North Devon twinners defy Brexit to renew German friendships
- Credit: Archant
The spectre of Brexit has not deterred twinners from North Devon in making new friends and renewing longstanding relationships stretching back for decades.
Barnstaple Twinning Association has just returned from a visit to Uelzen in Germany, with a party of 23 including Barnstaple Community Choir and Barnstaple Community Orchestra.
Frances Bell from Barnstaple said many of their German counterparts were sad at the Brexit process playing out daily in the news, but determined it would not ruin their links with the UK.
She said: "The towns were officially twinned in 1960 and several groups have been over since then.
"But we felt it was important to keep it going, particularly with Brexit and also to make them feel that we have not abandoned them, and that friendship among ordinary people is in many ways more important than politics."
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One of those friendships was renewed after a break of more than four decades during a reception for the English visitors at Uelzen town hall when they arrived.
Ann Huxtable from Barnstaple was reunited with Gunda Kühn, whom she had not seen for more than 40 years.
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Gunda visited Barnstaple for a twinning trip aged 15 and stayed with Ann's family and Ann's daughter went to stay with her family after in Germany.
They kept in touch for a time but lost contact until their reunion during the recent visit when Gunda arrived at the reception with many of her own family.
The twinning with the Lower Saxony region and North Devon began unofficially just after the war when English soldiers from this area posted in Germany arranged for some of the wartime children to have a holiday in North Devon.
Mrs Bell said: "The twinning movement has consolidated the communities in both countries and we discovered that they enjoy our humour, we laugh together, play music together and on this trip did a concert together as choirs."
A certificate was also presented to Uelzen's deputy mayor on behalf of Barnstaple mayor Alan Rennles and Mr Rennles has also been invited to visit the town in December 2020 to join them for their 750th anniversary celebrations.
Barnstaple Twinning Association has forged links with many countries including France, Germany, Norway, Italy and America. Anyone who would like to find out more or get involved is invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org .