TWINNING

 

TUEBINGEN & GRONINGEN LINKS






















TUEBINGEN/DURHAM LITERARY/ARTS TWINNING



The twinning continues to go from strength to strength. Poet Doctor Keith Armstrong and folk-rock musician Gary Miller, lead singer of Durham band the Whisky Priests, travelled to Tuebingen at the end of March 2012 for performances in pubs, cabaret venues and schools where they performed with Tuebingen poet Tibor Schneider who visited Durham in October of this year as part of the ongoing exchange. Tibor joined his Durham counterparts for readings at Durham University and at the Half Moon Inn. He was also interviewed on BBC Radio Tees concerning his Durham visit.

Keith will return the compliment with a trip to Tuebingen in March 2013 where he’ll be joined by Durham University poet John Clegg.

 

Last year, Tuebingen rock musician Juergen Sturm jetted in with his music partner Mary Jane at the end of October for pub gigs, including a twinning event in Durham on Monday 31st October featuring Juergen and Mary Jane with Durham folk musicians and poets. That followed on from a visit to Tuebingen in South Germany in early April 2011 by Keith Armstrong and photographer/artist Peter Dixon. The intrepid pair worked together on a touring display featuring Armstrong's poems and Dixon's photographs documenting the unique link between Tuebingen and Durham which was staged initially in the Durham Room at County Hall, Durham in November. Armstrong performed his poetry in cafes, bars and schools and met up with Tuebingen friends, old and new, with the multi-talented Dixon capturing all of it on film. 

 

This trip reciprocated a visit to Durham in November 2010 by Tuebingen poets Henning Ziebritzki and Carolyn Murphey Melchers, when Juergen Stuerm also took part in a series of pub performances. There was a special event at Clayport Library, Durham City on Monday November 1st with the Tuebingen poets and special guests from Durham, followed by a rousing session in the Dun Cow when Juergen, with Mary Jane, and his Durham counterparts, Gary Miller and Marie Little belted out their lively songs.

 

In addition to his most recent visit, Armstrong was in Tuebingen in May 2010 with Gary Miller for performances in his favourite Tuebingen bar ‘The Boulanger’ and at a local school. This followed a special guest appearance in 2009 at the biannual Book Festival, a reading with Tuebingen counterpart Eva Christina Zeller and a visit to local schools. Eva visited Durham for readings in schools and at a special event on May 13th 2009 at Clayport Library which also featured poets Katrina Porteous, Jackie Litherland, Cynthia Fuller, and William Martin, as well as Doctor Armstrong and music from the Durham Scratch Choir and Andy Jackson.

 

A highly successful series of events were held in 2007 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the literary/arts twinning established by Keith Armstrong when he first visited Tuebingen in 1987 for a month’s residency, supported by Durham County Council and Tuebingen’s Kulturamt. Since then, there have been readings and performances in pubs, universities and castles, schools, libraries, book festivals, jazz and cabaret clubs, even in Hermann Hesse’s old apartment, involving poets, writers, teachers and musicians from the twin partnerships of Durham and Tuebingen.

 

Tuebingen’s music duo Acoustic Storm, poet/translator Carolyn Murphey Melchers and Cultural Officer visited Durham and the North East in October/November 2007. The musicians performed in Durham schools and pubs and there was a special evening in Durham’s Clayport Library to celebrate the twinning, with Keith Armstrong launching his new Tuebingen poetry booklet and performances by poets Carolyn Murphey Melchers, Katrina Porteous, William Martin, Michael Standen, Ian Horn, Cynthia Fuller, Hugh Doyle and musicians Acoustic Storm, Marie Little and Gary Miller. Margit Aldinger of the Kulturamt in Tuebingen and Brian Stobie of the International Department, Durham County Council, also addressed the audience.

 

For the record, here's a list of those who have made it happen so far:

 

Tuebingen visitors to Durham since 1987:

 

Carolyn Murphey Melchers, Karin Miedler, Gerhard Oberlin, Uwe Kolbe, Johannes Bauer, Eva Christina Zeller, Simone Mittmann, Florian Werner, Juergen Sturm, Mary Jane, Wolf Abromeit, Christopher Harvie, Eberhard Bort, Marcus Hammerschmitt, Henning Ziebritzki, Andy and Alessandra Fazion Marx, Otto Buchegger, Tibor Schneider.

