» Twin Story

In 1943, Emily Smith, Coventry’s Mayor, and 830 other Coventry women (and some men) signed their names onto a tablecloth. Each one paid sixpence to sign and the money raised went towards medical aid for Stalingrad (now Volgograd). The names were embroidered by Mrs May Adams over the course of the next two years. In 1944 the relationship between Coventry and Volgograd was cemented and the cities became the first to twin.

In 2004, to mark the 60th anniversary of the twinning, Talking Birds created the ‘Twin 60’ project to explore what the twinning had achieved and what it meant to citizens in the two cities after 60 years, through the creation of a “Virtual Tablecloth“.

As we wrote in 2004: Coventry and Volgograd (as Stalingrad was renamed in 1961)’s…is a friendship that persisted even during the darkest days of the Cold War, and has led to many exchanges between the two cities – whether civic, cultural, educational or personal. It is interesting to ask whether the twinning has made any permanent difference to the thinking and actions of its citizens. And if so, what are they? What do we have in common?

There are issues of regeneration and image that might be explored, as well as the issue of a city’s relationship with its past. We should be careful not to try to make too many direct comparisons between the experiences of the two cities during the war; but we might be inspired by a concept of twinning which cannot be controlled by national governments, and might not even reflect national relations, yet persists and flourishes and has the potential to encourage change on a national level.

What does it mean to be a city of peace and reconciliation?

What does it mean to be a twin?

Now with this Twin Story project, we are looking to ask the same, or similar questions over a decade later, with the aim of collecting twin stories from citizens of both Coventry and Volgograd - and revisit the notion of twinning.

From the new Twin Story Blog website you can find out about the humble origins of the connection between Coventry and Volgograd, explore the Twin60 project from 2004, and contribute to the planned newly augmented tablecloth, a virtual tapestry for 2015 – if you would like to tell us your stories about your connections to Volgograd, or your thoughts about how we might begin to answer some of the knotty questions about the point of town twinning – you can do so here…

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