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Since October 2010, Kingston-Upon-Thames has been twinned with Oldenburg. Kingston-upon-Thames is one of thirty-three boroughs of London and just one of three known as a Royal Borough. There are strong similarities between the Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames and Oldenburg: its populations are similar (Kingston-Upon-Thames 169,958 to Oldenburg’s 167,000); both regions boast thriving universities: Kingston University London and the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg; and strong service sectors power the local economies. Not only in demographics, academia and industry do Kingston and Oldenburg have crossovers; both places have vibrant arts and cultural scenes with interesting museums and theatres––from the Rose Theatre in Kingston to Oldenburg’s Staatstheater.

From the 1990s, intense exchanges between the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames and Oldenburg have brought the two places closer together. After a number of years of fruitful exchanges between Oldenburg and Kingston, it was decided to formalize the city partnership. The formal process that got this underway was an Oldenburg visit to the Royal Borough in July 2000 when a Declaration of Intent was signed together with cooperation agreements between the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg and Kingston University.

In the years that followed, a whole host of projects and initiatives met with significant success, particularly youth initiatives bringing groups together in different cultural and educational settings. Informed by these successful projects and similarities between the two cities, the Council in Kingston voted to formalize the city partnership on December 1, 2009 Kingston; a vote in Oldenburg followed on March 18, 2010 and was supported unanimously. After more than a decade of positive interactions, the formalization of a city partnership was welcomed as “long overdue”. A delegation from the Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames travelled to Oldenburg in October 2010 with the documents signed on October 2, 2016 to coincide with Oldenburg’s traditional annual Kramermarkt.

The Academy of English sees itself as an exponent of the city partnership between Oldenburg and Kingston-Upon-Thames, as an institution to assist the partnership by bringing people together in the context of education and learning. To that end, the Academy of English participated in the Internationales Freundschaftstreffen in 2012, bringing together Oldenburg’s city partners, including Kingston-Upon-Thames. Staff from the Academy acted as language interpreters for numerous events, including for the Seniorenbüro of the City of Oldenburg. Our language work helped to reduce the barriers to understanding.

In more recent times, the Academy of English has played a predominant role in its trilateral partnership between the IGS Kreyenbrück and the Tolworth Girls’ School. We were the coordination point between the IGS Kreyenbrück and Tolworth Girls’ School, hosting Skype meetings between the two institutions with representatives from Kingston Library also present. Students from both schools talked about selected works of literature that they had both read and the IGS Kreyenbrück then went on to visit Tolworth Girls School in 2016.

The Academy of English is currently in talks with the English Language Development Unit at Kingston University regarding expanding teacher training provisions in Oldenburg. It is hoped to send Academy of English teachers to the Unit for continued professional development.