 

Durham visitors to Tuebingen since 1987:

 

Keith Armstrong, Michael Standen, Julia Darling, Andy Jackson, Fiona MacPherson, Katrina Porteous, Marie Little, Ian Horn, Alan C. Brown, Linda France, Jackie Litherland, Cynthia Fuller, Margaret Wilkinson, Jez Lowe, Jack Routledge, Gary Miller, Matthew Burge, David Stead, Hugh Doyle, Peter Dixon.

 

 

These events were supported by Tuebingen’s Kulturamt and Durham County Council.

 

 

FURTHER INFORMATION: NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS TEL. 0191 2529531.

























GRONINGEN/NEWCASTLE LITERARY/ARTS TWINNING 


The literary/arts twinning has worked wonders since its beginnings back in 1992. A wide range of poets, musicians and community activists made for exciting times. Now Dr Keith Armstrong, its pioneer, is bowing out to concentrate on other exchanges e.g. with Ireland and with Tuebingen in Germany. Naturally, he hopes to keep in touch with the friends he has made in Groningen and will always be there to encourage new faces to keep things going but it is no longer a major commitment for him. He thanks everyone for the vivid memories.


Armstrong and folk musician Gary Miller last appeared in schools and cafes in Newcastle's twin city of Groningen at the end of September 2011, following on from successful appearances in 2010 where they presented their unique poems and songs in the International School, Haren Library (with a specially commissioned performance for Haren's 850th anniversary and a recital of the poems of Charles Dickens) and O'Ceallaigh's Irish Bar. During the September stay, Armstrong  performed his sequence of Groningen poems, written after many visits to the city, with some settings by Miller.


Groningen's new official City Poet Stefan Nieuwenhuis jetted in on September 6th 2011 to join Keith Armstrong and other poets and musician at a launch of Keith's new books in the presence of the Sheriff of Newcastle.


A Groningen delegation made up of poets, publishers, journalists and cultural officers and headed by Councillor for Culture Jaap Dijkstra visited Newcastle in September 2008 and a special performance evening was held at the Ouseburn Boathouse with readings by the Groningen poets and their Newcastle counterparts incuding Armstrong, Paul Summers and Ellen Phethean. 




Successful events were also held in Newcastle in October 2007 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the literary twinning between the respective cities, including a poetry and music evening at the Bridge Hotel and a reception with the City's Lord Mayor.

The new Groningen City Poet Rense Sinkgraven took part, along with fellow Groningen poet Willem Groenewegen, and Nick J. Swarth (City Poet of Tilburg) added colour to the celebrations.

The poets were joined by twinning pioneers Professor Helen Wilcox and jazz performer Allan Wilcox (on double bass and piano) and Groningen Cultural Officer Marieke Zwaving.

Keith Armstrong led the team of Newcastle performers with fellow poets Paul Summers, Poetry Jack, Catherine Graham, Ian Horn and Mick Standen. 




Armstrong first visited Groningen in 1992 with poet Julia Darling to set the ball rolling. Since then there have been readings in pubs, universities, libraries, and schools and at breakfast parties, festivals, cabaret clubs and civic centres in both cities.


For the record, here's a list of those artists who made it happen:


Groningen literary/cultural visitors to Newcastle since 1992:


Stefan Nieuwenhuis, Rense Sinkgraven, Marieke Zwaving, Jaap Dijkstra, Tine Bethlehem, Albertina Soepboer, Tsead Bruinja, The Poets from Epibreren (Bart FM Droog, Tjitse Hofmann, Paul Jainandun Singh, Jan Klug), Sieger M. Geertsma, Ronald Ohlsen, Anneke Claus, Willem Groenewegen, Anton Scheepstra, Eric Nederkoorn, Herman Sandman, Emiel Matulewicz, Jeroen Engels, Entre'acte jazz duo (Allan Wilcox, Sina Keuning), Janny Boerma, Helen Wilcox, Henk Muda, Klaas Drenth, Emmeke Schurink-Plas, Willem Smit.


