Twin town celebrations

A SERIES of exciting events are being planned to celebrate 30 years of Mansfield's twinning with the German town of Heiligenhaus.

But the towns are unofficially marking a golden anniversary because the link between the two can actually be traced back to the 1950s.

For in the early '50s a group of youngsters from the Westfield Folkhouse Youth Club travelled to the Isle of Wight for a summer camp, where they became friends with fellow youngsters from Heiligenhaus and decided to keep in touch and arrange exchanges between their towns.

And Alice Tyler (78) — who with her late husband Jack was involved in organising the first exchanges back in 1954 — still visits friends in Heiligenhaus 50 years on.

She told Chad: "It wasn't so long after the war and inviting German people into your home was a big step when you had got relatives who had probably perished there. Jack was in the Navy on the Illustrious.

"On my first visit I felt amazed that they were just folk the same as us because my age group had been brought up to think of them as ogres. But we've had a lot of good friends."

Over the years the links between the towns developed and in 1974 the relationship was formalised and the Mansfield-Heiligenhaus Twinning Association set up.

Coun Andre Camilleri, twinning association chairman, told Chad: "It's a friendship link between Mansfield and Heiligenhaus which has been going a long time and over the years there's a lot of friendships that have been built between the towns. I want to carry that on and perhaps broaden it out a little bit and get more children involved."

Janet Carrington from the association said the link between the towns had not only helped many people in Mansfield learn about a different culture but also to see their own town in a fresh light.

She told Chad: "I think the main thing is it gives us a feeling of civic pride. In seeing your town as an outsider would see it there are a lot of positive things you can see in Mansfield, which you miss, because they are at the end of your nose and you see them every day. There are a lot of things that make you feel good about your home town."

A range of activities and exchanges are planned to celebrate the anniversary year, including a concert by Mansfield Male Voice Choir in Germany and a golf weekend at Sherwood Forest. In April a group of disabled children are coming from Heiligenhaus to visit Mansfield.

And in a few weeks a group of 40 pupils from the Brunts School are travelling to Heiligenhaus to perform in a jazz concert.

Martin Heartfield, team leader of performing arts at Brunts, said the invite had stemmed from last year's European Arts Festival when a group from Heiligenhaus visited Mansfield.

"We are taking the school swing band over for a long weekend and we are doing a couple of concerts while we are out there," he said.

The trip will be the first time Brunts have visited Heiligenhaus, but teachers hope to take the opportunity to develop more links so more pupils can benefit from the special relationship between the towns.