On Tuesday 11th June, 2019, Her Worship the Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr officially welcomed His Worship the Mayor of Kingston-Upon-Hull, Councillor Steven Wilson and members of the Hull City Council.
The official welcome ceremony was held at the Mayor’s Parlour during which the visiting mayor and his entourage met the councillors and staff of Freetown City Council and signed the City’s Visitors’ Book. Councillor Steven Wilson was also presented with the key to the city and a bouquet as part of his welcome.
Speaking to members of Freetown City Council and the press, Lord Mayor of Kingston-Upon-Hull expressed his delight about the work Freetown City Council is doing to transform Freetown and renewed his commitment to supporting Council’s work, “We recognise the special relationship between our cities, which started back in 1780 with William Wilberforce, an MP of Hull. Since 1979, it has been fostered, maintained, and strengthened through the work of the Freetown Society. Freetown Society has since established faith, educational, civic and cultural partnerships across both cities and supported individuals to visit and share expertise and experiences. The Freetown Society and the City of Hull have been eagerly following the progress of the ambitious plan of Mayor Yvonne to transform Freetown and we applaud the engagement and the environmental improvement that have already taken place under Mayor Yvonne’s leadership. This celebration of forty years does not only look back to the projects and actions of the past, of which there are so many examples, but also the future. The shared concerns we have for our cities of flood resilience and the opportunities presented by the use of digital technology are the most recent collaborations and explorations between our Councils. I have been swept away by the Mayor & Council’s warmth, and commitment to improve citizens’ lives. I can pledge that the Freetown and Hull will always be known for the depth and warmth of this very real, important and practical twinning.”
In her response, Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr explained numerous ways through which Freetown & Hull are collaborating and how Hull’s development in recent times is a lesson for Freetown as we strive for transformation. She said, “There are very practical ways in which this relationship has touched Freetonians. The Connecting Classrooms work has made a lasting impact in the lives of ordinary boys and girls who go to school in Freetown, and in the lives of their teachers. I am very pleased that our Education Department will connect closely with that work as it complements our Transform Freetown target to improve performance management and monitoring in our classrooms. Over the last year, you have given us tangible support through your financial contribution towards our 2018 flood mitigation work and the prizes for our Cleanest Zone Competition. Hull has also seen transformation; in less than ten years, Hull has moved from the bottom of the pile according to many statistics to receiving two million visitors and being named the City of Culture in the United Kingdom in 2017. This was because the leadership of the city and its people decided that they are going to change their destiny. I left Hull in May 2018 confident that we could transform Freetown because our twin city had done it too.”
Councillor Steven Wilson’s week-long civic visit to Freetown is part of the celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of the twinning relationship between Freetown and Kingston-Upon-Hull. On his first full day in Freetown, the Lord Mayor of Hull has met with His Excellency the President, Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio and several cabinet ministers, and visited Tar Road Community, the winner of the first edition of Freetown City Council’s Cleanest Zone Competition (which was partly sponsored by Hull City Council). Before he leaves, he will meet with members of the organisations that foster relations between Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom, including the British High Commission and the British Council. He will also visit Wilberforce Village, named after William Wilberforce, who championed the establishment of Freetown as a free colony through his work as a leading slave abolitionist.