The Barking & Dagenham and Witten twinning arrangement is one of the oldest existing contacts between a German town and an English town. For two generations, however, municipal "foreign policy" was left to town hall officers, sports clubs, schools, choirs and other groups.
It was only in 1995 that the Barking & Dagenham / Witten Club was founded on the German side. The English side had already set things into motion by setting up their branch of the international society a few years previously.
An exhibition dedicated to the many encounters that have taken place between groups from the two towns was one of the Club's initial activities. Our first "Citizens Trip" was announced as early as 1996.
The reciprocal visits swiftly established themselves. But it wasn't just the committee officers and politicians that set off to foreign parts; it was ordinary members and other citizens. The minutes of the committee meetings confirm that, in addition to the trips, many other contacts and arrangements were made.
At a joint meeting of the Executive Committee on 15 March 1996, for example, it was decided to forge a link between the Barking & Dagenham Disabled Angling Club and the Witten Angling Club. The committee also proposed that a tree symbolising the partnership be planted in both Dagenham and Witten. The Club has taken part at the Town Twinning Jumble Sale ("flea market") from the very start. We have also attempted on several occasions to recreate in Witten a Speaker's Corner based on the Hyde Park model … perhaps not with the greatest of success!
Members of the fire brigade and the police force have paid us a few athletic visits, sometimes by bike or sometimes just to take part at an event in Witten. We have also looked after various political party delegations and the Redbridge Football Club during their visits to this part of the world.
If a full English-language course for the Witten members could only maintain momentum for two years, the English Conversation Circle (which was initiated at the same time) has been meeting for five years.