Do low-cost flights, Facebook and Skype make town twinning easier or render it obsolete? These things all make overseas contact quick and cheap, so why do towns still bother to twin?
Some would say that town twinning harks back to a bygone age. After all, the idea of befriending towns in other countries sprung up in the 1950s as a way of helping to heal the wounds of the second world war.
In Britain, links with our nearest continental neighbour, France, and our former enemy, Germany, became especially popular. Joint events, hosting families and school trips became staple fare for twinned towns.
Forty years or so later, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the planned accession of eastern European countries to the EU changed twinning too. Links with countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic became popular.
Back then I worked for a magazine on European affairs and I remember a press trip to Poland for a meeting between Southend and Sopot. The two towns had the longest piers in their countries and both suffered from the problems associated with seasonal tourist trade.
They were ideal for twinning – after all, they shared something in common.
The local authorities in each town backed the links. However, now, in an era of austerity, where council budgets have been trimmed back to the bone, some authorities are cutting their international work.
However, a twinning link doesn’t necessarily require a great deal of input from the council. What’s needed is enthusiasm at the local level, among the two towns’ inhabitants.
My home town, Brighton, doesn’t have a twin in France. The most obvious French seaside resorts, such as Deauville, Trouville, Le Touquet, Dieppe and Boulogne – the ones Brighton might have some common ground with – have all been snapped up.
If there were one, I would almost certainly take part. However, I fear I might struggle to generate enough support for a new one. That’s a pity.