Twinning Alive and Well

If I said May the 6th Nineteen Seventy Seven and asked you the relevance of that particular date would you know what it might be?  Would you know that it is the date that Shrewsbury and Zutphen in Holland, were twinned? This year we celebrate the fact that the twinning is still working well and Shrewsbury and Zutphen are so intrinsically linked that in the thirty five years of twinning Zutphen families have hosted  Folk bands, Morris Dancers, Cycling Clubs, Choirs, Scouts, Kayakers, Schools and Exchange students and on it goes.   I myself went out to Zutphen, initially in 1978 with the then famed Castle B ceilidh band. I was eighteen and played the tambourine, I sang too. The majority of the population speak such good English there was never a problem in understanding me and there never seemed to be the trouble that foreign languages can bring us Brits.

But why are we linked and what do we have in common with this quiet Dutch town?  Well, importantly,  it wasn’t always a quiet beautiful town; it has seen its share of wartime horrors and has stood witness to the death, abuse and hatred from enemies throughout the whole of history. Our true connection  goes back to 1586 when ex-Shrewsbury School boy Sir Philip Sydney lost his life whilst liberating the town from harsh Spanish, catholic rule. Our next connection comes many years later in 1944/45 after years of Nazi oppression , Zutphen people were starving in what we now call  The Hunger Winter.  Shrewsbury residents clubbed together and sent aid for the starving people. In 1945, Shrewsbury Mayor Mr. Harry Steward wrote that he wished to adopt Zutphen and a huge relief effort followed , Shrewsbury once again popped up into the consciences of the town and the Zutphen folk were never to forget us.

As a town they beat us on the number of Rivers, unless we count the Rea Brook. The Zutphen folk have the river Ijssel and the river Berkel. Very much like our town there is much beautiful, ancient architecture and medieval churches. With the majority of the town being pedestrianised and cobbled one can meander safely and leisurely around the beautiful shops or go and see the old city wall. If you head to the East of the town  rather like Bridgnorth or Ludlow, you will find the old city gates, known locally as The Drogenapstoren and named after the town trumpeter Thomas Drogenap centuries. The gate is a fine example of medieval fortification. And one can see the medieval moat. It is such a fascinating town with so much to see.

Our twinning has now moved on a gear and as well as having cultural links the two town councils are allies and work sometimes closely together  on problems that our towns face daily, weekly and yearly. Even though we live in beautiful towns there is still the unpleasant and anti social behaviour element happening in the streets and in the classrooms of our schools. Although it is a tiny minority of both populations, it is an issue that sadly, today we have to address. That is why on Wednesday Shrewsbury Town Council Twinning Committee are to make their way across to our twin and put their heads together and exchange ideas about what can be done. The trip led by former Shrewsbury Mayor Tony Durnell will be a brainstorming affair to discuss new methods and new tactics. Most importantly they are taking me. I shall be there to report back in 

I am fascinated by the subject matter and I myself spent six years in Essex trying to modify behaviour through the use of digital media. I was amazed how the especially, naughty children, would respond to new methods of teaching. They were learning how to allow their creativity and individuality to come to the fore. I would teach them how to make films, maybe how to express better their feelings. They would write their own scripts and research their subject and the trick was, they didn’t know they were learning. They embraced it.

There is room in education and society in general, to explore new methods. Recognising a person’s worth is where it all starts. Spreading a feeling of value in the students and giving them ownership and validity of their work goes a long way to helping children out of the hole where they see everything as rubbish and unworthy of their attention. It will be interesting to see how our Dutch counterparts deal with these kinds of problems. I shall tell you all what happens. If you are a teacher or maybe like me, a former teacher, you may be interested to check my reports.

The trip, commencing on the third of October  will last four days and I look forward to reporting to you my findings. Follow me and share what I write with your friends. Who knows, Zutphen may just have some answers that could be of use to us all. I hope so, given the Dutch sense of pragmatism I am sure they will have some really refreshing approaches.

Thirty five years of twinning and here we are, our links are as strong as ever and I for one hope they remain so.



Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet. Follow hos blogspot at

Read More from Owen Lewis

Related Stories

So here we are it's again raining and I am soaking in not only the rain but in the massive amount
So as I promised this is my first brief report from Zutphen in the Netherlands. If you recall this
First in a series of interesting stories of the history of places we all know, love and use on a
A new scheme to help late night revellers find their way home safely from Shrewsbury town centre
The new owner of the Dana Prison site is coming to speak to Shrewsbury Town Council and the public