Festival of friendship as strong as ever nearly half a century on

The Festival of Friendship concert.
The Festival of Friendship concert.

The Festival of Friendship involving Midlothian groups and partners from Germany and Hungary took place in Kreis Heinsberg recently.

The partnerships with Kreis Heinsberg and Komarom – Esztergom, were formed in 1973, and this was the latest festival in the series which started in 1978 and had taken place since 1979, every two years alternately in Midlothian and Heinsberg, until 1999, when the festivals then took place on a trilateral basis.

The Festival of Friendship concert.

The Festival of Friendship concert.

This year in Germany the groups stayed in the town of Wegberg. The trip included a visit to the UNESCO Heritage site, Zech Zollverein, and the Krupp Mansion House at Essen. A visit to Kreis Heinsberg included a walking tour of the town of Erkelenz, formerly the fortified and moated Herculeum in Roman times, as well as a guided tour of the mining museum in Huckelhoven and the St Gangolf Church. The visitors also enjoyed some free time in Roermond, just across the border in Holland.

Bob Atack, acting secretary/treasurer, Midlothian Twinning Association, explained more about the trip.

He said: “The festival offered the opportunity to experience life in the partner area, learn about its heritage and culture and share in the common bond of music.

“The area has seen much change over the centuries when under periods of occupation by the French, Austrian and Dutch. Many of the villages surrounding Erkelenz are being removed to make way for excavation on a massive scale of lignite coal reserves.

“The high point of the festival was a gala concert in Oberbruch when all the groups took part in a five-hour long celebration of their talents.

“Landrat Stephan Pusch, on behalf of the hosts, bid a warm welcome to the visitors, drew attention to the partners’ common heritage - coal - and emphasised the need to keep the partnership alive.

“Elnok Gyorgy Popovicz from Komarom - Esztergom commended participation and the linking of the mining museums as part of the development of the partnerships.

“John Ramsay, chairman of Midlothian Twinning Association thanked the hosts for their hospitality and said that he hoped that the history of co-operation, collaboration and goodwill which had developed since the inception of the partnerships would continue and sustain future activity.”

Bob is delighted to see the continued partnership succeeding, adding: “There have been many other exchanges over the years. Over 10,000 people have been involved in all kinds of activities across all sections of the community. From exchanges of sportsmen and women, to educationalist and professional people as well as conservation projects.”

In Germany from Midlothian were the Midlothian Schools’ Wind Ensemble (Lauren Hand, Rebecca Hares, Cara Pryde, Jenny Dickson, Sophie McDonald, Olivia Marrins, Ceilidh Alexander, Kirsty Taylor, Jodie McCarlie, Jade Anderson, Claire Johnston, Laura Bell, Ewan Brown, Kerr Murray, Ewan Hunt, Ewan Gilchrist and Ross Munro); the Castaways singing group (Irene Krogh, Eunice Simpson, Hazel Stewart, Anne Mowatt, Carol Mann and Mary Pennycook); and band Bellarose (Jack Gilchrist, Aaron McCall, Kieran Fergusson and Carron Miller).