Twinning and friendship links

detail of a handshake

© Brcic

The twinning of towns and cities developed in Europe after World War II. The aim was to provide a framework that would enable those cities to learn more about each other in the aftermath of the conflict. The principle of twinning is that the twinned towns or cities should have something in common such as their geographical setting or industrial base.

Twinning arrangements are normally formal, involving the commitment of city authorities to establishing and developing links between the cities. But they also involve ordinary citizens, not only in participating in shared activities but also in having the opportunity to initiate such arrangements within an official framework. In the 21st century twinning is an international phenomenon.

Liverpool officials have had an active policy of twinning with other cities since the 1950s. In the aftermath of World War II official links were forged with the German city of Cologne and with Odessa, the Black Sea port which was then part of the Soviet Union. Since then Liverpool has also been formally twinned with Dublin, the capital of Ireland (1997), and Shanghai, the commercial centre of China (1999). There are organised programmes of activities involving these twin cities.

Liverpool has friendship links with another 14 cities in Europe, Asia and the Americas. These include Havana (Cuba), New Orleans (US), Halifax (Canada), La Plata (Argentina), Memphis (United States), Minamitame-Cho (Japan), Ponsacco (Italy), Ramnicu Valcea (Romania) and Valparaiso (Chile).

The majority of the cities with which Liverpool has links are, like Liverpool itself, port cities. In addition several of these cities have strong musical traditions. These traditions were developed and reinforced by the wide range of influences brought into the city from other countries by seaborne trade past and present.

It was this musical connection that formed the basis of the friendship links between Liverpool and the US cities of New Orleans and Memphis. Liverpool and New Orleans were officially linked as sister cities in 1991, part of the Sister City Programme initiated by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 to develop links between US cities and cities in other nations. Both Liverpool and New Orleans now have international airports named after famous local musicians (John Lennon and Louis Armstrong). In a letter of 1988 sent to the Leader of Liverpool City Council the Mayor of New Orleans, Sidney Barthelemy, wrote:

"We look forward to establishing a sister city relationship with the city of Liverpool. Because of our many cultural ties, we hope to develop a close relationship with your city in: music, visual arts, business development, student exchanges and many other areas".

In the 'Liverpool Daily Post' the initiative was described in somewhat narrower terms as providing a "shop window in the North American market for Liverpool's tourism industry" (August 18th, 1987).

Liverpool announced its friendship link with Memphis in 2004, a year that marked the fiftieth anniversary of Elvis Presley's first record 'That's All Right Mama', cut at the Sun Studio in Memphis on 5 July 1954. In 2004 an exhibition called Fingerprints of Elvis was held at the Albert Dock in Liverpool. The president of the Memphis Convention said that

"Memphis and Liverpool had more impact on the development of rock and roll than just about any other community in the world." (Liverpool City Council press release, 15 December 2003)