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FIFE TWINNING LINKS

St Andrews link with Loches in France

UNDER DEVELOPMENT

The relationship between St Andrews, in Fife, and Loches, in the Indre-et-Loire département in central France, began in the mid-1990s, when contact between the towns, initiated by Loches, was made through the Franco-Scottish Society. Exchanges of delegations followed in 1996 and 1997 and these visits confirmed the mutual compatibility of the towns – each with its prominent medieval heritage. The outcome was the development of a flourishing cultural partnership aided by the creation of a charitable trust in St Andrews, the St Andrews-Loches Alliance, dedicated to promoting closer links between the two communities.

Coat of arms of Loches

The considerable success of the cultural partnership gave rise to the idea of developing a formal town twinning relationship. The initiative in that direction again came from the municipal authorities in Loches, who approached St Andrews with a proposal in 2014. With the strong support of the St Andrews-Loches Alliance, the Community Council in St Andrews approved the idea. The formal inauguration of the twinning agreement took place at ceremonies in St Andrews in 2015 and in Loches the following year, in the presence of civic representatives from both towns.

The conclusion of the accord was soon marked by the installation of an additional panel to the road signs at the approaches to St Andrews (which also display the historic designation of the town) proudly proclaiming “Twinned with LOCHES”.

St Andrews road sign

Even prior to the start of the formal town twinning arrangement, the two communities were involved in an active programme of exchange visits. From the late-1990s, regular school exchanges took place between Madras College and St Leonard’s School in St Andrews and secondary schools in Loches, and numerous sports teams, including footballers and golfers, visited in both directions. A range of cultural interactions also took place involving choirs, pipe bands and dancers, and several exhibitions of art and photography were exchanged between Loches and St Andrews. Many visits also take place on a social basis between members of the St Andrews-Loches Alliance and its sister association in Loches, the Nouvelle Alliance Loches-St Andrews, the visits taking place on a biennial basis with groups travelling in each direction in alternate years.

Among the memorable highlight of the twinning relationship is the participation in a Europe for Citizens gathering by a group of young highland dancers and piper from St Andrews. The event, held in Loches and several nearby villages in 2018, was part of a European Union programme aimed at increasing public involvement in the affairs of Europe. The young people present, drawn from over 20 European countries, took part in workshops and discussions on topics of current interest in the European Union. The participating groups also staged musical and dance performances in their national costumes.

[Europe for Citizens event in Loches]

The numerous exchange visits by a wide range of community groups are made possible thanks to the enthusiastic fund-raising efforts by the St Andrews-Loches Alliance. As a charitable trust, it raises funds to facilitate the growth of educational, cultural and sporting links with its twinned community. The fund-raising activities include, organising quiz evenings, staging French-themed social events and running a licensed bar at concert performances. Efforts are also made to involve as many sections of the community as possible, including the Community Council, the University of St Andrews, social clubs and local business associations. The Alliance also seeks to promote wider public awareness of the link with Loches by staging exhibitions of paintings and photographs of the French town, such as the “Look @ Loches” exhibition held in St Andrews in 2021.

[Exhibition poster]

Inevitably, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted twinning activities but contacts were reestablished in June 2023 when a delegation from Loches visited St Andrews with a view to fully restoring the relationship. During the visit, a road in a modern housing development on the outskirts of the town was named Loches Drive.

[Road sign]

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St Andrews-Loches Alliance

St Andrews-Loches Alliance Facebook page (restricted access)

Nouvelle Alliance Loches-St Andrews Facebook page

English Wikipedia page for Loches

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Loches coat of arms image © Spedona, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Road sign image © Paul Vyšný, CC BY-SA 4.0