2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the Compact and a great deal has happened during those 20 years between the two regions. Stay tuned to this website for information and events commemorating the Compact including reader narratives, photos and videos of trips to both regions, a summer trip by a Blackstone Valley contingent to Amber Valley, and visitor information for both regions.
In 1994, Rhode Island’s Blackstone Valley and Amber Valley, England, formalized a twinning agreement – a compact between the two regions to build and expand their tourism industries through international economic development. Twinning is a European phrase referring to partnerships between communities or regions to work together on any number of things, share ideas, or cross promote one another. In the United States, such arrangements between communities are often referred to as “sister cities.”
Amber Valley has much in common with the Blackstone Valley, in addition to it’s rivers and canals, historic sites, beautiful parks, and heavy ties to its Industrial history (including Samuel Slater). Both weren’t thought of much at all by visitors seeking to take vacations in Rhode Island or England, but thanks to heavy tourism promotion and economic development and environmental initiatives, among other things, many tourists prefer the more relaxed atmospheres and historic nature of the regions, in addition to or in place of more well-traveled destinations such as London, England or the Providence, Newport, South County regions of Rhode Island.
In the case of the Blackstone and Amber Valleys, the two regions would share ideas about and develop international trade in the areas of tourism and industrial development, forge partnerships with various organizations operating in the two regions, share ideas about environmental preservation and riverfront development, and promote visitation to each region. Also, Pawtucket, Rhode Island and Belper, England forged their own twinning agreement. The initial connection in all of this was Samuel Slater, developer of our country’s first mechanized cotton spinning mill and father of our country’s industrial revolution.
In this country, Slater is considered a hero. In his hometown of Belper, not so much. That is due to the ongoing debate throughout the Amber Valley and England as to whether Slater should be recognized for his accomplishments or considered a traitor who stole secrets about mechanized water-powered cotton spinning from England and brought them to America. Fortunately, both regions were able to put aside their different opinions about Slater and realize they had much in common, starting with being early leaders in the development of the textile industry and now looking towards tourism for economic development. In addition, they realized they had much to learn from one another and much to gain by working together.