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50 Years Dortmund Leeds. What Connects Us – An online exhibition

Last October we celebrated 50 years of twinning with our German partner city of Dortmund with a host of activities that took place here in Leeds. This year the focus switches to Dortmund for the return leg of the anniversary celebrations.

Unfortunately many of the planned visits and activities due to take place in May 2020 have been put on hold due to the Covid-19 crisis. But we’re still managing to celebrate with an online photo exhibition that celebrates our friendship.

The exhibition called 50 Years Dortmund Leeds. What Connects Us aims to celebrate and strengthen connections based on cultural similarities. Led by the Dortmund’s City Council and the artist association, Dortmunder Gruppe, the exhibition features a virtual collage made up of photographs from various artists and cultural professionals from Dortmund and Leeds. These images document visits, activities, projects, friendships and partnerships involving residents, institutions or associations from both cities.

The virtual virtual opening of the exhibition takes place on Sunday 3 May 2020 at 10.00 am (UK TIME) on Anyone is welcome to join!

How did Town Twinning between Dortmund and Leeds come about?

The beginnings of the partnership between Leeds and Dortmund date back to the end of 1949, when attempts were made to establish a relationship between the West Riding of Yorkshire and the administrative district of Arnsberg, two regions that were very similar in size, population, landscape and economic structure. The first town twinning ties were established in the following years by means of student and teacher exchanges. The town twinning gained decisive impetus through reciprocal visits by official delegations, such as the visit of the then Lord Mayor of Dortmund Dietrich Keuning to Leeds in 1957 and the return visit of Leeds’ Lord Mayor Joseph Hiley and other representatives in the same year.

Yet it was not until the International Culture Days held in Dortmund in 1961 that these encounters, which initially took place on the level of local politics, were gradually expanded to include the cultural, economic and private exchanges. This led to collaborations between students and teachers of the Werkkunstschule Dortmund and the Leeds College of Art, which also resulted in an artistic exchanges between painters, Pitt Moog and Eric Atkinson. Further cultural cooperation, meetings and youth exchanges took place in the following years, strengthening the Anglo-German ties.

It wasn’t until in 1969 that the twinning became officially recognised when on the 2 June the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Alderman Allan R. Bretherick, was presented with a written declaration by Dortmund’s Lord Mayor Heinrich Sondermann, in which the City Council of Dortmund “commits itself […] 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 Sondermann by Leeds City Council.

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