LAST weekend saw a packed programme to celebrate 50 years of Civic Twinning between Ilkley and Coutances.

A group of 24 crossed paths with dignitaries visiting the Normandy beaches before docking in Portsmouth on Saturday morning and arriving in Ilkley for a Civic Reception at the Town Hall.

They were greeted by a crowd of friends old and new, councillors and representatives of local community groups as well as eight Ilkley Singers, led by Catherine Cheater, performing their anthem and ours.

Welcoming the delegation in impeccable French, the Mayor of Ilkley, Cllr Mark Stidworthy, remembered D Day and the events of 75 years ago and spoke of his pride in the strong links maintained for almost as long between our towns.

Yves Lamy, Mayor of Coutances, has led several delegations over the years, but none, as he said, so large and wide-ranging as this one. Stepping down after over 40 years as a Town Councillor, he expressed his thanks for the warm reception from Ilkley and his pleasure at once again meeting Brian Mann and Mike Gibbons, long-standing supporters of Twinning.

Betty’s, celebrating their centenary, generously provided a beautifully decorated cake for the occasion.

Festivities resumed in the evening, with a Civic Dinner at Ilkley Rugby Club expertly catered by Christine Naylor.

The Two Rivers Wind Quartet entertained diners and a raffle raised £183 for Manorlands Hospice. Sunday dawned bright and sunny, showing Saltaire and Cliffe Castle in their best light for the visitors.

Two Rivers were in action again on Sunday evening, in 15-piece Swing Band format, getting people dancing before a supper at Ilkley Playhouse. Monday saw a visit to the Twinning Exhibition at the Manor House and a tour of All Saints Church, kindly led by Alex Cockshott, before the Coutances delegation set off again for Portsmouth and the ferry – appropriately “Le Normandie”.

Twinning Committee Chairman Judith Dunn told the Gazette: “This has been a brilliant visit, although short. Our guests were very happy and most impressed with the Manor House and the wonderful resources at Cliffe Castle and Salts Mill.

“The Committee has worked hard for this, notably Jenny Howarth (who liaised with Betty’s and masterminded the Exhibition), Eileen Bernard, Jo Thornley and Georges Lepelley.

“We would also like to thank Ilkley Town Council, Ilkley Rugby Club and Ilkley Playhouse for their support.”

There will be a delegation visiting Coutances in 2020 and the next Twinning Committee meeting is on June 20.

Anyone interested can contact Judith on