Our European Neighbours

Our community has shown huge support for Ukraine in recent weeks, with donations building up outside Prosperity in York Street. But have you ever noticed the sign on the opposite side of the road and wondered about the ‘twin’ connection? It’s all to do with the Richmond in Europe Association, as Alan Mockford explains…

Waren Sie schon in Konstanz? (Have you ever been to Konstanz?)Or Fontainebleau, Richmond’s other twin European town? Richmond is fortunate in having partnerships with two of the most beautiful towns in Germany and France, which the Richmond in Europe Association, with its 350 members in the three countries, actively promotes.

Konstanz enjoys a spectacular setting on the shores of the Lake Constance with the Alps as an impressive backdrop. A popular local saying is ‘Man ist auf Anhieb in Konstanz verliebt’ (One falls in love with Konstanz at first sight) and we can’t argue with that. Konstanz is most famous for hosting the Konzil of Konstanz from 1414-18, which ended the Western Schism of the church, during which the protestant reformer, Jan Hus, was burned at the stake. 

Fontainebleau is situated in the heart of the magnificent forêt de Fontainebleau south-east of Paris and is renowned for its spectacular château, which rivals Versailles in magnificence and importance. The nearby village of Barbizon, whose surroundings inspired the school of painters bearing its name, remains a great attraction for artists.

Many schools, clubs and cultural associations in Richmond have partners in our twin towns and regular exchanges take place between them. These exchanges have become more difficult to arrange since Brexit, but this makes them all the more important. Consequently membership of the association has rocketed since the referendum, as the residents of our borough strive to maintain their international connections.

Richmond has been twinned with Fontainebleau since 1977 and with Konstanz since 1983. The mayors of the three towns are the current patrons of the Richmond in Europe Association.

The 60th anniversary of the first twinning between Fontainebleau & Konstanz was to have been celebrated in Richmond in 2020 with five hundred guests from France and Germany expected to attend. Richmond’s 15 impressive town twinning signs had been refurbished and seven new ones were installed. The Richmond in Europe Association commissioned three new information boards about our twin European towns – in the Terrace Gardens in Richmond; outside East Sheen library; and in Orleans House Garden. In addition an attractive new fingerpost sign, pointing to our twin towns, was positioned between the town hall and civic centre in Twickenham. This striking symbol of our international partnerships was unveiled by the Mayor and Leader of the council on 5th November last year. St Margaret’s Elastic Band, which is twinned with Union Musicale de Fontainebleau, performed before and during the ceremony.

A total of 120 local clubs & associations had registered to take part in the festivities, which included a reception, dinner, sporting fixtures, a church service, parade, dinner, & concert performance by the European Youth Orchestra, comprising musicians from the three towns plus Lodi in Italy, with which Konstanz & Fontainebleau are also twinned. 

Unfortunately the celebrations had to be postponed because of the pandemic, but aufgeschoben ist nicht aufgehoben (‘postponed is not cancelled’) and the  reaffirmation of our international partnerships will now take place in Richmond from 6th-8th June 2025 with even more concerts, sporting fixtures, parades and pageantry than originally planned. In addition the Richmond in Europe Association hopes to commission an inspirational public work of art by a local sculptor to mark the event.

Find out more about the wonderful opportunities which our partnerships with Konstanz & Fontainebleau afford via richmondineurope.com or email richmondineurope@hotmail.com

Alan Mockford

Chairman, Richmond in Europe Association