50 years of twinning and friendship with the town of Falaise was celebrated this weekend with a large group from the Falaise Twinning Association visiting Henley.
The Mayor, Councillor Kellie Hinton welcomed the French guests at the Town Hall for a drinks reception on Saturday where they enjoyed Fairmile vineyard fizz to toast the 50th anniversary and enjoyed a tour of the building. Gifts were exchanged by the two Mayors; Henley Mayor presented a sterling silver oar that the Twinning Association had sourced through Leander and a bottle of Fairmile fizz and Falaise Mayor, Hervé Maunoury presented a picture of three well known places in Falaise which will be displayed in the Mayor’s Parlour.
Henley Mayor, Councillor Kellie Hinton said, “It was lovely to welcome our friends from Falaise this weekend, including the Mayor and his Deputy. I know they were particularly pleased to arrive seeing the Falaise flag flying proudly above the Town Hall. It was an honour to meet and speak with the people who have kept this twinning link going since the start, almost exactly 50 years ago. The friendship between our two towns is stronger than ever and this is a real testament to everyone involved.”
The twinning charter was signed on 16 November 1973 by Henley Mayor, Francis Sheppard and Falaise Mayor and was celebrated by 70 people who went to lunch at Phyllis Court and were entertained by dancers in French head-dresses and the Kennet Morris Dancers.
On Sunday the Falaise and Henley twinning association members travelled by coach to Stratford Upon Avon to enjoy lunch in old pubs including The Garrick, a visit to a craft market and Stratford Basin, a walk by the River Avon to Holy Trinity church where Shakespeare is buried and a view of Stratford from the top of the tower of the Royal Shakespeare theatre.
Back in Henley on Monday, the guests enjoyed a tour of the Bremont watch-making facility. They learned about how Bremont was started, and how their watches are unique. Secretary of the Henley Falaise & Leichlingen Twinning Association (HFLTA), Sue Fitzsimmons said, “The French really enjoyed the opportunity to ask questions, and were impressed by the excellent technical knowledge of the guides.”
On Monday evening, the two associations joined together for a celebration dinner at Shiplake Memorial Hall. Before the dinner, Henley’s long-standing member Anne Sanders of 47 years gave a speech in both languages. Before starting she had both the Union Jack and French Tricolour draped around her shoulders which she threw off in style. Anne said, “Our thoughts are with our friends who started the twinning; Francis Sheppard and Janek touching our hearts and friendships over the years. Your English has made very good progress over the years and so has our French.” She thanked members of both associations before going on to say, “Over the years clubs and groups from Henley and the villages have made visits and received visits from Falaise; Rotary, firemen, doctors, school exchanges, orchestra and sporting ones. You opened your camping site in Falaise to be available to Henley families on the way to their holidays in France for free. I’ve known many people who have used it. In 1973, Francis said, “The English Channel, will once again become as it should never be ceased to be regarded as an Anglo-Norman lake. When our Dukes of Normandy or if you prefer the Kings of England were our common sovereigns.”
After the dinner speeches were given by both Mayors and Chairs of the Twinning Associations. Falaise Twinning Association presented Henley with a beautiful glass ornament showing William the Conqueror. Afterwards there was music by a group of sax players from Goring and Streatley Concert Band and the evening finished with the singing of the Mareillaise and our National Anthem, accompanied by the sax group, and Gary Hamilton on horn.
Deputy Mayor, Councillor Rory Hunt who attended the dinner said, “The HFLTA should be proud of what they have achieved over the weekend. They have been splendid hosts and have shown the best of our wonderful town to the delegation from Falaise.
“It was a privilege to attend the Town Hall reception and the dinner, and I look forward to visiting Falaise myself in the near future. I hope the twinning continues for another 50 years and beyond, in the best traditions of UK-European co-operation. The different perspectives, culture, language, and friendship brought by town twinning is invaluable and shows the great inclusivity and welcoming nature of our town.”
Hervé Maunoury, Mayor of Falaise said, “It’s really lovely to be here as it is my first time. I’m the new Mayor of Falaise for 3 years. We’re very happy to be here and when we arrived on Friday evening, it was lovely to see the Normandy flag flying from the Town Hall flagpole. It’s great to bring 50 people to have friendship with everyone here and they are very happy to meet and discover more about the town. I hope that we to continue the twinning relationship.”
Serge Loock, Chair of the Falaise Twinning Association commented, “I was not obviously not the Chair for the whole time but I have been the Chair for 12 years and I was probably asked to be as I speak good English. I took over from my daughter who asked me. I’ve done it with pleasure and I wish that we can promote the association with younger people. We are looking for a new blood. We have brought together all our twinning associations together. We have copied Henley like that. We are now hoping that this will lead us to more people getting involved. We hope to further develop the friendships between the sports clubs. We’ve had exchanges with the theatre and orchestra. If there are other organisations like art/painting or bridge for example that would like to come to Falaise please get in touch as want to build further friendships.”
Chair of HFLTA, Patrick Flemming added, “It was very special to meet up again with old friends at the mayoral reception at the beginning of our 50th anniversary twinning visit from Falaise. We found out that two of the English group and three of the French visitors at the reception took part in the original exchanges in 1973.
“I was particularly pleased to be able to host Herve Maunoury the Mayor of Falaise and his partner and over the days of the visit to discuss opportunities for encouraging cultural exchanges in the future. There have been choir and orchestra visits over the years and on a personal note I was very pleased to catch up again with Annie and Maurice Ruau who hosted Jenny and I in the early years of our marriage, when we travelled over with the Henley Symphony Orchestra.
“We had a great evening’s entertainment on Tuesday and we were sad to wave them off on Tuesday. We are already looking forward to visits to Falaise next year.”