Whitstable, UK twinned with Albertslund, Denmark

'Twin Town Tales' Part One. Whitstable

‘Town Twinning’ or ‘Sister Cities’ (as known in the USA) is a concept whereby towns or cities in geographically and politically distinct areas are formally paired or linked, with the intention of fostering human contact, cultural exhange, mutual understanding, friendship and economic development.

The end of World War 2 saw a great emergence of twinning arrangements as the European populace saw benefits in facilitating a closer understanding of each other and promoting cross-border activities. An example of this would be Coventry’s (UK) twinning with Dresden (Germany): both cities having suffered heavy bombing during the war. The cultural and political sensitivities of this and other such twinning arrangements reinforced a sense of healing, of hope and a desire to educate future generations.

This is a project that I have been thinking about for a while now and have recently begun in earnest. I was initially drawn to this by spotting a plaque on my local library wall in Kensington and Chelsea, the London borough in which I live. The plaque told me that Kensington and Chelsea is twinned with Cannes in Southern France, an arrangement which has been in place since 1970. I had not known of this partnership and was immediately intrigued. On doing some research found an active and thriving set of activities, including one between the famous Cannes Film Festival and our own well-established Portobello Film Festival (now in its 27th year), plus meetings between sports teams and exchange visits between schools and the association members. The idea for this project was born!

The project is primarily photographic in nature but I also wish to contextualise photographs with written testimony, in the form of recorded conversation, my own journals, captions, anecdotes and historical information. I am particularly interested in understanding how the arrangements between towns are made, how they thrive and survive post-Brexit, and through local and pan-European economic and political challenges. What are the struggles, rewards and benefits inherent in the twinning arrangements themselves, and what does the future hold for town twinning, both in practice and in concept. However I am also interested in meeting those who are not necessarily connected in this way; local people and others (who may not even be aware of the town’s twinning arrangement).