A historic landmark in the long running friendship between Ellesmere Port and the university city of Reutlingen in south west Germany will be reached this weekend (April 30 - May 1.)
Half a century after ‘Mr Ellesmere Port’, town clerk Ray Bernie, helped to forge the agreement, a civic party from Reutlingen will be in town to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the twinning partnership.
The link is now in the hands of the Ellesmere Port/Reutlingen Friendship Group created in 2010 after the new borough council declined to continue with twinning arrangements.
The group says that over the years ‘many hundreds of people’ have visited each others’ towns and many groups have undertaken exchange visits.
These have included schools, youth groups, Ellesmere Port Swimming Club, the Sea Cadets, Ellesmere Port Light Operatic Society, Willaston WI, the Special Olympics Club, the Scouts and choirs from the town.
Many longstanding friendships have been formed including between the next generation of the original visitors with one couple even marrying.
Oberbürgermeisterin Barbara Bosch and 10 civic representatives from the city will be travelling to Ellesmere Port for a packed programme of events.
On Saturday, April 30, there will be a visit to the University Church of England Academy followed by a welcome at the Civic Hall and a free carnival parade in the Civic Square organised by Ellesmere Port production company Chalice Media.
In the afternoon the visitors will go on an escorted tour of Port Sunlight village and art gallery while in the evening they will join students from Reutlingen and other groups in Chester.
On Sunday May 1 the party will be hosted at Chester Town Hall by deputy lord mayor Ellesmere Port St Paul’s ward councillor Angela Claydon followed by a visit to the Ellesmere Port Sports Village on Stanney Lane.
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In the evening there will be civic dinner at the Holiday Inn and the party will return to Reutlingen on Monday May 2.
The Port Arcades has announced the visitors will visit the centre and view the Ellesmere Port and Reutlingen Mosaic at the Rivington Road entrance.
To celebrate 25 years of twinning the 30,000 tile mosaic combining the historical, cultural and industrial sky lines of both towns was unveiled at the Port Arcades by as a gift to the town.
At the centre, Michelle Pickstock commented: “Fifty years and many memories later the ‘twinning’ continues to thrive.”
From Tuesday April 26 to Sunday May 1 students from both Ellesmere Port and Reutlingen are undertaking a research project into the value of twinning and Its future.
This will involve students from Ellesmere Port Catholic High and the Friedrich-List-Gymnasium in Reutlingen.
Their findings will be presented to the civic leaders during the 50th celebrations with the project being backed by the Ellesmere Port Charter Trustees, the Cheshire Community Foundation, Ellesmere Port & District Lions Club, Ellesmere Port Catholic High and the Reutlingen twinning department
A second group of young people, organised by Friendship group chairman Toni Ciama, will be made up of art students, their leader and two pianists who are due to play at the civic reception. They arrive on Friday and leave on Monday.
In 1984, Reutlingen awarded Mr Bernie a special citizen’s gold medal for his services to the German town.
The citation described Mr Bernie as Reutlingen’s ‘true friend’ and added: “No effort and no time were too much for him to help ensure that the various bonds of friendship and partnership between the public and especially the youth of the two cities linked and could be strengthened. He was also a tireless promoter of German-British relations and international understanding.“
Mr Cioma said: “We are delighted to welcome to Ellesmere Port the oberbürgermeister of Reutlingen and representatives from her town to the 50th Anniversary celebrations of twinning.
“We look forward to the partnership continuing and for new opportunities for citizens from both towns to become involved. As someone from Ellesmere Port stated recently, ‘twinning promotes understanding, tolerance, respect and peace as different communities get to know each other’.”
Reutlingen’s 50th celebrations are taking place from June 17 to 20.
Five Ellesmere Port councillors will be visiting together with four members of the Friendship Group.
Musicians from the UCEA will be playing in Reutlingen and footballers will take part in an international twinning tournament from towns linked to the city.