Separated at birth: Brontë moor and Inca mountain

'They're more similar than you might think,' says Howarth's twinning group. And it's just one of a series of unlikely civic tie-ups

Municipal leaders were once content to cross the Channel and indulge in a weekend of fine wine, sun-kissed boulevards and the kind of food you couldn't get back at the town hall.

But there comes a point when twinning your town with a nice place in France or Germany just isn't enough. According to a survey by the Local Government Association, British towns are now looking to the furthest reaches of the planet to find their perfect partners.

The report shows that there is a burning desire among civic leaders to be seen as more cosmopolitan than their neighbouring parishes. And that has led to them targeting towns from Peru to China for potential tie-ups. This represents a break with the past, when most twinning was between Britain and its continental cousins.

Could there be more unlikely civic partners than Haworth, West Yorkshire, birthplace of the Brontë sisters and Machu Picchu on the Inca trail, for instance? Or how about Macclesfield, Cheshire and Vigan, the Philippines?

Yet, a spokesman for Haworth's Twin Town Group claims his town and Machu Picchu "are more similar than you might think. Both have populations of just less than 3,000, are 50 miles from the nearest regional capital and evoke past societies," he added.

Similarly it is hard to see at first what Nuku'alofa, the capital of Tonga in the South Pacific, has in common with Whitby in North Yorkshire, unless it's the fact that both towns once survived on the trade of fish, but twin town partners they are.

There are now 2,527 UK towns with links to 87 countries in the world, according to the LGA's survey, and more than a quarter of them are with towns beyond western Europe. Of these, 8 per cent are linked with former Soviet bloc countries, 7 per cent with the US, 5 per cent with Asia, 2 per cent with Africa and 1 per cent with South America and Oceania.

Among the more weird and wonderful twinnings are the UFO capitals of the US and Scotland, Roswell and Bonnybridge.

City bosses now look on twinning as a valuable means of creating partnerships with the new tiger economies to develop economic links, create jobs and stimulate investment.

"The changing face of both Britain and the rest of the world mean that the development of economic and cultural ties through town twinning is becoming ever more important," said Chris White, chairman of the LGA's culture and tourism board. "Councils are helping local people understand the different cultures and customs of dozens of different nations from across the planet."

Yet wherever there is town twinning, there is a fear that council leaders are merely attempting to lead a jet-set lifestyle. Manchester has ties to China, Pakistan, Nicaragua, and Israel, causing some to speculate that civic dignitaries are merely trying to develop a year-round tan.

Perfect partners?

Hay-on-Wye in Wales and Timbuktu in Mali

Whitby, North Yorkshire, and Nuku'alofa in Tonga

Stevenage in Hertfordshire with Chimkent in Kazakhstan

Manchester with Sulaymaniyah in Iraq

Haworth in West Yorkshire with Machu Picchu in Peru

Dundee, Tayside, and Nablus, West Bank

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine