Centre for Education Studies, University of Warwick
Nicole Berríos Ortega
Doctoral Researcher, University of Warwick
What are twinned cities, and why do they matter?
Our research project was about twinning between Coventry and other cities around the world. We had a particular interest in school partnerships and we wanted to report what we found out in a way that was accessible to school audiences.
Coventry was a pioneer of twinning. It began during the second world war. The city of Stalingrad, (which is now called Volgograd) had been destroyed during a siege by the German Army. Women in Coventry donated six pence to sign their names on a tablecloth to raise money for medical provisions for the people of Stalingrad. You can now view this famous tablecloth in the panoramic museum in Volgograd. After the second world war Coventry twinned with other cities that had been destroyed, Warsaw, Dresden and Kiel, to name a few. Over the years Coventry twinned with its namesakes, Coventry in Connecticut USA and Coventry Rhode Island, and Coventry’s west Indian community chose to be twinned with Kingston in Jamaica.
Today, the focus of twinning is much more on grassroots exchanges between voluntary groups such as artists, musicians, theatre groups, as well as faith groups, business organisations and schools. We are particularly interested in schools and twinning and Coventry students have exchanged visits with students in Jinan China, Dresden and Kiel in Germany, Volgograd in Russia and many other places besides. It is through these exchanges’ students learn how other young people live and how growing up in these places is similar but also different from Coventry. Of course, nowadays exchanges can be carried out using social media as well as face to face.
Through the project we came to see how twinning broadens people’s horizons, creating enduring links between people and places even when national politics become fractured.
You don’t need to travel to understand twinning. Coventry is an international city and many communities have links with India, Pakistan, Ireland and Poland and many more countries besides.
You can read more about the project and see the animation in situ at warwick.ac.uk/coventrytwinning.
Gemma Foy, creative director of Let’s Animate, creates digital animated content, alongside facilitating animation workshops, helping everyone to tell their own animated stories.
The researchers collected experiences of twinning and promoting school exchange, and it seemed that an animation was one of the best ways of doing this. Aimed at a general audience, it needed to be student-friendly enough so that it might be used in schools in Coventry, and in the some of our twinned city schools, too.
It was a smooth process working with Gemma, she understood exactly how we wanted to express what we had learnt about twinning.
Looking back, it was important to work out what you want to say in advance of trying to produce the film. For example, our original text to support the animation was twice as long as needed and we had to edit and re-edit it so that only the key ideas came across. This seems obvious, but was less obvious at the time!