Chairperson's Interim Report

Chairperson’s Interim Report

Phil Mills-Bishop

Founder, Life Member & Chairperson

 

This report reviews the emergence and formal establishment of the Stonehaven & NE Scotland Twinning Group from 1st November 2018 to present. A copy will be made available on the Group’s website. Twinning in Europe grew out of the events of the 2nd WW to help heal the wounds across communities. French and German twinning associations were among the first and Acheres-Paris (our own inaugural twin) was one of them. Similarly in the US twinning (“Sisterhood”) grew out of President Eisenhower’s 1956 White House conference on citizen diplomacy. Eisenhower envisioned that peace and prosperity could grow out of creating bonds between people from different communities around the World. By forming these relationships, President Eisenhower reasoned that people of different cultures could celebrate and appreciate their differences and build partnerships that would lessen the chance of new conflict. This lies at the heart of the Stonehaven & NE Scotland Twinning Group’s Constitution and raison d'être. In late Autumn 2017 the Deputy Mayor of Acheres-Paris on a visit to Stonehaven fell in love with the Town and wished to Twin with it. However, after approaching a number of organisations within the town none were willing to become involved. This included Aberdeenshire Council itself who had for some time decided that Twinning should not be actively pursued as it was costly, outdated and did not produce any tangible outputs. It was at this time I meet with the Deputy Major of Acheres-Paris and immediately saw the great potential of twinning and gave my personal commitment. As Chairman of the Stonehaven & District Community Council at the time I managed to get tacit support from the Community Council, however, it would not organise nor allocate any money for hospitality and/or friendship gifts. This was left to myself personally and one or two Councillors, local residents and businesses to do so. Richard Holman-Baird of Lockwood, Ury, Commander Clan Baird and local resident at Rickarton was one of those individuals who shared the potential for good of Twinning. Richard’s support has been unswerving since that time and is currently Co-Chairperson & Treasurer of the Stonehaven & NE Scotland Twinning Group.

In May 2018 myself, Richard and 4 Stonehaven residents visited Acheres. The reception and hospitality was tremendous. In June 2018 the Mayor of Acheres Marc Honor and delegation made a reciprocal visit which culminated in the first “twinning gathering” at Dunnottar Castle with many representatives present from local groups, Councillors including VIP guests: e.g., Provost of Aberdeenshire Cllr Howartson & French Consul-General to Scotland Emanuel Cocher. However, by late Summer 2018 it was obvious to myself and others that despite massive positive media coverage, commendations in both Scottish & Westminster Parliaments and a letter of support from the Scottish Cabinet Minister for Tourism Fiona Hyslop MSP, no local group was willing to take the Twinning initiative forward. It was therefore decided amongst those individuals to form the Stonehaven & NE Scotland Group (sNEST). The immediate aim of the twinning group was to consolidate its relationship with Acheres which it did with a programme of sporting exchanges to happen during 2019 in Golf, Rugby & Tennis. These happened. More are planned for 2020 including a Discovery Week-end for 20 individuals from Acheres. Also local NE Twinning Associations such as Aboyne & Inverurie were contacted inviting them onto the newly formed sNEST Steering Group as Ex-Officio Members to improve communications, information, contacts and shared activities. It was also at around that time that an approach was made by Dr Debra Baird from Athens State University Alabama USA to form a “Sisterhood” relationship with the newly formed Stonehaven & NE Scotland Twinning Group. It was established that Athens was to celebrate its bicentenary later in November 2018… so an open birthday party was held at Castle Fraser to investigate the relationship possibilities. Many guests who had attended the Summer twinning gathering at Dunnottar Castle were invited and the special vip guest was US Consul to Scotland Ellen Wong. An internet link with the Mayor of Athens Ronnie Marks was also made. The event attracted massive local media coverage from newspapers and tv. Subsequent to the Athens birthday celebration discussions continued into the New Year 2019 and it was agreed that myself and Richard would visit Athens Alabama in May 2019 and that on the success of that, a reciprocal visit to Stonehaven & NE Scotland be made by Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks and delegation in early August 2019. The visit by myself and Richard was a success with visits to local schools, Jack Daniels factory, NASA Rocket & Moon Research Centre at Huntsville and the visiting the site where a school was established by Megan Markle’s (now Prince Harry’s wife) 5times grandfather…. a black slave who served in the Union Army during the American civil war. The visit generated significant media coverage both in Athens and at home. Also information and updates via eMails and pictures were sent by myself to not just Members of the Twinning Group but other Stonehaven individuals and local groups. The return visit by Mayor Marks and delegation in early August 2019 was an equal success with: walk-about in Stonehaven engaging local businesses (Graingers, Dunnottar Wines etc) and enjoying a Jack Daniels ice-cream specially prepared by Guillanotti, one of Stonehaven’s oldest businesses; being received by the Lord Provost of Aberdeen Cllr Barney Crockett in the Town House and enjoying the hospitality of Castle Fraser, Crathes Castle and Kinneff Church parishioners.

 

The programme the Twinning Group will pursue over the coming months are:

a) Invitations to Stonehaven and NE Scotland music groups to become a part of the Athens International Fiddlers Convention.

b) Invitation to Newtonhill Pipe Band to attend the Athens International Fiddling Convention.

c) Working with Aberdeen University and Athens International Fiddling Convention to trial software that allows simultaneous playing of fiddling music over the Internet in real-time with no time-lapse from various locations in the World.

d) Continuing Sporting Exchanges with Acheres-Paris.

e) Developing, delivering and staging “Scottish Experience Camps” for youths 16+ from Athens-Limestone County Alabama on the: past, present and future of Scotland. Such camps are a quid-pro-quo for the “Space Camps” places at the US Rocket & Space Centre at nearby Huntsville Alabama provided by Athens-Limestone County for a similar number of local & NE Scotland youths 16+.

f) Discussing with our Twinning partner Acheres-Paris similar “Scottish Experience Camps” for youths 16+ from Acheres-Paris on the: past, present and future of Scotland. As a quid pro quo “French Experience Camps at Acheres-Paris for a similar number of local & NE Scotland youths 16+.

g) Introducing opportunity of NASA World Environmental Program for local Schools

h) Developing “Blatherer Scottish Genealogy & Clan Tours”.

i) Appointing a significant person in the NE Scotland hospitality sector as the inaugural Honorary President of the Twinning Group.

j) Appointing a local youth 16+ as Youth Twinning Ambassador on the Voluntary Steering Group.

k) Finalising the Twinning Group’s Structure.

l) Attaining Membership of International Twinning Organisation.

m) Continuing to develop closer relationships with other Scottish Twinning Associations.

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