The constitution states that the aims of Douzelage – furthering opportunity and friendship across Europe – are to be achieved by economic, tourist, sporting, educational and cultural exchanges – the normal twinning activities.
As regards the first, despite several attempts, little has been achieved. The towns are too far apart, too disparate for the Douzelage to be an effective economic network. Only the occasional gourmet markets have succeeded, but more as a social event rather than a commercial one.
Tourism works much better and there has been a growing number of visits between towns. Sporting exchanges, too, have gone very well.
It is, however, the educational and cultural exchanges that do most to sustain the success of Douzelage. School exchanges and projects between schools in different countries via the internet are often made possible by funding from Brussels. Culturally, amateur players, choirs, brass bands, school bands, dancers, artists, nurses, librarians, magistrates and numerous others have taken part in exchanges and devised projects which they could work on together.
One of the most spectacularly successful events, still the subject of animated discussion, even though it took place in the year 2000, was the staging of the Douzelage Community Play, “Bridges”, in Karkkila (Finland). Eight towns contributed a short play on the common theme (bridges) and these were then woven into a single production and performed (in their own languages) by 180 actors who staged six performances in a former steel mill to a collective audience of some 2,000. For those who witnessed the phenomenon, it was the most powerful piece of theatre they had ever seen. For the young people involved, it was an experience they will remember and cherish for the rest of their lives.
At every meeting, now held once a year, very constructive workshops are organised with extremely competent leaders and lecturers. There have been workshops on the environment, waste treatment, information technology, social and health-care matters, theatre, tourism, a variety of education matters and many have involved schoolchildren, older students and trainees/apprentices.