_ Twin tracks
Edinburgh’s links with its twin cities should mean more than foreign trips for local dignitaries. Thom Dibdin finds out how these links work and (below) previews a festival of Edinburgh art which is travelling to Munich.
Edinburgh: The lntemationai City. The boast might stem from the wide representation of countries gt the Edinburgh festivals, but it has a far wider reality. The city is the centre of a web which stretches around the world from Xi'an on the Guangxhong Plain of north-west China to Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine. past St Petersburg and back to Nice by way of Munich and Florence.
At the centre of that web is Elaine Ballantync, international officer of Edinburgh District Council since 1991, responsible for coordinating links with Edinburgh‘s eight twin cities and other cultural agreements. The twinning concept came about just after the Second World War. to restore relations across Europe. Edinburgh‘s ﬁrst twin was Munich. with formal links which
:— Open window
Twenty ﬂights a day leave Edinburgh ior Munich, according to the route- ilnder guide on the Internet. Ironically, while the two cities have been twinned tor the last 40 years, oi the nine routes listed, two involve more than one change, several go via such out-oi-the-way places as Dublin or Zurich and none are direct. So when Edinburgh’s cultural emissaries leave ior Munich this month to take part in the Window on Edinburgh iestivai, they will ily irom Glasgow, changing at Frankiurt.
lot that the culturally high-brow burghers oi Munich will give much thought to such travel arrangements when they settle back in the best seats at the city‘s thoroughly modern art complex, the Basteig, to listen to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra perform Ilaydn, Stravinsky and James MachlIan. But it does illustrate that almost halt a decade oi civic recognition has not brought the cities that much closer together.
Munich and Edinburgh have more in common than a love oi high art, however. Munich is capital oi Bavaria, the largest oi Germany’s states. Despite the semi-autonomy granted by the country’s iederal system oi
h, ‘ ‘
stretch back 40 years. Since then the links have been spread world wide to include Vancouver. San Diego and Dunedin in New Zealand. However the closeness of these links vary.
‘The council decided to change its international policy objectives last year.‘ explains Ballantyne. ‘Some of the existing twinning links were not as active as they could have been and
Communicado’s legend oi St Julian opens a Window on Edinburdr in Munich.
government, Bavarians in general and Muncheners in particular see themselves as living apart irom the rest oi the country in a similar way that Edinburgh and Scotland aspire to an independent existence.
Culturally, both cities have a reputation tor the higher-brow, bourgeois end oi the arts. As Edinburgh backs the International Festival, so Munich invests heavily in opera, ballet and classical music. But bravely, the iestivai organisers have not stuck to the artistic high or even middle ground. Irvine Welsh is taking
up a three-week residency in the city _
i to read irom and talk about ' Trainspotting and The Acid House,
. the Bill Douglas Trilogy are showing in
' been put on the back burner. A further step in the partnership process has been to establish alternative types of arrangements that are not full blown twinning links. but individual technical or cultural agreements with another city. For instance. St Petersburg has signed a cultural agreement with Edinburgh. and though its full scope has yet to be agreed. there are likely to be opportunities for artist exchanges. Links with each of the three major partners take on a different edge according to the local situation. Due to the continuing political upheaval in Italy. the Florentine link is not flourishing. although Ballantyne points out that the mayor of Florence is the only socialist mayor left who has not been cleansed. ‘Sometimes you have to sit back and let things develop. but we are sure that they will come on board again.‘ she says. One proposal that has just come from the Tuscan city is for a heritage restoration project. involving craft workers who specialise in architectural and conservation work. While the link with Munich is the most dynamic there is also a lot happening with Kiev. Apart from the continuous exchange of exhibitions between the two cities‘ arts centres. the focus has been on technical and economic ties. Six architects and financiers from the Kiev City Council have just spent two weeks in Edinburgh ‘work shadowing‘ their counterparts and gaining crucial knowledge about property evaluation. Certainly, with such initiatives. Edinburgh‘s ‘intemational‘ status goes beyond the
confines of culture}? fr.
others needed to be boosted. particularly the European ones. For any project to be successful it has to be built on a very strong partnership, so we decided to look at the existing links instead of establishing new partnerships all the time.‘
The council decided to concentrate on its associations with Munich. Florence and Kiev. while the other twins have
while the bleak Tickets To The Zoo and
the iilm section oi the iestival. A nightmare in Scottish Tourist Board terms, but a demonstration oi Edinburgh’s ability to address its problems through the arts. Munich also has its problems — a paper similar in aims to The Big Issue was recently launched there — but, on the whole, poverty and other social ills are not openly acknowledged or addressed in the arts.
In iact the whole iestivai goes way beyond a purely cultural remit. A training and employment forum will examine Edinburgh’s Social Fund training projects which the Munich City Council has speciiicaliy asked to see. Economic and educational iorums will explore ways that links can be strengthened in these areas. Just as the air-links between the two cities I ‘ have room to grow, so have our othe v r." 7’" links. It is hoped that Window 0n '- Edinburgh will provide an Incentive. 1"
Munich Town ltall