Oxford and Leiden in the Netherlands to mark 75th anniversary of twinning links

Published: Tuesday, 23rd March 2021

Oxford and Leiden in the Netherlands are set to mark the 75th anniversary of twinning links with online celebrations.

To mark the anniversary, Councillor Mark Lygo, the Lord Mayor of Oxford, and Henri Lenferink, the Burgomaster of Leiden, will hold an online celebration with members of the Oxford and Leiden link groups on Friday 26 March 2021.

The event will feature speeches from both mayors and the chairs of the Oxford and Leiden link groups, sharing the memories that have grown between the cities over the past 75 years.                                                   

Other online events to mark the occasion include:

  • An exhibition of photographs from the Oxford-Leiden link looking back 75 years, which can be viewed by visiting the Museum of Oxford’s website
  • As part of Dancin’ Oxford’s Spring Festival earlier this month, young dancers from Leiden and Oxford’s other twin cities joined together for a video project to celebrate the character and spirit of their cities through dance. The film can be viewed on YouTube

The hope had been to mark the 75th anniversary with visits to Oxford and Leiden during 2021, including a visit to mark the Dutch Remembrance Day in May, but the coronavirus pandemic has meant that many of the celebrations have had to move online or be cancelled.

75 years of twinning

The link between Oxford and Leiden was established in 1946 following the Second World War. As part of the rehabilitation of Europe, 36 English towns and cities were given twin city partners in Holland. Leiden was chosen to forge a friendship with Oxford because the Dutch city, which is midway between Amsterdam and Rotterdam, is also a university city.

Oxford was officially twinned with Leiden on 26 March 1946, when the The Anglo-Netherlands Sports Association held its first meeting in the mayor’s parlour at Oxford Town Hall. The Mayor, Alderman David Oliver, had invited sports representatives to discuss a suggestion by a Dutchman, Albert Milhado, to build a link between the two cities after six years of war in Europe. The first exchange took place when Oxford swimmers and athletes visited Leiden in August 1946. 

In the 1970s the Anglo-Netherlands Sports Association changed its name to Oxford-Leiden Link.

Leiden is Oxford’s first twinned city. In its 75 years, the linked groups in both cities have arranged for more than 10,000 Oxonians and Leidenaars to travel across the North Sea to take part in exchanges, giving them a valuable insight into the cultures and customs of our two cities and countries. The city twinning is managed by the Oxford-Leiden Link with support from the City Council.

Oxford’s twin cities

Oxford is now twinned with eight cities: Bonn in Germany, Grenoble in France, Leiden in The Netherlands, Padua in Italy, Wrocław in Poland, Perm in Russia, León in Nicaragua, and Ramallah in Palestine.  Twin city links give Oxford residents the chance to engage with other cultures and ways of life, and make these experiences more accessible through established contacts and networks in the linked cities. They also bring benefit to cities through knowledge-sharing activities, where people can learn from how problems are tackled in other countries, exchange ideas and understand different viewpoints.

“This celebration of 75 years of friendship between our cities shows that, regardless of Brexit and Covid-19, the relationship between us is as strong as ever.  We will continue to share bonds that have grown between the cities and the people who live in them and strengthen those bonds with events such as this virtual celebration and physical celebrations as soon as restrictions allow.”

Councillor Mark Lygo, the Lord Mayor of Oxford

“Today’s shifting international world is characterised by many uncertainties due to Covid-19 and the Brexit. That is why it is important to cherish as well as nourish our longstanding friendship. We have many things in common. For instance, both Oxford and Leiden have excellent research-driven universities. These institutions are of great importance in confronting the challenges that societies and communities face, such as climate change and long-term sustainable growth.

“Therefore, I see our twinning future the way Cicero so accurately put it: ‘Friendship makes prosperity more brilliant and lightens adversity by dividing and sharing it.’ By the way, he also said: ‘True friendship lasts a lifetime’, which is my heartfelt wish for us both.” 

Henri Lenferink, the Burgomaster of Leiden

“We are looking forward to meeting our many friends from Leiden to mark the anniversary, through virtual celebrations. We are very proud the link has remained strong over 75 years and look forward to meeting in person again when we are able to.”

John Chipperfield, Chairman of the Oxford-Leiden Link