boring”, a town in Oregon, USA, perhaps shows that some places are just made for each other, in name if nothing else. Despite being around for over a century destination ‘twinning’ only started to take off after the Second World War, when community leaders were keen to bridge divisional conflict between destinations. For example Coventry, who endured heavy bombing during the war, was twinned with Stalingrad in Russia (now Volograd) and Dresden, Germany as they suffered similar experiences. Over the years the UK found itself pledging civic siblingdom left right and centre with approximately 2,000 formal twinning arrangements, 50% of these being with France and 23% with Germany.
Despite a few cultural shows, educational visits and a good old glass of vino many politicians are struggling to see the relevance in keeping these cross-country relationships going. Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire voted to end their coalition with Freidberg in Germany and Villiers Sur Marne in France, despite their 46year marriage.
Whilst many feel that ‘de-twinning’ European affiliates is the way forward, a large proportion of community leaders actually want to broaden their European horizon and go global! One recent and most surprising proposal was from the tranquil suburban town of Royston, who looked into the possibilities of twinning with Benghazi in Libya. Yes you heard correctly the English town of no more than 14,500 inhabitants which boasts its strong Roman heritage and quaint cottage lifestyle was suggested as a sister destination to one of the world’s most notorious oil and politically unstable cities. It is safe to say that in terms of comparing destination profile Royston, whose most controversial event was a 50 man petition to stop a wind farm being built is not even in the same library let alone the same page as Benghazi; whose 670,000 residents still battle with the aftermath of Gadaffi.
If you too raised an eyebrow at the unusual pairing of Swindon and Disney Land, feast your eyes on these combo’s
- Glasgow with Havana, Cuba
- Henley on Thames with Somali City of Borama
- Birmingham with Milan, Italy
- Devon with Kabale, Uganda
The award for the wackiest destination pairing has to go to Wincanton, Somerset who are the only town to be twinned with a fictional place called Ankh-Morpork, from Terry Pratchett’s fantasy series ‘Discworld’. Wincanton have even named streets after the fictional comic series including ‘Treacle Mine Road and Peach Pie Street’ and former Mayor Colin Wilder states “I know 3 families who have moved here because of this quirky connection”.
As Wincanton leads the way for the most inventive pairing and Swindon the most surprising, destination twinning certainly isn’t as Mickey Mouse as we originally thought.