A report of proceedings at the recent Twinning Conference is reproduced below. The conference was held in Municipal Buildings, Falkirk, on Wednesday, August 22, 2018.
Odenwald Association (Falkirk area/Odenwald region, Germany) – Walter Simms (Chair), Gray Allan (Vice-Chair), Anne Simms (Secretary), Charles Tibbles – Treasurer), Andy Christie (former Chair), Isabella Allan, Lynda Kenna (Executive Committee member), Greg McCarra, Sylvia Koenig-Erich, Christine Webster
Falkirk District Twinning Association (Falkirk/Créteil) – Elaine Mitchell
Haddington Twinning Association (Haddington/Aubigny sur Nère – Andrew Wilson (Treasurer), Marine Baron (student from Aubigny), Ailsa Wrinn (student from Haddington)
Bathgate/Cran-Gevrier Twinning Association– Christine Calder (Chair), Lorna Kerwin (Secretary)
Linlithgow Twinning Association (Linlithgow/Guyancourt) – Gaynor Parry (Chair), Ian Donaldson (past Chair and Founder of the Association), Heather Laing (Committee member)
West Lothian Twinning Association (West Lothian/Hochsauerland) – Jim Clark, Edgar Liddle (Treasurer)
Walter Simms welcomed everyone to the Conference, explaining that the idea of local twinning organisations coming together in some way originated from the OA’s own discussions about promotion and publicity, and the recent referendum decision to leave the EU. He then handed over to John Swan who had agreed to facilitate the meeting.
John outlined the aims for the evening which were to share best practice, improve effectiveness, and look to the future of twinning post-Brexit, by concentrating discussions on the challenges of Membership, Funding, and Promotion. He then invited each group to tell the meeting about their organisation.
A representative from each group gave a short history of their organisation, then told the meeting about their twinned town or region, four of them in France and two in Germany. The groups differed in the way they were funded, some having a lot of Council support, some relying on fundraising, some having social events, and some mainly coming together for business meetings. Exchange visits have included Burns Suppers, disabled clubs, pipe bands, and a range of sports. Each group faced the same challenges of recruiting new members and acquiring funding. However, it was clear that all the groups are made up of people with a passion for twinning, a love of their particular town or region, and a determination to keep their links going for as long as possible.
The delegates split into four groups to discuss the topics for the evening.
Topic 1 – Ideas for Recruiting New Members
Use social media, website, Facebook, Twitter
Hold social events e.g. film nights, bingo and quiz nights
Man a stall at a local event or in local shopping centre
Promote your organisation to both young and older people – schools, dance groups, music groups, sports groups, church groups
Facilitate language exchanges e.g. for 5th/6th year pupils
Promote short visits to your twinning town/region
Encourage people to act as hosts here – they may then feel inspired to visit the town, and join the organisation
Exploit the “Outlander’ connection to increase interest in your twinning partner area
Topic 2 – Increasing Funding
Council support – either a fixed amount or a grant for a specific project
Corporate sponsorship e,g, with Tesco or a local business. If someone works for BP, they will match the funds you raise
Fundraising events – concerts, bingo and quiz nights, film night
Raffles, scratch cards, ‘100 club’ lottery, tombola
EU funding – will it dry up?
Lottery funding – usually for something specific, stringent criteria to meet
fundingscotland.com – information about 1200 funds which support Scottish projects
Erasmus+ – aimed at schools, further and higher education, adult education, youth and sports organisations – could be useful for specific project
Topic 3 – Promoting your Organisation
Use social media, website, Facebook, Twitter, blog – keep it up to date with regular posts, tweets, etc.
Promotional materials – banners, business cards, leaflets, T shirts
Make use of local radio, newspapers
Hold fundraising events (banners and leaflets handy for these)
Have a stand at local events, take part in local festivals
Forge links with other local groups
Use your local library for exhibitions, posters and leaflets, encourage them to have a section on the town’s twinning areas
Take an empty shop unit for a week or even a month
Talk to groups, schools
Hold conversation classes
Word of mouth – talk to colleagues, family, friends
Article in Council newspaper, or ask Council PR/Marketing for help
Sharing Best Practice
John Swan invited each organisation to think of things that they did particularly well.
West Lothian Twinning Association teamed up with Bathgate/Cran-Gevrier
Successful running of social evenings including quiz nights
Outreach to under-21 groups (future-proofing)
Turning formal exchanges into personal friendships
Linlithgow Twinning Association
Home hosting to fully experience French/Scottish family life
No membership fees and open to everyone to join
Strong link with Linlithgow Folk Festival
Social media including Facebook page
Strong link with Airth Highland Games – mutually beneficial
Regular meetings and social events
Good promotional materials – OA share website with FDTA
Good relationship and regular communication with sister organisation in the Odenwald
Haddington Twinning Association and FDTA
A wide variety of exchanges – schools, pipe band, gardening
Sharing celebrations in Aubigny – Burns Suppers, Fêtes Franco-Ecossaises
Bringing French culture to Haddington – pétanque pitch
Most attendees thought that the session had been useful. Andy Christie of the OA suggested holding another conference, posibly hosted by another group. Again, most people agreed in principle, though no date was set.