60 years of twinning celebrated with more entente cordiale

For many Cardiff people, the Boulevard de Nantes is one of the grander roads in the city’s majestic civic centre – a tree-lined, broad thoroughfare flanked by some of our finest architectural wonders.

But to the city’s Francophiles, it’s a lovely and permanent reminder of Cardiff’s official links with the city in the Pays de la Loire region that is one of our historic twinning partners.

This year, Cardiff celebrates the 60th anniversary of the formal twinning between Cardiff and Nantes, but it’s also 70 years since the first exchange visit between young people from Cardiff and their French counterparts. For many, it was the start of a connection that has strengthened over the years and created lasting friendships that continue to this day.

For David Judd  – then a pupil at Cardiff High School – that first exchange marked a chance to escape the privations that still existed in Britain after the war. Rationing had ended only the previous year yet the France he discovered, though having endured the hardships of German occupation, seemed full of colour and exotic delights.

“At home, we were still receiving food parcels from the mothers of the American GIs who had been billeted with us in the lead-up to D-Day,” said David, now 85. “But my eyes were opened to real luxury when I went to visit my penfriend in Nantes – a boy called Eric who came from a wealthy family who owned a sardine tinning factory.

“They had a grand home in Vertou, a smart suburb of Nantes, and a holiday home, complete with maids, down the estuary in St Marc sur Mer. Eric and I (see picture above, right, with Eric) got on famously and I had a wonderful time over there and it began a lifetime’s love affair with France which I think I’ve passed on to my son and my grand-daughter – who is currently teaching English in Lyons.”

The annual adult exchanges between the two cities began in 1981 and, apart from a three-year break caused by the pandemic, have continued ever since. In addition to these exchanges and school collaborations, there are many other links which have been forged over the years, most recently between the Cor y Gleision choir and the Schola Cantorum de Nantes, who gave a memorable joint performance in Nantes last October.

In August 2023, 12 young people from Cardiff were invited by the city of Nantes to participate in an annual youth camp and there are plans to repeat this in the summer. An invitation is also extended every year to apply to the Nantes Creative Generations Forum with young people from Cardiff’s Foundation 4 Sports selected to participate last year.

At a civic level, the connection between Nantes and Cardiff also remains strong. Cardiff Council has a European officer who liaises with her Nantes counterpart and manages the twin-city relationship, as well as the links between Cardiff and its other ‘twins’.

Cardiff Council leader Cllr Huw Thomas said he was delighted with the continuing success of the Nantes partnership. “It’s very important that Cardiff has good relations with all its twinning partners around the world and the council believes there is much to gain from having good cultural and business links with all our twin cities.

“Our links with Nantes go back centuries, of course, when it was involved in the coal and wood trade with Cardiff, and those links continue to this day, as I saw at first hand when I went to France on an official visit last year.”

“Next year will be the 70th anniversary of our links with Stuttgart,” he added. “But the focus this year is on Nantes. There was a Welsh Government ‘Wales in France’ event at the museum on March 9, the day before Wales took on France in the Six Nations in Cardiff and on April 24 there will be a dinner at Cardiff Golf Club at which the Lord Mayor will help to celebrate the anniversary with dignitaries from Nantes and Cardiff and the Cardiff-Nantes Exchange, the Societe Franco-Britannique and the Club de Francais.”

If you are interested in joining the Cardiff-Nantes Exchange group, visit their website at Cardiff Nantes Exchange ( for more information.