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My Norwich

Sixty year old friendship aims to boost two cities’ cultural offer

Published on Thursday, 29th June 2023

A ‘twinning friendship’ between Norwich and Rouen has been strengthened following a visit to the French city by our Lord Mayor.

Norwich and Rouen, in northern France, have been twinned since 1959 – an idea to emerge following the second world war, to promote links between different cultures, with the ultimate aim of reducing the risk of conflict.

On both sides of the channel, there are associations who work alongside the councils and cultural institutions on a range of projects and exchanges.

The city of Rouen has been shortlisted as a finalist in its bid to be crowned European Capital of Culture 2028 – coincidentally 20 years on from Norwich’s bid. It took this opportunity to invite the city’s first citizen – Lord Mayor of Norwich Cllr James Wright to back its bid and sign a memorandum of co-operation, agreeing to share knowledge, expertise, as well as take part in youth, student and professional exchange programmes.

Lord Mayor of Norwich, Cllr James Wright said

“The twinning of Rouen and Norwich has given rise to a remarkable partnership, characterised by shared values and aspirations.

As we embark on this new phase of co-operation, embracing transitions, culture, youth, public governance, and Europe, let us seize this opportunity to deepen our connections, build bridges of understanding, and create a future that is prosperous, inclusive, and united.

He added:

“Through initiatives such as ‘European youth encounters’ [Translated], we will provide platforms for meaningful dialogue and collaboration, nurturing the next generation of European leaders.”

Monsieur le Maire Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol (mayor of Rouen) said:

“We’ve been linked with Norwich since 1959. Within the horizon of our candidacy to become European City of Culture, we want to foster partnerships with artists, young people and citizens. Europe goes beyond just politics and institutions. Europe is about the people and our inhabitants have a lot to share.”

Jean-Gabriel Guyant, head of culture, said:

“Norwich has been a part of our family, our sister city for 64 years – If we are designing a European Capital of Culture for 2028 it is definitely unthinkable to imagine it without Norwich and all the Norfolk inhabitants.”

Some recent collaborative projects

These programmes have been made possible through the co-ordination of The Norfolk & Norwich Rouen Friendship Association and support of the Norwich City Council’s Twinning committee, along with a range of partners -- a special mention to cultural development professional goes to Marion Catlin.

  • This is England Film Festival (Rouen)
  • Norwich Film Festival
  • Groundwork Gallery in King's Lynn have hosted and shown artists at the gallery including Aude Bourgine and Syrian artist Reem Yassouf from Rouen.
  • A youth exchange visit between The Garage and Le Safran Collectif
  • Norfolk and Norwich Festival are working with them on a project Rivers of Hope with the Thames Festival.

These are just a handful of examples, there are many more already in progress and more to come.

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