The group of travellers from Barking & Dagenham who came to visit Witten in 1999 had an unusual present in their luggage: a time capsule. The English section of the Barking & Dagenham / Witten Club were thus exporting a very British tradition to the Ruhr. Rather like the metal tubes that are placed in the foundation stores of larger buildings in Germany, these capsules contain contemporary artefacts such as recent coins or the newspapers of the day. Not that they remain hidden in the wall for an unspecified number of years until somebody accidentally stumbles on them. No, their reappearance is carefully scheduled, often for a hundred years later.In this case, the metal tube that Len Collins, the President of the Club’s English section, presented for safekeeping to Klaus Lohmann, the then Mayor of Witten, and Rolf Ostermann, the President of the Club’s German section, will not disappear behind brick and mortar but be kept in a display cabinet at Witten Town Hall for everyone to see. The case has three locks with Messrs Collins, Lohmann and Ostermann each in possession of one key.
Those locks are to stay shut until 2029 – i.e. fifty years after the signing of the Twinning Agreement between Witten and Dagenham. The capsule will be reopened and, after the contents have been updated, sealed for another half century.
For the time being, Barking & Dagenham have contributed seven photos of significant twinning events to the capsule plus a club membership card, a street map, a city video and various coins and newspapers. For its part, Witten has also contributed a city video, a panorama photo taken by Davide Bentivoglio from the top of the Helena Tower in tribute to a picture dating from 1885, a piece of coal from the former mining territory of Mutten Valley and a photo of the capsule being handed over.
In October 2000, the Witten section repaid the compliment with a time capsule for Barking & Dagenham (see photo). The actual design of the capsule also has a symbolic effect. Shaped like a bulb, it recalls the Onion Festival, now Witten’s foremost traditional fair but originally a commercial market in its own right. The Witten artist Lutz Quambusch used sheet copper for the design. Other contents chosen by the club’s “archivists” and scheduled for a Wiedersehen in thirty years time included: a documentary about Witten filmed in 2000, Arthur Durrant’s history of the twinning scheme and the City of Witten’s website copied onto a CD.
Photos: Time capsule presentation in Barking & Dagenham in 2000