We will put some of these questions to a panel of colleagues interested in Coventry and twinning, but to have your say do please use the comments box at the foot of the page to give us your views on or experiences.
Did Coventry get carried away with twinning?
Twenty six cities is a lot and in practice some of these links are very tenuous. Perhaps some should be dropped officially, but how do you write to a partner city and say we don't want you?
Do we really know what is happening with twinning?
In the past we read about twinning in relation to visits of officials, invitations to formal events and organised youth and cultural exchange. They were easy to track. Now so much more goes unreported. For example, there are informal links between arts organisation and artists which very few people know about. Then some events take place which are not seen as twinning but are: for example if people come from Cork or Warsaw to visit family and friends in Coventry and end up singing traditional songs, that is twinning, isn't it? There are informal international organisations too that enable direct exchanges between people, for example Friendship Force International began as an exchange between a group of people from USA visiting Newcastle in England in 1977 and has grown considerably since then.
Is it important to continue with twinning?
Twinning is under pressure as councils in England have not get the money to support activities. Should it be dropped altogether? Certainly the benefits can be very hard to quantify but the enthusiasm and value is clear to everyone we spoke to. Some made the point that the twinning links were much more valued in partner cities than they were in Coventry.
Is there an economic spin-off in twinning?
Some of the questions asked about twinning are based on cost effectiveness. This was not the idea of twinning as promoted by pioneers in the late 1940s and 1950's. They were inspired by reconciliation and the promotion of peace. However, there is a reported economic gain in terms of twinning, for example an invitation to a trade fair made because a city was aware of a link with Coventry; partnership bids for EU funding in the past with twin cities; exchanges of expertise among professionals; and a general name recognition when trying to sell in partner cities. Can anyone tell us about these gains?
Should we shift attention away from certain cities and just talk about international partnerships?
Twinning provides a focus and a history of exchange between two cities. Obviously links with partner cities should not be at the expense of links with other cities just because those cities do not happen to be officially twinned. No-one thinks 'I will turn down an opportunity to do something with colleagues in Gdansk as Gdansk is not Warsaw!'. Attitudes need to be flexible, not least as there is an imbalance in the cities we are twinned with - we tend, for obvious reasons, to be with cities in Europe and there are no official links with cities in Africa, South America or South Asia (though preparation works for a link with the Indian city of Jalandhar was carried out and we do think of it as an associate partner). Yet we have large communities from all these places in Coventry.
What place is there now for school exchanges?
There in an overloaded curriculum which leaves to little time and energy to carry out exchange work and how can teachers be expected to deal with all the logistical and health and safety concerns that school exchanges trigger? Some manage but there needs to be more support.