About Our Twinning
In 1995 an Anglophile of Villerest (Loire) in France asked his old Francophile friend in Storrington if he perhaps knew of an appropriate village in England with whom they might twin. The rest is not quite history, but ….. in 1996 the Storrington & District Twinning Association was launched at a public meeting on a bitterly cold January evening. Today it flourishes.
Villerest (population 4000) is situated on the upper Loire close to the town of Roanne (population 40,000), about 50 miles west of Lyon and is not unlike a larger version of Amberley. Although it is quite a long way (450 miles from Dieppe and about 500 miles from Calais), the trip can be completed in a day by either road or rail.
Twenty-four members of the Association visited Villerest as a group in November 1996; they were royally received and came back in the highest of spirits. In May the following year a group of 36 came from Villerest to Storrington, led by the mayor, Christian Féré, and the chairman of the twinning committee, Bernard Chancrin. The climax of an action-packed weekend was a reception in the Storrington First School, at which at least 160 friends and supporters watched the signing of the charter, formally linking the two communities, by Christian Féré and Albert Mullard, chairman of Storrington Parish Council. Neighbouring parish councils were also represented, and the highlight of the ceremony was the remarkable playing of the two national anthems by a small wind band from Rydon School and the charming singing (partly in French) and playing by the choir and orchestra of Spierbridge School.
The return visit to Villerest, for the equivalent charter-signing ceremony in France, took place during the first weekend of May 1998. Some 58 people travelled to Villerest for the ceremony – some on the arranged coach, some independently – and enjoyed a wonderfully warm welcome during a very full weekend. While the purpose of the visit was serious, the upper Loire Valley is a beautiful area and there is much to see and enjoy.
The aim of the Association is to promote friendship and understanding between the two communities by means of exchange visits involving schools, clubs and organisations, as well as the development of personal friendships. There is also the possibility of the broadening commercial activities, ideas and contacts. Membership is currently around 50 with others who are non-member supporters – and all sections of the community are welcome.
A very good relationship has developed between the two communities with personal visits in both directions and contacts being made. There is an active social and academic programme – notably French language courses and cultural meetings, well attended by a loyal following.
The Association’s finances are healthy – with not a penny from the tax-payer. We are independent of the local Councils and receive no financial assistance from them, nor do we have any religious or political affiliations.