As part of a town twinning partnership celebrating its 75th anniversary, representatives from organisations across St Helens Borough, have paid a visit to the German city of Stuttgart.
Delegates from St Helens Borough Council including the Youth Council and St Helens Music Service band, students and teachers from Cowley International College, representatives from St Helens Town Football Club and local dance group UC crew, are all making the visit to help strengthen the bonds that have developed between them and their counterparts in Stuttgart, in the spirit of friendship and discovery.
As part of the visit a Memorandum of Understanding, was signed by St Helens Council Leader David Baines and the Mayor of the city of Stuttgart, Dr Frank Nopper, which not only renews the vows to maintain mutual friendship but also spells out areas for collaboration that are of real, tangible benefits to our residents and businesses.
Councillor David Baines, Leader of St Helens Borough Council said , “We’re very proud of our twinning relationship with Stuttgart, the essence of which remains people meeting people for better mutual understanding and to forge links across borders, and there’s no better example than the relationship between St Helens and Stuttgart.
“The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding sets out the benefits we can each gain, from economic growth and business opportunities to investment in innovation and new technology, to tackling the climate crisis.
“But it isn’t just in terms of business or industry, it’s also about fostering long-term friendships between people from different countries, opening opportunities to share ideas and good practice, and of course to celebrate what makes each of us unique.
“We are achieving real progress together, and I look forward to continuing our friendship for the next 75 years.”
As part of the 75th anniversary celebrations, young musicians from St Helens performed at the City Hall in Stuttgart, as part of the links that they have established with musicians in the city.
St Helens dance group UC Crew performed a joint improvised break dance performance with Underground SoulCypher from Stuttgart, to show the universal appeal of dance and how it can break down barriers and bring communities together.
Students from Cowley International College presented a gift of a stain glass window from the people of St Helens to Stuttgart. The glass was co-designed by young people in both St Helens and Stuttgart and symbolises the origin of the twinning partnership in 1948. At the time St Helens was an industrial powerhouse for the manufacture of glass and it was able to offer support to the rebuilding of Stuttgart, parts of which had been destroyed or damaged by bombing during the Second World War. The twinning partnership is believed to be one of the oldest in Europe.
Mayor of St Helens Borough, Councillor Lynn Clarke headed up the delegation alongside Councillor Baines on the visit to Stuttgart. Councillor Clarke said: “Our longstanding connection with Stuttgart is a time-honoured tradition that has brought so much to our borough over the last 75 years. Our links continue to have a positive impact and it was wonderful to see the many different groups of young people make the most of the opportunity our twinning offers them with the chance to learn.”
The visit also saw the naming of a new park in the borough’s honour. The new park – St Helens Platz, is currently taking shape as part of regeneration plans in the city which will open in the coming months.
In the spirit of learning and sharing good practice, representatives from St Helens also took part in study tours, visiting a number of high schools including the Ferdinand Porsche Gymnasium High School, to find out more about the curriculum, the school’s development and projects, and education methods. Study tours also focused on urban developments across the city including the new Rosenstein project, which aims to transform a former railway yard into a green space and residential area, and Stuttgart 21 the biggest railway infrastructure project in Europe designed to improve regional and international connectivity.
Representatives also visited Willy-Korner Haus, a health and senior care facility in the city, to learn about their approach to caring for older people, special health programs and other initiatives aimed at enhancing and improving the well-being of older people.
Councillor Anthony Burns, Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Culture and Heritage added: “It’s incredibly fitting that our 75th anniversary falls in our Borough of Culture celebration year. Our two communities have been enriched through our partnership and the continued learning as our visit gave us opportunities to share our experiences with regeneration, climate change and education as we saw how they have dealt with these areas.
“Our relationship has also had a positive impact on generations of St Helens residents. Through our partnership, students have enjoyed many exchanges, leading to broadening experiences for our young people – while our local sports teams and music and dance groups have travelled to compete but also perform together.”