Long-established links between St Andrews and the French town of Loches en Touraine have been further cemented.
A delegation from the St Andrews-Loches Alliance travelled across the Channel to France to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the initiative, which is regarded as one of the most successful link programmes between small towns in Europe.
The Alliance was founded in 1997 to oversee links and exchanges between the two communities and the initial formation was supported by St Andrews Community Council and le Conseil Municipal de Loches. Since then there have been more than 90 official cultural, educational and sporting visits.
The visit to France was led by John Matthews, chairman of the St Andrews-Loches Alliance, and also included were Councillor Bill Sangster, representing the Provost of Fife, Tara Cunningham and Rachel Offer, two violinists from St Andrews University Symphony Orchestra, and Hamish Young, a piper from Tayforth University OTC.
The delegation attended a comprehensive programme of events including a reception in Loches Town Hall when they were welcomed by First Deputy Mayor Marc Angenault, who spoke warmly of the association between the two towns.
Discussions were held on ways of strengthening the links, with special emphasis on increased participation by young people from both communities, and the St Andrews party were guests at a gala dinner attended by the Mayor Jean-Jacques Descamps and Mme Descamps.
Other events included the planting of a commemorative oak tree in the Jardin Publique by Mayor Descamps, Councillor Sangster, Pascal du Brisay, president of Nouvelle Alliance Loches-St Andrews, and John Matthews, while Councillor Sangster was presented with the Médaille de la Ville in recognition of his many years of service to the Alliance.
Mr Matthews told the Citizen:”We saw a splendid “thé dansant” attended by some 300 people, including enthusiastic French and Scottish country dancing. It was good to see so many young people having a great time, including a spirited party from St Leonards School, St Andrews, and for many, this was the highlight of the visit.”
Prior to the trip, pupils from the primary schools in St Andrews and Loches were invited to produce artwork on the themes of My Town or Ma Ville.
Mr Matthews added that the response from the pupils was “astonishing” and some of the work will be on display at the St Andrews Community Council’s art and photography exhibition in Madras College on November 26 and 27.
Councillor Sangster said:”The whole occasion was a great success. There is a very strong feeling of togetherness and family between our communities, as has been evident with the number of exchanges there have been.”
The Alliance, open to all within the St Andrews area, is non-political and run by a committee of representatives of the major organisations of the town and the Franco-Scottish Society.