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August 21st, 2017.

Peter White reports:

Following five exploratory years, and 35 years in existence, the Seaford Twinning Association will regretfully wind up in September. The AGM, in the Council Chamber on Friday the 1st of September, will close the books. It finishes with a small and loyal membership, but no one prepared to run it.

The Twinning Charter, signed in both countries and in both languages, will remain on the walls of Seaford’s Council Chamber, and its counterpart in Bönningstedt, Schleswig Holstein, Germany. It’s just that the ‘supporters club’, the STA, will be absent.

In the late 1970’s, adult education students from Bönningstedt, just north of Hamburg, stayed at Seaford’s Corsica Hall adult education centre. Led by Heinz Oertel, a teacher who is 100 this October, they first made contact with the Seaford Silver Band. Folowing ten or more Band visits to Germany, each rewarded by a different Bönningstedt Street-name sign, Heinz and the Band are the true founders of 35 years of Partnerschaft (Twinning) and the ‘Bönningstedter March’, composed by the Band’s Cyril Beare, is loved in Germany.

The Charter remains valid and in legal force, and no one appears to know how a charter is dissolved! It was signed by local people in 1984, in the absence of a Town Council, and was validated by the Government’s Central Bureaux for Twinning and Exchanges. Across East Sussex County two other towns, Polegate and Hurst Green, twinned in the same manner with towns in Kreis Pinneberg, the German county with links to East Sussex since the 1950’s and eventually with a formal county-to-county twinning.

Pinneberg is an area peopled by Saxons with a similar origin, sense of humour, and original language to the South Saxons of Sussex. German visitors come to Seaford and are greeted by Bönningstedt’s name on welcoming road signs, on the Bönningstedt Promenade, and, of course, Bönningstedt provided 110 replacement trees for Seaford after the great storm of 1987.

The demise of the STA has nothing to do with Brexit and much to do with an ageing Committee and no volunteers to replace it. At the AGM, members will be asked if they wish to revert to their former title: “The Friends of Bönningstedt”. That will free-up the title “Seaford Twinning Association” for any future group who wish to twin the town with anywhere else.

Since 1982 German Choirs and their ‘PopChor’ have sung in Seaford Pubs, Halls, Churches, and the new Public Performance Area at the Martello Tower. A football team visited to play against Seaford, and Seaford Fire Fighters took an appliance to visit the Bönningstedt Brigade, with its six fire engines for a town of 3,000.

When the Great Storm of 1987 destroyed hundreds of Seaford’s trees, Bönningstedt paid for 110 replacements along Alfriston Road and in Chyngton. A plaque in the Crouch Gardens commemorates the gift. The Plaque on the Seafront commemorates 30 years of friendship, and new beach chalets have started to enhance the Bönningstedt Promenade.

On Europe Day – a celebration not of the EU but of the 47-strong post-war reconciliation Council of Europe – famous speakers came to the Seaford Europe Day Dinner: Lord Healey, Norman Baker; and Euro-MP Sir Jack Stewart-Clarke, who first demonstrated the ‘Ecu’ – forerunner of the Euro!

The original ‘Welcome to Seaford’ signs paid for by a Twinning Member, and their modern replacements, trumpet both European friendship, but also the town’s Cinque Ports heritage. When Seaford Museum or the Town Council fly the Seaford Coat of Arms flag, that is provided by Seaford’s Twinners.

Seaford Head School has an oak tree planted in celebration of the links, and the school sent a home-to-home exchange group. Its school band played twice in both Bönningstedt and the old East Germany.

Seaford’s Town Crier is also ‘Stadtausrufer’ of Bönningstedt, and also of the town of Crivitz in the former East, which Bönningstedt helped to ease into town-democracy.

Twinning will continue as a family-to-family activity although the formal ‘supporters’ club, STA, closes in September, (AGM 1st of September, details from Peter White on 01323 897360), with a final donation to a local charity.

The Twinning Charter, still in-force and awaiting some future Prince Charming to bring it back to life, adorns the Council Chamber, and the written records will go to ‘The Keep’ for safe-storage.

The German Conversation Group, the ‘Plauschgruppe’, continues.

So it is ‘adieu’ and ‘thank you’, not goodbye.

Peter White