Hopes for revival of Berwick's twinning links

Town councillors have called for a renewed effort to strengthen Berwick's links with its twin towns.

Sunday, 12th March 2017, 7:01 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:09 am
Choirs from Haan in Germany and Sarpsborg in Norway join Berwick Male Voice Choir and pupils from Prior Park to sing in the town hall steps at the 2015 Riding of the Bounds.

Berwick Male Voice Choir is one of the few organisations which retains a strong link with sister towns such as Haan in Germany and Sarpsborg in Norway.

It has submitted a funding application which could pave the way for a visit by the Sarpsborg choir next year.

Bryon Longbone, a member of Berwick male Voice Choir, addressed town councillors last Monday to push the case for a positive response.

He said: “For the last 50-something years Berwick has been twinned with Sarpsborg in Norway and Haan in Germany.

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“Sadly the links between the two towns have diminished over the years in terms of the number of organisations supporting them and we are now in the position where Berwick male Voice Choir is the last man standing.

“In these rather uncertain times of international relations, twinning is probably one of the most important things that can happen.

“We hope to receive a grant, although we don’t expect it as a matter of right.”

Coun Hazel Bettison said: “In the days of the borough council we were involved with all of our sister cities but it’s dwindled down.

“There are a few individuals who have kept those links but Berwick Male Voice Choir are one of the few groups who still have strong twinning links.

“They really aren’t singing their praises highly enough. It’s not just about sing-songs. It is good for business and education.”

She proposed a meeting to see how the council can work together to promote twinning and get the relationships back to where they were.

She hoped Berwick Male Voice Choir would play a prominent role if the effort.

Mayor Ivor Dixon agreed: “It’s a shame this has happened.When the borough ceased to exist and the town council took over there were no longer grants available. In the past we were able to invite people from Haan and Sarpsborg but it’s not been the same since we became a town council. I still have links with Trzcianka in Poland but not as far as visits.”

Coun Gregah Roughead said: “The male voice choir is one of the few groups in Berwick that promotes our twinning.”

Berwick Male Voice Choir intends to invite the Sarpborog choir on an official visit in 2018 and it has submitted a funding application to help with the costs.

The application does not meet Berwick Town Council’s existing grant guidelines but it is hoped this problem can still be overcome.

Further talks are planned between council officers, councillors and representatives from the male voice choir,

Coun Karin Graham said: “I would support this, although I know there are budget issues to overcome. This is a great group that does fantastic PR for the town. I’ve been to many of their concerts and they also raise a lot of money themselves but it’s very expensive to arrange a visit like this and I think it’s a very good idea.”