West meets East
In the 1990s the nations of central Europe began tearing down the Iron Curtain. The dark tensions of nuclear deterrence between “east” and “west” faded into the background. Those who had campaigned for peace and freedom in the west could breathe a sigh a relief. A new start was needed. Graham Mayhew, Mayor of Lewes both in 1991 and in 2000, called together people from the various campaigning groups in the area. From this Lewes Links was born, an organisation to encourage links between people here and people in central and eastern Europe. Over the next eight or so years there were many different kinds of activity. Each year open meetings offered talks and discussions about a current topic. Visitors from eastern Europe were welcomed and hosted in family homes. Practical projects ranged from arranging for local government professional staff to gain experience of our local democratic systems, to a campaign to raise funds to buy new livestock and equipment for a village near Dubrovnik which had been destroyed by Serb forces.
Arts and culture
Cultural exchanges have included music and art exhibitions. To celebrate the 11 hundredth year from the foundation of Hungary there was a major exhibition in Lewes House and in the Star Gallery of Hungarian artists. In 1997 Lewes Links arranged the first exhibition in the UK of artists from Belarus, and a second Belarus exhibition followed in 1999. Artists from Lewes and Newhaven have in turn been invited to Veszprém and Balatonfüred in Hungary, and during the 1997 Lewes Festival there was an exhibition of folk woodcarving from the mountainous county of Orava in northern Slovakia, together with works by Lewes artists who had visited central Europe.
East Sussex and Veszprém, Hungary
A close relationship has been developed between the county of Veszprém and East Sussex, especially with the signing of an Accord between the two counties in 1996. This reflected the political and economic opportunities of working together within European initiatives. Lewes Links also wants to encourage young people to get involved. A group of young people from Lewes and Brighton, who joined an international youth camp at lake Balaton, were shown round the city of Veszprém, and young people from that city have also joined in an extended “twinning” summer camp with youngsters from Uckfield and four other countries. In May this year the President of Veszprém County came with an expert delegation to explore common topics with East Sussex. Click here for more about the visit in May 2001.
Links to other sites:
Gateway to Veszprém Vár
Lewes Links welcomes approaches from places in other central European countries
which would enjoy similar links.
We would always welcome the development of more contacts in other countries. There is no set method of doing this. We believe it works well when links can start at a level of friendship between key people in a region complementary to our own in Sussex. Within a town or region we would hope to engage the confidence of local government officials, who would be vital to enabling groups from the local community to respond to the opportunity of linking. Once friendly contacts are established, exchanges can be developed in art, education and other cultural activities. Occasionally we have helped with introductions for professional training, and for commercial and business links, though Lewes Links would not normally remain involved beyond the process of research and introduction.