Newcastle visitors to Groningen since 1992:


Keith Armstrong, Julia Darling, The Poetry Virgins, Paul Summers, Ian Horn, Tony Whittle (photographer/musician), Ann Sessoms (Northumbrian Piper), Chris Ormston (Northumbrian Piper), Chris Hartnett (singer/songwriter), John Earl, Alan Clark (Nod), Dave Gaston, Michael Standen, Marie Little (singer), Gary Miller (singer/songwriter).



FURTHER INFORMATION: NORTHERN VOICES COMMUNITY PROJECTS  TEL. 0191 2529531.



SO THAT’S WHAT TWINNING’S ALL ABOUT!


Keith Armstrong of ‘Northern Voices Community Projects’ looks at twinning exchanges and recounts a few stories along the way


‘Ein bier bitter – und ein Martini for the wife’ demanded ‘the lad’ from Peterlee Cricket Club of the German barman in the twin-town of Nordenham.  Spotting ‘the lad’ was of English extraction, the barman, in near impeccable style, politely enquired ‘Sweet or Dry, Sir?’  ‘Just the one!’, our ‘twinning boy’ snapped back, sensing a German plot, returning triumphantly to his stool in the town’s ‘Beer Akademie’, thinking how well he’d handled a potentially tricky diplomatic situation.


As Peterlee’s Community Arts Worker, having eavesdropped this touching exchange, I thought to myself ‘So that’s what twinning is all about!’  As one of the co-ordinators of the initiative, I felt I was entitled to wonder just how the twinning link had transpired and was it worth all the effort.  This was back in 1980-6 and times were hard in the mining communities around Peterlee.  People’s minds were concentrated on survival; ‘twinning’ could hardly be considered paramount.  But it played a small part in expanding horizons.  By 1986, I’d made 8 visits to Nordenham with different groups and individuals, including the Youth Drama Workshop, the East Durham Writers’ Workshop, and the local band ‘the Montgolfier Brothers’ (ex-‘DTs’, ex-‘Sick Note’, ex-‘Death By Trombone’!)  for many, this was their first excursion to foreign shores, and it changed them, they occasionally fell in love, and cried when they had to leave Germany.  Who would have thought?

Naturally, there was method in the developmental madness.  It was meant to change attitudes, get the ball off the Durham island, develop links, forge exchanges, and generally broaden political and cultural understanding.  Not that it was plain-sailing, of course.  I well remember a night out with ‘the Montgolfier Brothers’ around several local bars, ending with an extended toasting session with a man with a monocle and a scar down his cheek who we promptly christened ‘Uncle Herman’.  Uncle Herman declared a passion for British Scientists and offered Schnapps all round for every such scientists we could name.  I think a general state of collapse was declared after the toast of ‘Michael Faraday!’  and Kenny, the bass guitarist,  was, as legend has it, woken early the next morning in a local shop door-way by the drip-drip of a window cleaner’s wash-leather!  Yet the band bounced back and gave several outstanding performances in the town’s schools and in the community centre.  Their single at the time ‘Things That Go Bump In The Night’ quickly became a cult hit in Nordenham.


And the there was the coach-tour round the town with Frau Ehleman of the Rathaus (Town Hall) as our guide, a very enthusiastic and kindly lady with an unfortunate way of  constantly popping a microphone! Not only was this, however, her phrase-book unique.  As the coach rolled away from the Rathaus, we were pleased to have pointed out for us, in rapid succession, ‘the field of the dead cows’ and ‘the house where you can buy the women’.  By way of explanation, it transpired that there was pollution in the soil, from a local factory, and, further down the road, was situated the local brothel.  And we’ll never forget the unique invite to go ‘mud-walking’ the next morning!


