OXFORD’S oldest twin city link group have been forced to cancel two major events next month because of coronavirus.

A party from Oxford had been due to visit Leiden in Holland to take part in the Dutch Remembrance Day and Liberation Day from May 2-6.

The other casualty is a visit to Oxford by one of Leiden’s leading bands, which had been booked to perform at three venues in Oxfordshire on May 23.

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Chairman John Chipperfield said: “We have taken a party to Leiden in early May for many years, but it is clearly not possible this year.”

The date of May 4 is significant because Holland remembers on that day those who perished at the hands of Nazi invaders during the Second World War.

The Lord Mayor of Oxford, who regularly joins the party, lays a Dutch-style floral wreath at two ceremonies during the day. Oxford members of the twin city link lay the traditional Poppy wreaths.

It is a sombre day, but the mood changes on May 5 with everyone celebrating Liberation Day when the Allies finally drove the Nazis out of Holland.

In Leiden, flags fly from buildings, processions take place, bands play and athletes run overnight from Wageningen, where the Germans signed the surrender, to light an Olympic-style flame at a huge street market.

Oxford Mail:

This year’s celebration was due to be special as it is 75 years since the war ended.

The second event to be cancelled is the visit to Oxford of the Amigo Band.

The 25 musicians were due to play in Leiden Square in the Westgate Centre on the morning of Saturday, May 23 and at the Ashmolean Museum in Beaumont Street in the afternoon.

Oxford Mail:

In the evening, they had been booked to perform at the Great Shirt Race at Bampton, near Witney, though that even has also now had to be cancelled because of the UK lockdown.

Mr Chipperfield said: “It is a great pity that we have to miss the visit to Leiden, particularly as it is a special celebration to mark the end of the war.

“However, we hope to be back next year, and we hope it will be possible to re-book the Amigo Band when the emergency is over.”

The Oxford-Leiden Link was formed in 1946 as European nations sought to heal wounds after six years of war.

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Since then, thousands of Oxford cultural and sporting groups have crossed the North Sea in both directions to enjoy competition and friendship.

Oxford now has eight twin city links – the others are with Bonn in Germany, Grenoble in France, Perm in Russia, Leon in Nicaragua, Ramallah in the Palestinian West Bank, Padua in Italy and Wroclaw in Poland.

The last three were all set up in the past two years as Oxford City Council aimed to forge more international links.

When the council officially added the new three cities to official city entry signs in November, it was an occasion of some note because the authority described Ramallah as being in 'Palestine'.

Palestine has not existed as country since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Ramallah is located in the West Bank, a territory which is claimed by Palestinian people along with the Gaza Strip.