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23 September 2018
CTTA Announcement

Some may have said 'jobs for the boys' when it was announced that David Whitehead, the son of the Leader of Chelmsford City Council, Cllr Roy Whitehead, was to speak to the City Council, but nothing could have been further from the truth. David Whitehead, himself an Old Chelmsfordian, has been living in Chelmsford's German twin town, Backnang, since 1999 and came to Chelmsford in his role as the deputy chairman of the Backnang town twinning association, the Partnerschaftsverein Backnang-Chelmsford e.V..  He had been invited by the Mayor, Cllr Yvonne Spence, to talk to councillors about both Backnang and the concept of twinning in general.

In a brisk, enthusiastic, even salesman-like manner, Whitehead provided rapid-fire facts about Backnang and presented the main sites, particularly emphasising the importance of the town's "Strassenfest", the street festival which has taken place every year on the last weekend in June since 1971 and which is the oldest and largest street festival in Germany. He then talked of the origins of twinning, which, although official since 1990, had had its origins in 1984 through Marconi in Chelmsford and ANT in Backnang. He pointed out that both communities had learned from one another and were closer than they realised.

Rather than dwelling on the past, David Whitehead then came to the present and talked of the desire in Backnang for English-speaking contacts and activities, highlighting a recent project at a local school, the Max-Born-Gymnasium, which worked with Chelmsford Community Radio (CCR) to allow Grade 7 pupils to create their own show, with both the teaching and the show being in English. Michelle Durant from CCR and Dorothée Ziesik from Max-Born-Gymnasium then briefly spoke about how the project had gone and also the benefit to the Backnang pupils, both earning applause from the councillors for their efforts.

The presentation then moved to the future, with the desire to see more activity from Chelmsford at the Backnang Strassenfest and also Backnang present in Chelmsford. It was mentioned that the Backnang town brass band would be coming to Chelmsford in October and that efforts were being made to encourage them to play in Chelmsford High Street. Whitehead said that twinning had to change to become relevant. What was necessary was to move away from individual connections towards connections to be enjoyed by the general public.

He then encouraged councillors to become involved personally, explaining that he was not there to ask the Council to spend money but to ask councillors to take the initiative to work with the Chelmsford Town Twinning Association. He said that the young of both communities had to carry the torch of partnership. After the meeting, the responses from the councillors were positive, with members keen to travel to Backnang and the attendance to Backnang's Goose Market in October guaranteed.

All in all, it seems that, although Backnang is generally considered by most to be simply a name on a sign, twinning with Germany is on the rise again and is likely to be a part of everyone's life very soon.

David Whitehead For further details about Twinning please click here to contact Liz Sutton

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