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Leeds Dortmund 50

Having heard from the Mayor of Dortmund about the Leeds-Dortmund partnership in an interview with BBC Radio Leeds, today’s guest blog is from Peter Spafford. Peter is working on a literature project linked to the 50th anniversary of the city partnership, supported by Leeds 2023.

Many people in Leeds know about The Barrel Man in Dortmund Square. Apart from anything else, he’s been a well-used meeting place for years, Leeds’ answer to Eros in Picadilly Circus. But the story of why The Barrel Man exists is not so well known.

This year, 2019, Leeds and Dortmund will have been twinned for 50 years. The Barrel Man statue was a gift from the city of Dortmund, a token of our ‘sisterhood’ (as the Germans call it) and an acknowledgement of our shared brewing heritage.

Photograph courtesy of Joanne Bradley

Twinning has faded in popular consciousness, though the reasons for setting up the scheme seemed obvious enough after the end of World War 2. ‘Modern town twinning’ (according to Wikipedia) ‘was conceived to foster friendship and understanding between different cultures and former foes as an act of peace and reconciliation’.

Leeds/Dortmund 50 is a celebration of our golden anniversary through the arts, particularly literature. Over the next 6 months, a series of exchanges between writers in Leeds and Dortmund will take place culminating in a weekend festival at Chapel FM and other venues in the city. Dortmund will hold a reciprocal festival in 2020.

The project grew out of a writing exchange I set up last year between myself and a Dortmund poet, Ralf Thenior. Writers in Transit has resulted in mutual visits to each other’s cities and a jointly written book which is being launched this month in Germany, and here in Leeds in March (see dates below).

Ralf and I never intended the momentum to stop with us, so we’re really excited that Leeds 2023 is supporting Leeds/Dortmund 50. This support will enable us to set up creative writing exchanges between primary school children, older people, university students, young people’s writing groups, and members of the thriving Anglo German clubs, as well as published poets and more established writers.

The celebration weekend on 6th and 7th October, timed to coincide with a series of official visits from Dortmund, will feature live performances from Chapel FM which will all be broadcast, thus enabling participants in Germany to be part of the celebration even if they cannot physically attend. There will also be interviews with people, in church groups, choirs, language societies, who have benefited from 50 years of peace and friendship between our two cities.

In the meantime, Ralf and I are launching our book, Roadmarkings, at the following events:

Monday March 11th, 5pm, The Leeds Library, as part of Leeds Lit Fest. Free event.

Wednesday, March 13th, 7pm, Chapel Allerton Library. Free event.

If you wish to get involved with LD 50, contact Peter Spafford, And watch out for our new website coming soon.

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