A group of students from Stuttgart, Germany, visited St Helens recently as part of a town twinning partnership believed to be the oldest in Europe.
Thirty-two students and four teachers from Ferdinand-Porsche-Gymnasium made the trip by coach for the five-day stay.
During their time in the borough, the group were invited to Cowley International College for a concert and went on a tour of St Helens Town Hall where they were welcomed by the mayor, Councillor Sue Murphy – before heading to the World of Glass Museum, and to see the iconic Dream statue.
They also got to sample a fine bit of St Helens culture, taking in a Friday night rugby league game at the Totally Wicked Stadium to watch Saints’ impressive 25-0 win over Huddersfield.
St Helens’ relationship with Stuttgart dates to 1948, just a few years after World War II. As a leading manufacturer of glass at the time, St Helens was able to support the rebuilding of Stuttgart, parts of which had been destroyed or damaged by bombing during the war.
Ever since, the two have enjoyed regular twinning visits, with next year marking the 75th anniversary.
Sonja Schanz, a teacher at Ferdinand-Porsche-Gymnasium who has been making the trip to St Helens since 2008, said “St Helens was very forward thinking in the sense that it dared to make friends with a German city and help us rebuild just three years after the war. Twinning actually helps. If people get to know each other, they become friends with people they would never even dream of.
“The people here in St Helens are very nice and whenever we meet them, they are exceedingly friendly.
“I believe it is important that young people from different countries get to know each other, share views, and form friendships.”
A spokesperson for St Helens Council, said: “Twinning partnerships are a productive way of fostering long-term friendships between people from different countries, opening opportunities to share ideas and good practice, and of course to celebrate what makes each of us unique.
“Throughout these partnerships, students have enjoyed many exchanges, leading broadening experiences of young people – while local sports teams and music groups have travelled to compete but also perform together.
Despite the past two years of Covid, our relationship with Stuttgart remains strong as ever and we’re very much looking forward to celebrating 75 years next year which coincides with our year as the Liverpool City Region’s Borough of Culture.”
Mayor of St Helens Borough, Councillor Sue Murphy, said: “It was an honour to welcome our friends from Stuttgart to St Helens. Stuttgart should be proud to have such extremely well-mannered young people representing their city in another country.
“They know if ever they are visiting England in the future, there’s always an open door here for them here in our borough.”