So we weren’t short of the odd moments of humour, though, in fact, we did get through a lot of hard work, with the Writers’ Workshop performing, with translation, their poems and songs in the town’s schools and at an Anti-Nuclear rally.  General political and cultural discussion was always encouraged and usually ensued.  During the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike, the twin-town of Nordenham sent parcels of food and toys to the striking miners and their families and made financial contributions to the ‘Save Easington Area Mines Campaign’.  And we vividly remember heading the Nordenham May Day procession and visiting local factories there.  Our delegation generally stayed in twin-town homes, a gesture which was usually reciprocated when our friends from Nordenham trade unions and peace group visited us in Peterlee.

Many of the twinning links in North East England are with Germany and French towns and our positive experience of Nordenham has led myself and others connected with ‘ Northern Voices’ to seek to develop further links, building on this success to overcome the negative feelings local people often have of such connection, viewing them as council ‘junkets’ and the like.  Whilst this ‘junketing’ does still go on, there is scope for getting involved in promoting more constructive political and cultural dialogue with our twinning partners, especially more significant in the changing European landscape.  Indeed, in recent years, through the good offices of Durham’s Euro M.P. Stephen Hughes, poets and musician from ‘Northern Voices’ performed at the European Parliament in Strasbourgh!


The town of Tübingen in Southern Germany has been described as ‘a town on a campus’, given that out of a total population of 77,000, 25,000 are students and 8,000 employees of the University.  So that the nature of its twinning with County Durham is distinctly academic compared to the more industrial nature of both Nordenham and Peterlee.  It has also a somewhat richer history in a number of ways – Hegel studied there, the eccentric poet Friedrich Holderlin lived there in his Tower for 30 years and expired there, and Hermann Hesse, the writer, worked in a bookshop there in his formative youth.  To this extent, the town’s Cultural Office was interested in a literary link and ‘Northern Voices’ was, therefore, invited, and funded, by Durham County Council’s International Exchange Officer to pioneer a literary connection in 1987.  since when, 11 successful visits have been made, featuring poets, and musicians in the folk and jazz idioms.  Readings have been staged in schools, pubs, and at the University, and reciprocal visits to Durham by Tübingen poets ant the University ’s Anglo-Irish Theatre Group arranged.  We have also participated in discussions on regional culture in the new Europe.  In both the twinning examples highlighted above, the links forged have led to anthologies being published.  To accompany a visit by East Durham Writers’ Workshop to Nordenham in 1986, a bi-lingual pamphlet, ‘North Sea Poems’, was produced and, in the cases of Tübingen, a joint bi-lingual anthology ‘Poets Voices’, featuring poets from both Durham and Tübingen, was launched in the Holderlin Tower in June 1991.


Other interesting twinning links which ‘Northern Voices’ has pioneered in the cultural field are those between Newcastle upon Tyne and its Dutch Counterpart, Groningen, and between Wear Valley and Ivry-sur-Seine (just outside Paris).  And ‘Northern Voices’ remains committed to this area of cultural work now and in the future.  This might have a lot to do with our being based on the North Sea Coast.  Certainly, in my own case, not only did my father graft in the shipyards for forty years or so, and his father before him, but his tales of his Merchant Navy days and of travels to Rio, Cape Town, Lisbon and so on truly inspired me as an impressionable youth and this excitement in travelling has carried over into my cultural activities.  As a founding member of ‘the Tyneside Poets’ group back in the 1970s, I vividly recall the links we developed with our Icelandic counterparts, and, in particular, our visit  to Reykjavik during the Cod War of 1976 when I performed my epic poem ‘Cod Save The Queen’ (!) to an audience of over 200 excited Icelanders.  This was followed by a visit in 1980 to Georgia in the then Soviet Union.  After one late night session with a worker-writers’ group in the steel-works town of Rustavi, I coined the following short poem:


(TO A FELLOW WRITER IN RUSTAVI0


Last night we swapped our shirts

They didn’t fit our bodies too well

But they fitted our mood

Exactly.



Such memories stay with you for the rest of your life.  They change you.  And whilst I’ve dwelt exclusively on international links, I recall with fondness the twinning of Greenwich and Easington Councils during the ’84 Strike and the links we developed then.  So it can happen within our little island too.  And it’s fun.  That, after all, is what twinning’s all about! Try it.