Kettering-Lahnstein twinning links still strong

An historic inn on the River Lahn
An historic inn on the River Lahn
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In 1955, the town of Kettering forged a link which has lasted for almost six decades with a small German town near the banks of the River Rhine.

Since that date, groups from Kettering have visited the twin town of Lahnstein, a few miles from the city of Koblenz, on numerous occasions.

Twinning members from Kettering and Lahnstein at a tree planting ceremony last July in memory of Cecil Brown, long-term twinning member

Twinning members from Kettering and Lahnstein at a tree planting ceremony last July in memory of Cecil Brown, long-term twinning member

Families in Kettering have, in turn, hosted lots of return trips by their German guests.

The people of Lahnstein are organising a cultural festival which takes place from May 3 this year, and as part of that event people from Kettering who have taken part in one or more visits to Germany have contributed photos and videos of the visits.

John Miller is chairman of the Kettering Twinning Committee and in his 20 years with the organisation he has taken part in a number of trips to Lahnstein.

While on the face of it Kettering would appear to have little in common with a town on the banks of the Rhine in the heart of Germany’s wine-producing region, Mr Miller said twinning is not solely about finding common ground.

Twinning members at an event at Toller Church in Kettering

Twinning members at an event at Toller Church in Kettering

He said: “The aim of twinning is to promote the social, cultural and spiritual links between the UK and Germany.

“While the idea is to explore the differences between the two communities, the twinning trips have taught us there are also a lot of similarities.

“The ultimate goal is to promote friendship across the continent.”

As part of the Lahnstein cultural festival, Kettering Twinning Committee had been hoping to film interviews with people who had visited Lahnstein in the 1950s and 1960s, during the early days of the twinning arrangements.

The Hexenturm Salhof Platz in Lahnstein

The Hexenturm Salhof Platz in Lahnstein

However, that aspect of the project proved difficult and instead photographs and videos of past visits were sent.

Mr Miller said the twinning movement was partly born out of school exchange trips and efforts by Kettering Council to forge links in the 1950s.

Since then, groups from Kettering and Lahnstein have made trips in alternate years.

Mr Miller said: “Generally, our groups would stay with a family in Germany and then on the return visit the family would host the German guests.

Lahnstein Old Town Hall

Lahnstein Old Town Hall

“It does not always work out that way, as occasionally people have had to stay in hotels.”

Mr Miller said particularly memorable trips to Lahnstein have been when the visits have coincided with an event called Rhine in Flames.

At the August event, dozens of boats sail along the River Rhine from Lahnstein or the nearby city of Koblenz to Lorelei, which is a large rock at the narrowest section of the Rhine.

Once there, the boats turn around and sail back along the Rhine, stopping at villages and towns which have huge fireworks displays.

Mr Miller said: “It looks like the river is in flames and it is very spectacular.

“Sadly we don’t get there on every visit because we usually head over to Germany in May or June, but on occasion we have coincided our visit with the festival.”

This year’s visit to Lahnstein is taking place between May 24 and June 2.

Apart from the scheduled visits there are also opportunities for young people to take part in bursary schemes throughout the year, where they can arrange work experience in Lahnstein.

In its heyday, the twinning committee would take two coachloads of visitors from Kettering to Lahnstein, although Mr Miller said the numbers have fluctuated throughout the history of the group.

He said: “The number has settled somewhere between 30 and 40 in recent years, so there are still quite a few people involved.

“They tend to be from a more senior age group. It has proved difficult to get younger people involved, but I think that might partly be because of the challenge of competing with social media.

“Now, if someone wants to find out more about a foreign country or speak to someone in Germany, they can do it very easily.”

Despite that, Mr Miller said the Kettering Twinning Committee is blessed with a very active committee.

He added: “That is something we have always been very lucky with. Lots of people have always been willing to step up and help organise visits and events.”

As well as its twin town links with Lahnstein, Kettering also has sister city links with another Kettering, in Ohio, USA.

According to the European Twinning organisation, the town twinning movement started very soon after 1945, with the support of mayors and citizens who vowed that Europe should never again be torn apart by war.

Most of the twinnings were between towns from countries that had been divided by war.

The 1950s saw a huge increase in the number and range of twinnings.

Almost 2,000 settlements in the UK have twin town links with other settlements on the continent.

To help raise funds for the Kettering Twinning Committee, the organisation will be holding a coffee morning on Saturday, April 13, at the Toller Church Rooms, Meeting Lane, off Gold Street in Kettering.

There will be a warm welcome for all to come along and enjoy tea, coffee, hot chocolate, home-made cakes and delicious toasted tea cakes. There will also be books for sale.

Information about the Kettering Twinning Committee can be found at the Kettering Council website, www.kettering.gov.uk. The pages include contact details for committee members.

The town of Lahnstein also has its own website, which can be found at www.lahnstein.de. There is an option at the top of the website’s home page to translate the website into English.