Bridgnorth celebrates European friendships

A band of Bridgnorth “Twinners” have visited Schrobenhausen in Germany, joining up with townsfolk from Thiers in France, for the annual Twinning Festival.  The towns are both twinned with Bridgnorth and the three towns take it in turns to host the Festival.

Twinning was introduced after the Second World War, its aim to build links and exchanges between towns, bringing reconciliation and friendship after years of conflict.  Bridgnorth was twinned with Thiers in 1978 and with Schrobenhausen in 1992. Schrobenhausen was already twinned with Thiers, so the triangle was complete.

There have been annual visits between the towns every year (excluding 2 years during the Covid pandemic) since its inception.  These visits in the past have included school exchange trips and sporting exchanges as well as twinning members being welcomed into host families.  Friendships have been forged and memories made.  Last year Bridgnorth welcomed the two towns to celebrate the late Queen’s jubilee and to commemorate the 30 years of twinning.  This year the 30-year celebrations continue.

Unfortunately, in recent years the school exchanges have not happened, and the sporting exchanges have dwindled.  This year, however, the under 17 Spartans Football team have stemmed the tide, sending a strong team to celebrate the 30 years of twinning.  A fantastic football match was held between Bridgnorth Spartans and SV Steingriff, Schrobenhausen ending in a 1-1 draw – honours even and ready for a re-match next year.  It is hoped that Thiers will also field a team in the future.  The players had an amazing adventure and cannot wait to visit again.  Due to the incredible welcome and success on the field, Spartans are already planning to send an under 13 and under 15 team to Schrobenhausen next May to further reinforce the friendship between our two countries and to develop the relationship between the sports clubs still further.

Flying out of Manchester, the group arrived in Schobenhausen after some delays. Fran Spicer, Treasurer of Bridgnorth’s Twinning Association, explained: “We passed through the gate and queued to join our plane when we discovered our flight had no captain. We had to return to the gate until thankfully one  turned up having received a call whilst he was in the gym on his day off to save the day; once landed and having inordinate delays getting through passport control we lost one of our members in Munich airport for a short while.  When we finally arrived some two hours late, we were warmly welcomed by our hosts; some of many years standing and some new, who soon became firm friends for life.  We were treated like royalty throughout our visit.”

Fran contin ued: “On Saturday we had a guided tour of Schrobenhausen, famous for its white asparagus and the portrait painter Lenbach – he once painted a portrait of Bismark who was wearing his full military regalia, Bismark was not happy with the final painting as it only showed his head and shoulders.  Lenbach’s reposte was to say he painted “Kopf, keine Knöpfe“(heads not buttons)! We also toured the local town of Ingolstadt with an option of a trip to their Audi Museum.  The gothic architecture and huge churches are a sight to behold, and the traditional Bavarian buildings are so different from our own architecture.”

In the evening the touring party were treated to a traditional Bavarian feast of schnitzel, pretzels, wurst (sausages), ham, cheese, salad, sauerkraut, and bread, together with their host families and French friends. Some traditional Bavarian costumes could be seen with the ladies in dirndls and men in lederhosen.  After the meal the visitors spent time at the Schrannenfest – an annual festival with local live music, serving German beer in large steins.

On Sunday there were formal speeches from the mayors of Schrobenhausen, Harald Reisner and Thiers Stephane Rodier, and Bridgnorth former mayor, Karen Sawbridge.

“They celebrated the importance of the tripartite friendships, stressing the importance, now more than ever, of keeping twinning alive, given the conflict between the Ukraine and Russia which is so close to home.  Gifts were exchanged between Bridgnorth and Schrobenhausen to commemorate the 30-year anniversary and consolidating our relations in years to come.  It was wonderful that Helen Howell, being the mayor 30 years ago when the charter was signed and Mike Proudman a founder member and long-standing Chairman of the Association were present at the event.”

A trip to a local asparagus farm with tea and cakes concluded the day’s festivities.

On the Monday morning, the Bridgnorth visitors enjoyed a visit to a local moated castle and church in Sandizell, where the Count of Sandizell welcomed them with a guided tour.  “The church was incredibly ornate – something truly to behold.”

Fran added: “It was soon time to leave, back to Munich to catch our flight home.  After further delays we arrived home around 3am, weary but not cowed after our amazing visit.  The welcome and kindness was second to none and the cultural visits were very interesting.  Our hosts could not have been more hospitable.”

The Twinning Association is now already looking forward to the visit to Thiers next summer.

“We also hope to host a rugby team from Thiers in the autumn.  We are keen to welcome new members to join the Association for an annual membership fee of only £10 per year – a small price to pay to foster new friendships with our European allies.”

If you are interested in joining or finding out more please email Fran at franspicer9@gmail.com

CAPTION: The Bridgnorth Twinning Associaton’s Karen Sawbridge, former mayor Bridgnorth; Harry Reisner, mayor of Schrobenhausen; Helen Howells, Bridgnorth mayor in 1992; Mike Proudman, former Chairman of Bridgnorth Twinning Association and founder member; Hartmut Siegl.

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