A SCHEME to create links between two communities hundreds of miles apart is celebrating its silver anniversary.

The twinning of Sedgefield with the German town of Hamminkeln has successfully fostered friendships between residents and groups from the two communities for 25 years.

This month a delegation from Germany visited Sedgefield as part of a programme of anniversary celebrations.

The celebrations included a concert by the Young People Big Band, touring the UK from Germany, in St Edmund's Church on Saturday.

A video is also being made, with funds from the Lottery's Awards for All scheme, about the twinning partnership which will be shown publicly once complete.

Founder member, Derrick Lofthouse, said: "It has been a wonderful relationship, giving people in both communities a chance to visit and learn about each other's cultures.

"They have been 25 good years and I hope there are many more ahead."

In May 1981 Durham County Council hosted a party from its twin community Kreis Wesel, a district in North West Germany in which Hamminkeln lies.

Member Burgermeister Heinrich Meyers suggested a town link and Sedgefield Town Council started exploring the idea.

The following year an independent group, Sedgefield Twinning Association, was formed and officials from both communities signed a charter pledged to strengthen relationships between residents.

Each year the two communities take turns to make an exchange visit with families, youth, school, church and music groups all taking part.

Members have established a tradition of swapping gifts.

Among the more novel gifts donated by the Sedgefield group are a red phone box and a weather vein made by pupils at Sedgefield Community College for Hamminkeln Rathouse (town hall).

In return, their German hosts invited Mr Lofthouse, a former chairman of Sedgefield Town Council, to officially open an annual festival and named a street Sedgefield Strasse.

The links between the two nations were originally designed to break down any barriers that remained after the Second World War.

Mr Lofthouse said: "Only by staying with people and forming real relationships can you appreciate another culture and break down any barriers that remained.

"We've learned a lot about each other and hundreds of people who have taken part in the exchange trips each year have formed lasting friendships."