In 1943, Emily Smith, Coventry’s Mayor, and 830 other Coventry women (and some men) signed their names onto a tablecloth. Each one paid sixpence to sign and the money raised went towards medical aid for Stalingrad. The names were embroidered by Mrs May Adams over the course of the next two years. In 1944 the relationship between Coventry and Volgograd was cemented and the cities became the first to twin.
In 2004, to mark the 60th anniversary of the twinning, Talking Birds created the ‘Twin 60’ project to explore what the twinning had achieved and what it meant to citizens in the two cities after 60 years, through the creation of a “Virtual Tablecloth“.
This new Twin Story project re-visits that tablecloth another decade on and asks, similarly, what the twinning means to people in the two cities today.
As we wrote in 2004: Coventry and Volgograd (as Stalingrad was renamed in 1961)’s…is a friendship that persisted even during the darkest days of the Cold War, and has led to many exchanges between the two cities – whether civic, cultural, educational or personal. It is interesting to ask whether the twinning has made any permanent difference to the thinking and actions of its citizens. And if so, what are they? What do we have in common?
There are issues of regeneration and image that might be explored, as well as the issue of a city’s relationship with its past. We should be careful not to try to make too many direct comparisons between the experiences of the two cities during the war; but we might be inspired by a concept of twinning which cannot be controlled by national governments, and might not even reflect national relations, yet persists and flourishes and has the potential to encourage change on a national level.
What does it mean to be a city of peace and reconciliation?
What does it mean to be a twin?
This Twin Story website is, at the moment, mostly a gateway to allow you to re-visit the Twin60 project from 2004, but from this we want to make an augmented tablecloth, a new virtual tapestry for 2015 – if you would like to contribute to this with your stories about your connections to Volgograd or your thoughts about how we might begin to answer some of these questions – you can do so here…