Welsh Town Twinning: A future for civil society across borders, or the end of association?

Type Paper
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2019
EventCivil Society in the four UK nations: Past, present and future challenges - Cardiff
Duration: 28 Nov 2019 → …


ConferenceCivil Society in the four UK nations: Past, present and future challenges
Period28 Nov 2019 → …
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Town twinning began after the Second World War, as a way of re-establishing friendship between European neighbours. Official friendships between towns in different countries helped bring civil society into international relations. Town twinning is typically led by voluntary associations, with various links to schools, councils and community groups. But, with wartime memory fading, and associations struggling to attract younger members, will town twinning stay relevant, or be relegated to the past?
This paper reports on new research on town twinning and civil society in Wales from the Centre for Welsh Politics and Society, WISERD@Aberystwyth. We draw from case studies with Welsh-German and Welsh-Breton twinning associations. The former are often longstanding, reflecting peacetime reconciliation; the latter centre on a shared Celtic connection. Through these examples, we identify one key benefit and three crucial challenges for the future of town twinning associations. We see the positive potential for civil society through town twinning to maintain Welsh-European connections despite the difficulties of Brexit. But communication raises a first challenge, especially with French and German language learning declining in Welsh schools. Second, individual local ‘champions’ for town twinning are often ageing and unable to find successors. Finally, we wonder whether the difficulties of attracting younger members to twinning reflects a broader generational shift towards alternative forms of association. Town twinning could continue to be part of the future of civil society – but it is at risk of becoming a lesson from the past.


  • Town twinning, Civil society, Wales, Bretagne