In early 2015, the MFL department was invited to dine with the then Lord Mayor of Manchester, Susan Coolley. This dinner brought together the languages department of two Mancunian schools with a teacher, the education minister and the mayor of a small French city called Charleville-Mézières. The evening was a celebration of a once lost sisterhood between the town and Manchester, and followed the opening of an exhibition at the Central Library that explained our joint history.
After the first world war, northern France lay in total ruin. A number of English towns and cities raised money to aid in the rebuilding of their towns. Manchester raised enough money during its 1921 Lord Mayor’s Parade to build an entire new district of Charleville-Mézières, as well as a new hospital, which both took the name Manchester.
Despite building an entire new area that took our city’s name, the story was eventually forgotten, and the sisterhood lost until 2015, when the exhibition took place. In an effort to bring together our towns once more, their schools were brought together in the hopes of forming an exchange. Later that year myself, and Catherine Hughes went out to France to meet the staff at Collège Arthur Rimbaud – and formed a partnership.
Since then, our schools have visited one another annually. This year marks the fourth year of the exchange which is still going strong. It all started from a small exhibition about a long lost sister-town in Northern France that shared our name.