Leeds Skyline

Town Twinning

Picture: Public Domain

Leeds, UK

The roots of the twinning relationship between Dortmund and Leeds go back to the end of 1949.

coat of arms of Leeds

Leeds' Coat of arms

Then the Control Commission of Germany made the proposal to initiate a relationship between West Riding of Yorkshire and the administrative district of Arnsberg, as these were areas that resembled each other in terms of their geographical and population size, landscape and economic structure. In response to this proposal, pupil exchanges were organised, followed by teachers' encounters.

The decisive impulse for accepting the twinning relationship between Dortmund and Leeds came in 1957. Then the Lord Mayor of Dortmund, Dietrich Keuning, and the Lord Mayoress of Essen were invited as guests of the Foreign Office to embark on a trip to England. During their stay in Leeds, the largest city in Yorkshire, a twinning relationship between Dortmund and Leeds was considered by the two heads of city.

Leeds -View from Centenary Bridge

View from Centenary Bridge Leeds.
Picture: Creative Commons Attribution - No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic flickr / Karen Bryan

In 1959, exchange programmes were published by the youth welfare offices of both cities. The youths were to be between 16 and 20 years old, they did not need to belong to a youth organisation or have any knowledge of languages. But they did need to cover part of the costs of their stay and commit themselves to hosting a youth on their return to Leeds. This was followed by reciprocal official visits by representatives of both cities. But it was the International Culture Days that provided the final impulse for deepening the friendship ties.

1961 was dedicated to England: Dortmunders were able to get an insight into the lives of British people, to deepen their knowledge of the country and to eliminate prejudices. Their own desire to learn more about the partner city became the driving force behind the growing number of personal ties, which developed alongside the official visits between both cities.

Leeds Town Hall

The Town Hall of Leeds.
Picture: Creative Commons Attribution - Share Alike 3.0 Unported Wikimedia Commons / Andrew roberts uk

Apart from many private contacts and friendships, good connections were also formed, for instance, between arts and crafts schools, the administrative and trade schools, comprehensive and secondary schools, womens' educational establishments, public music schools, a language school, museums, folk dancers and choirs. The abundance of these well-founded connections finally led to both city representatives to deepend their existing relationship by the conclusion of an official city partnership. The occasion on which this was to occur was the International Culture Days, which were jointly organised by Dortmund and the UK in 1969.

On June 2, 1969, during an extraordinary Council meeting in the Großes Haus der Städtischen Bühnen, Lord Mayor Bretherick received a written declaration from his counterpart, Dortmund's Lord Mayor Sondermann, stating:

Leeds Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Abbey displays the beauty and grandeur of Cistercian architecture.
Picture: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic flickr / Tim Green

"From now on Dortmund and Leeds will be twin cities. Both cities have a common desire to keep alive the feeling of togetherness and to strengthen the personal ties between them. The City of Dortmund's Council commits itself on this ceremonial occasion to support the citizens of Leeds. It reinforces its intention to cooperate with the City of Leeds to ensure a happy future for the people of both cities, a peaceful world and a united Europe".

A counterpart declaration was presented to Lord Mayor Heinrich Sondermann and his delegation by the Council of Leeds in early April, 1970.

A new chapter had thus begun in Dortmund's history of twinning relationships. The declaration was not the beginning, but the culmination of long-standing cultural relationships. The declared intention of the elected representatives of both Leeds and Dortmund, however, was that this exchange of written declarations was to be the beginning of further efforts to become better aquainted and to reach a better understanding . It will be up to the citizens of both cities to see that this written declaration is put into practise.