MEMORIES and futures together are being shared as Sunderland celebrates 70 years of twinning with Essen.

A delegation of six from the German city, led by its Lord Mayor Thomas Kufen, has been on Wearside for a three day visit to mark the anniversary.

They have met the Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor David Snowdon, with residents sharing their twinning memories at a special reception on Friday.

Essen is the second largest city in the Ruhr area of northern Germany and has a population of nearly 600,000.

Like Sunderland, it has a strong industrial heritage and Essen was famous for its coal and steel production.

Councillor Snowdon had appealed for memories from people who had taken part in an exchange, hosted guests from Essen, visited the city or been involved in any of the projects linked to twinning.

The council had made similar appeals for previous twinning anniversaries, such as 60 years with St Nazaire in 2013.

Richard Blakey, 89, a retired barber from Fulwell, visited Germany in 1955 as part of an exchange programme.

He said: “We needed it. It had always been them and us and now it become us together. It was a great experience to be over there. I even spent a day working in a German barber shop, which wasn’t that different from a Sunderland one.

“They even asked me if I wanted to stay on.”