Leeds has a long history of international collaboration with partners across the world, from creating, making and exporting our cultural products hosting artists to welcoming new communties to the city. One of our oldest running connections is through our ‘twin city’ programme whcih was first created in the 1960s.
Twin towns in Lille, Dortmund, and Siegen were all created as part of a wave of post-war partnerships which celebrated peace and promoted reconciliation between the nations of Europe, bringng together towns and cities of similar size and heritage to build new connections, collaborate on civic and cultural events and share learning. These are some of our oldest friends and Leeds is still collaborating them projects in culture and sport, school and youth engagement, and sharing best-practice on anything from science to business or health.
Lille held the title of European Capital of Culture in 2004 and now holds large-scale cultural festivals every three years as part of the legacy. Leeds has been keen to develop strong partnerships with cultural organisations in Lille including with Lille3000 which organises these festivals.
In 1988 we decided to branch out and add to our twin city programme as one of the first UK cities to make a partnership in China with Hangzhou, which was based on our shared textile manufacturing history . This new partnership brought excellent University links, schools partnerships and regular visits by delegations. Our track record of partnership with Hangzhou contributed to our success in attracting the Chinese Olympic team for its pre-games training camp in 2012.
In 1991, we were feeling friendly again and wanted to contribute to reconciling relationships between East and West in Europe, and Brno in the Czech Republic became a twin city. While at first our cities have exchanged a lot of good practice on business cooperation and education, the focus of the partnership has now shifted more towards cultural exchanges, including exchanges on modern architecture and street theatre.
Leeds has welcomed thousands of communties to the city over the years and as a result of a very strong anti-apartheid movement in Leeds, Leeds City Council twinned with Durban in South Africa 1998 to show political solidarity after the free democratic elections in 1994. The partnership work between the two cities focuses on young people, local businesses, educational and technological advancement and exchange of best practice in many fields.