Hounslow-Ramallah Twinning Association members were pleased to attend the AGM and Conference of the Britain-Palestine Twinning Network on Saturday 23rd November 2013.

This year’s event took place in Northampton, being hosted by the Northampton al-Bireh (Palestine) Friendship Association (NaBPFA).

It’s often forgotten that the London Borough of Hounslow’s official 1988 twinning is not just with Ramallah, but with Ramallah and al-Bireh – both parts making up the twin city we usually refer to as simply Ramallah. So it was particularly pleasing to meet five representatives of al-Bireh Municipality at the conference and to discuss how we might develop links with their side of town.

Palestinians hoping to visit the UK have to negotiate a notoriously difficult visa application process. All five members of the al-Bireh delegation had initially had their applications refused a week before their planned departure, resulting in a call-out for help from the Twinning Network. It was gratifying to hear NaBPFA’s Secretary tell the conference that it was largely due to HRTA’s intervention, by approaching our established contacts, that the decision had been reversed and visas eventually granted.

The formal business of the AGM gave an insight into the organisational challenges faced by the BPTN committee, which now has significant HRTA representation, in running the network. The AGM was followed by the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, His Excellency Professor Manuel Hassassian (HRTA’s joint Honorary President), giving a typically passionate speech about the Palestinian experience and the valuable role played by twinning organisations.

The conference was an excellent opportunity to meet representatives of other twinning groups, to share experiences and compare approaches, as well as to participate in workshops and listen to talks about life in Palestine. Attendees were also told about HRTA’s Football and Falafel evening and our planned project with Brentford FC.

The day was rounded off with another contribution from HRTA members in the form of a celebratory dabkeh dance from the five Jarche Sisters. This had the al-Bireh delegation and dozens of others on their feet, and events were brought to a final close by a fine performance from a Palestinian oud player. All-in-all it was a stimulating day.