WHO WE ARE
We are a voluntary association that promotes the friendship between Reading in the UK and Düsseldorf in Germany. This is the oldest link between a British and a German city, begun in 1947. It is now an official town twinning. We encourage new friendships between people and groups in our two cities.
WHAT WE DO
We offer a small amount of grants to community groups and individuals in Reading who wish to grow connections and organise projects connecting Reading and Düsseldorf. We also organise a range of events for members and non-members.
A LONG-STANDING FRIENDSHIP
We have a long and proud history. We date our origin from 1947, and we think that we have the longest continuous history of any Anglo-German city friendship.
HELP IN THE TIME OF NEED
The friendship started when the Mayor of Reading, Phoebe Cusden, answered a call from the Royal Berkshire Regiment, then occupying Düsseldorf, for help for people who were hungry and homeless following the war. She sent help, visited Düsseldorf, and invited six children to stay. A return visit followed, and a regular annual exchange of young people in both directions developed. There is a film on this website made by WDR in German.
A friendship develops. There were also a growing number of visits by orchestras, sports clubs and other groups. There were celebrations to commemorate the major anniversaries.
The twinning becomes official. We existed long before the idea of “town twinning” was developed. Our friendship was formally labelled a “twinning” in 1975 in Reading, and in 1988 in Düsseldorf. Unlike some twinnings, our friendship is not a matching of two randomly-chosen towns at the initiative of local authorities, but a relationship between people growing out of historic events.
Groups link up: 1979–2001
The Young People’s Exchange ended in 1992, by which time many children were used to going on foreign holidays, and many schools had their own foreign exchanges with schools in other countries. We continued to encourage clubs and other groups to make friendships with corresponding groups in Düsseldorf; a major part in this was played by Martyn Allies, our Chairman for many years. We celebrated our Golden Jubilee in 1997 in a very big way.
More recent history
A more detailed record is available from 2002 onwards, when this website was first developed. We held another major celebration for our Diamond Jubilee in 2007. Ten years, later, in 2017, we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Association with a reaffirmation of the friendship between Reading and Düsseldorf and events throughout the year, many of which forged new connections. And in 2018, we marked the 30th anniversary of the official twinning, with events in both Reading and Düsseldorf. The 75th anniversary of the friendship in 2023 was celebrated with mutual visits by the mayors and their delegations, including members of the respective youth councils, a new rowing link and mutual participation in major rowing events on the Thames and the Rhine respectively, and a range of exhibitions, concerts and other events in both Reading and Düsseldorf.
SOURCES AND HISTORICAL INFORMATION
The Archives of the Association until 2013 are in the Berkshire Record Office (BRO) under catalogue reference D/EX 653, accession numbers 4544, 7000, 9451 and 9460. They include minutes of the AGM and committee meetings, annual reports and newsletters, other publications, correspondence, plans for our 30th, 40th, 50th and 60th anniversaries, and miscellaneous photographs and mementos mainly supplied by Phyllis King (from Harold King) and Martyn Allies.
Phoebe Cusden’s papers, many about Düsseldorf, are in the BRO at Acc. 2934.1 and D/EX 653, with a handlist prepared by Martyn Allies. Many other photographs are currently in the possession of the chairman. Most of these have been scanned, and some of them are available through this website; others can be seen by contacting the chairman.
Some press reports have been printed from microfiche at the Reading Central Library Local Studies section, particularly the Berkshire Chronicle and Reading Citizen in the 1940s.
Some information on this website is derived from interviews and discussions with people directly involved, including (the late) Martyn Allies, Barbara Thom (née Cusden) and Bill Mander, and (still living at the time of writing) Gretel Rieber (Wicke), June Whitcombe (Coleman), Hildegard Stephan, Olive Openshaw, Margaret Mander, Valerie Lay, and Sylvia Clarke. We would like to acknowledge their help, and that of others whom we have overlooked.
A lot of information is in Doult, Bill: Reading-Düsseldorf Link 40 years (the booklet produced for our fortieth anniversary in 1987).
For Phoebe Cusden, see Stout, Adam (1997): A Bigness of Heart – Phoebe Cusden of Reading, Reading: Reading Düsseldorf Association. ISBN 0 9351424 0 8.
This can be seen on this website, and printed copies are available from the chairman.
For a lot of memories of the Düsseldorf friendship, as well as Reading’s other twinnings and friendships, see Barnes-Phillips, Daphne (ed) (2003): Hands of Friendship – The Story of Reading’s Twinning Links, Reading: Corridor Press. ISBN 1897715 11 0.
You can obtain a copy of “Hands of Friendship” by emailing email@example.com, telephoning 01395 263 494, or writing to:
19 Portland Avenue