“The key to any twinning link must lie with young people.”
This insight from Dennis Richards sums up the project in a nutshell.
Talking to people around Luchon, it is clear that many – including Monsieur Le Mayor himself – visited Harrogate as teens.
It is another part of the twinning link that has been lost, but the best starting point from which to rebuild, with the interest on show from students in both towns.
French speaking students from St John Fisher school in Harrogate travelled to Luchon to work in its tourism office over the two days when the town played host to the Tour de France.
Orla Miller, who has just left the school having finished her A levels, and Marie Tolin, who just completed Year 11 and is awaiting the results of her GCSE exams, were hard at work for more than three days promoting Harrogate, Knaresborough and the district to the tourists and locals of Luchon.
Orla said: “We’ve been promoting Harrogate in Luchon, and hearing plenty of feedback on the Grand Depart.
“People have been so positive about it – everyone saw the district on TV and mentioned how beautiful it looked.”
Marie explained how Luchon differed to what she was expecting.
She said: “This has been a wonderful experience. The town itself is a little different to what I was expecting before I came out.
“It is a very nice place to be, and the people are lovely.”
The students spent time with counterparts from Luchon’s Lycee Edmond Rostand, providing them with a taste of southern French culture, and a test of their language skills.
And spending time in the town has encouraged the students to pursue the twinning link, by inviting students over in the form of educational exchange programmes.
Orla said: “I was quite surprised to hear how many people in Luchon know about the twinning. As soon as I mentioned Harrogate, people started talking about the twinning link.
“That attitude isn’t the same in Harrogate. We need to raise awareness and we need to have that same feeling at home.”
“We met lots of young people in Luchon, and we all agreed to stay in touch. It would be fantastic if we could get them over to Harrogate at some point.”
The students were part of a team from Harrogate lucky enough to see Le Tour stages 16 and 17, having already witnessed the Grand Depart.
Marie said: “I watched Stage One on a screen at Knaresborough Castle, and Stage Two as it left the town just near my house.
“I have never seen so many people in Knaresborough, it was a great weekend.”
In Luchon Orla and Marie watched from a stand on a bend in the road, metres from the finish line.
Mr Richards said: “Orla and Marie worked their socks off in the office!
“They were the real ambassadors for Welcome to Yorkshire and Harrogate, and part of the generation who want to be involved, and need to be involved.
“Pupil to pupil exchanges are tricky, but we are hoping a band will come over from Luchon, of mixed ages, to perform at the Harrogate International Youth Festical in 2015. We are very excited about that.”
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