Expecting twins

Members from the Sheringham-Muzillac Twinning Association for the Norfolk Magazine People with a Pas

Members from the Sheringham-Muzillac Twinning Association for the Norfolk Magazine People with a Passion page. Photo by Mark Bullimore - Credit: Archant

Members of the Sheringham/Muzillac Twinning Association are building friendships, boosting business and bringing together different cultures.

It is an age-old tradition, bringing together cities, towns and villages from across the seas to forge social and economic links to benefit communities.

Next month, Sheringham will welcome visitors from France to celebrate its official twinning with Muzillac in Southern Brittany – a relationship which it hopes will help attract new visitors to the town and have educational, cultural and economic benefits for the future.

The Sheringham/Muzillac Twinning Association has been given official recognition by the town council and is also part of the Norfolk Association of Twin Communities, which is supported by Norfolk County Council. The association was started 11 years ago and now has more than 50 members, many of who have formed close friendships with their French counterparts.

Publicity officer Keith Harvey says the benefits of twinning are enormous for everyone. “The twinning of towns and cities has always been very popular and it can be a really great thing for people to become involved in, both personally and for the community as a whole. Someone in Sheringham had some friends in Muzillac and we discovered the two towns had a lot in common and it grew from there. Over the years we have had many trips over to France and vice versa, and we hold fundraising events to help fund visits and activities. Sheringham is already officially twinned with German town Otterndorf so members felt we should also seek official recognition from the council for our association as well. Now that has happened we are looking to grow our organisation even more and make the most of these important links.”

Muzillac is a small coastal town on the south east coast of Brittany and it shares many cultural and economic similarities. Keith says that joining the association can be hugely enriching and that many members have built long-lasting friendships.

“People go to France and stay with host families and then we invite people back here to stay. It is wonderful because many people have forged lasting friendships over the years and keep in very close contact.”

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When visitors arrive from France, the association organises various trips and events to show them the town and nearby area and promote it as a great holiday destination.

“As well as the obvious social benefits of twinning there is huge economic potential as well for our local businesses. We want our guests to go back to France and encourage others to visit. It is a great way to spread the word about the town and to let people know we exist. But also we can learn a lot ourselves about tourism from them which can only be a good thing.”

There are also huge educational benefits to twinning and the association is currently forging stronger links with the schools in the town.

“It is a great way to get children interested in learning French and of course to learn more about different cultures. The French are very keen to learn English and see learning a language as being very important, so we hope it will encourage our children to do the same.”

The official twinning celebrations will see the signing of a special charter at the town hall and will include a free concert at St Peter’s Church, a welcome reception with representatives from different organisations, local dignitaries and pupils from Sheringham Primary School, a visit to Norfolk Wildlife Trust Cley Marshes Visitor Centre and a trip on the steam railway. Membership is £5 for 2014. To join, email smta.members@gmail.com. More information at www.sheringhammuzillac.wordpress.com

Meet the twin

Sheringham and surrounding area is twinned with Muzillac, which includes the town itself plus the many smaller towns and villages which surround it on the south east cost of Brittany. Muzillac has a population of 5,000 people, with about 1,400 of school age. It has a market, lively arts and social scene, many clubs and societies and lots of history. Both farming and tourism are a key part of its economy, and, like Sheringham, it is on a large stretch of popular coastline. It has two junior schools, with 400 pupils at each.

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