It’s hard to miss the line ‘twinned with Moncé en Belin, France’ on the sign when you drive into Welton village, but what does that actually mean?
Contemporary town twinning, as an official relationship-builder, started in Europe after WW2, with the idea to repair damaged relationships between France, Germany and the UK. This was done by finding towns that suffered or were connected through the war and pairing them together to encourage people from these areas to meet, mix and get along.
Twinning in Welton has two levels of activity; the first is the official formal Twinning Charter between the Welton Parish Council and Moncé en Belin Council which was established in 1974. The second is the Welton Moncé Family Twinning Association (WMFTA), an independent voluntary group who pair English and French families and arrange annual twinning exchanges as well as encourage continuing friendship between the families.
WMFTA is an independent self-funded association run by its members, for its members. Apart from a nominal annual subscription of £40 per family (£20 for individuals), they raise money through events. In a typical year they arrange a minimum three events; the last event of this year ‘Call My Bluff’ wine tasting event on 21st October at Welton Village Hall. All funds raised are saved to subsidise the exchange visit to Welton by our French families.
The highlight of each year is the exchange visit which always takes place over the August bank holiday weekend. The exchanges alternate each year, with the English visiting Moncé one year and the French visiting Welton the next and so on. This year the French families visited Welton – the first time the families have seen each other since 2019 due to the pandemic. Graham Briggs, WMFTA Treasurer said, “It was excellent. It was really exciting reconnecting after four years and I think perhaps that made it even more special. It was great to get back into the twinning habits of catching up, sharing cultures, food and stories.”
Jean Paul Cormier is the ‘President’ of the Family Twinning Committee in Moncé. Reflecting on the recent exchange weekend he said (in French!), “What a pleasure to be back in Welton after four years without an exchange. We couldn’t wait to see our dear friends again and had a great time. Celebrating our 50th anniversary next year is the strongest sign of longevity between our villages. We must seek to welcome and integrate new families to continue our friendship.”
The group have members from Welton, Dunholme and surrounding villages and all are welcome. All they require is the spirit to meet new people, to be comfortable with different cultures and lifestyles and have the confidence to share your own interests and way of life. Hayely and Peter Sammut and their young children are WMFTA’s newest members, so the 2023 August Exchange was their first twinning experience. Commenting Hayely said “We just wanted to thank everyone for being so welcoming over the weekend. We had an amazing time and are very pleased to have joined you all. I plan to promote the twinning within my workplace so hopefully that will get more interest.
In such a transient world where we seem to always be on the go, a good twinning partnership can bring many benefits to a community and the municipality. It represents a long-term commitment between the partners, and a lasting connection that persists throughout the years no matter how fast they go by.
Graham has been part of the association for 29 years. “It has just been a fabulous experience” he explains, “I think I speak for the vast majority of the twinners when I say it’s not just an annual event, the relationships between families continues throughout the year and people make their own journeys to each other. Our Moncé family have hosted us for milestone birthdays, marriages and of course the famous Le Mans 24hr race and I know other families who have done the same – the relationship is not just about a once-a-year exchange. We have hosted our Moncé family’s children when they were teenagers for work experience for example.”
If they can recruit two or three more families a year over the next few years, it can not only allow new thoughts, ideas and interests to come through the Association and provide more opportunities in the future for families, but also maintain the longevity of the Association and ‘Entente Cordiale’.
If you would like to get involved, email email@example.com or call John Ryland (Chairman) on 01673 860823 or Graham Briggs (Treasurer) on 01673 862181.