Thetford Twinning Association
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The idea to invite our twin towns to take part in the celebrations to commemorate 200 years since the death of Thomas Paine came about because Paine had links with France, having taken part in the French Revolution. We originally planned to invite just people from our twin town of Les Ulis, which is near to Paris, but soon realised that this would be a wonderful opportunity to invite people from all four twin towns and to consider the issues of human rights and democracy that were so close to the heart of Thomas Paine.
We applied for, and were lucky enough to receive, funding from the European Union's Europe for Citizens Programme and this helped to fund our weekend.
As the main weekend of the celebrations, to which our almost 50 guests were invited, grew closer the planning and arrangements began to take up an increasing amount of time, and the logistics of the weekend grew ever more complicated. Our town council was generous in their offer of support and we are grateful to them for this.
Friday 5th June
Our guests arrived at various times over the Thursday and Friday and were greeted at an official reception with afternoon tea on the Friday evening in the Guildhall by our Mayor, Pam Spence, the Town Clerk, Ed Chambers and the Town Centre Manager, Susan Glossop.
Saturday 6th June
During the weekend, guests took part in a variety of events including the official opening, where many of them had their photos taken with characters from Tom Paine's day; a buffet lunch jointly hosted by the Town Council and Tom Paine 200 committee; a quilt making workshop at which squares were contributed towards a Friendship Quilt.
In the evening a concert and Ceilidh were held where hosts and guests could join in with the dancing.
Sunday 7th June
Sadly the Sunday dawned wet, and we had to dodge the showers for the events during the day. Luckily it dried out a bit for our barbecue in the evening, which was held in the gardens of King's House. It was another opportunity for everyone to mix with guests from all our twin towns, even if it was a bit cold.
Monday 8th June
Monday was a day for hosts and guests to relax a little and do their own thing. Some visited nearby towns and cities, some just visited the town's shops, cafes and restaurants. Meanwhile the committee members of Thetford, Hürth and Spijkenisse twinning groups met to reaffirm an agreement made in 1998 to continue to meet on a regular basis and to plan for those meetings.
On Monday evening, a farewell dinner was held in the United Reformed Church in Thetford. Part of this evening consisted of a plenary session to feed back thoughts and suggestions on ways to improve human rights and democracy issues in all the twin towns. Everyone had worked hard on this and some excellent suggestions were made.
Tuesday 9th June
Our guests left for home, full of good memories of the weekend. On the previous evening they had been asked to give their comments, anonymously if they wished, about the weekend. The feedback can be seen here. We are delighted that so many positive comments were made - it was well worth all the hard work.