Northampton Mayor Gareth Eales went to Northampton, Massachusetts, as a birthday treat but new links could be forged following the trip…
Less than two weeks ago, I had the misfortune of experiencing my 40th birthday. To commemorate this milestone, me and my wife Terrie arranged to visit New York City. A few days after booking this up, I was contacted ‘out of the blue’ via email by ex-pat Jonathan Daube, who now lives just outside Northampton, Massachusetts. Mr Daube, who grew up in Cambridge, emailed me with an interest of fostering a relationship between the two Northampton’s.
On a whim I advised Mr Daube that as me and Terrie were to be in the U.S. and only a few hours away, I would be intrigued to visit and to explore tentatively what any link-up between the two places could look like. So, plans were made… I must emphasise before progressing any further that this visit was entirely a personal one and funded only by me.
I am so pleased we made this snap decision to visit, because Northampton MA or ‘NoHo’ as is one of its nicknames, is a truly lovely place. The population of Northampton, MA is a tenth of our Northampton and is less than 30,000, which includes the populous of the two villages on its outskirts, Florence & Leeds (no kidding!).
Northampton is an academic, artistic, musical, and counterculture hub. Based on U.S. Census demographics, election returns, and other criteria, Northampton ranks as the most politically liberal city in the United States. The city has a high proportion of residents who identify as gay and lesbian, a high number of same-sex households, and is a popular destination for the LGBTQ community…perhaps why Lesbianville U.S. is another nickname (again not kidding!) Each year in May they hold a huge Northampton Pride event, last year getting around 35,000 people attend.
David Narkewicz is the Mayor of Northampton, who me and Terrie met and had lunch with. Mr Narkewicz is really down to earth guy. His Mayoral role is very different to mine, in that his role is political, he essentially has to manage a small City, making key decisions – where as our Mayor is a ceremonial position and the power lies with the Leader of the Council. It was interesting to learn of some ongoing issues Mayor Narkewicz was dealing with.
One famous previous Northampton Mayor was future president Calvin Coolidge, for whom there is a dedicated Presidential Library within the second floor of the local Forbes Library and lots of artefacts about this former U.S. president on display.
Although this is a relatively small place, you will find more culture and street vibrancy there than in many, larger American cities. The lively Main St. and the surrounding area are heavily foot-trafficked throughout the day and night, regardless of season. Independent shops and ethnic restaurants cater to local college students, residents, and visitors alike. Northampton is known for its high number of restaurants per capita and I can see why Northampton gets love for its restaurants & bars, some of which are fantastic.
To refer to only two: The Tunnel Bar is a vintage train tunnel from 1896 with original stone & brickwork, converted into a luxury cocktail bar… a very unique setting and a great atmosphere. Then there is the Northampton Brewery, which produces some awesome craft beers, Northampton IPA was pretty good. Any pub / bar with the motto of Peace, Love & Beer cannot be bad!
Terrie and myself had a lovely overnight stay in NoHo, staying in the Northampton Hotel, which has in the lobby an old drawing of Northampton, UK, the very same one hangs in the Mayor’s Parlour in The Guildhall. I would highly recommend anyone visit Northampton, MA, it’s a great place with genuinely nice people living there and has a good nightlife. What’s not to like?
Coming on now to a possible link-up and in what form…
If a link-up can happen, it would not be the first time connections have been built between the two Northampton’s, as there were transatlantic dart games between the two places in the 1980s, although I am unsure why this stopped? It is evident that people on both sides of the Atlantic are keen to make new links happen.
Some embryonic plans are now being pursued, to expand on only some. Within Northampton, MA is the very prestigious Smith College, we are seeing if a link-up with the University of Northampton could be formed. Both places have a Northampton High School, so it is to be explored if any collaboration could take place between the two schools. I know that our Phipps NBC Brewery have already made contact about doing something with the Northampton Brewery. The one idea I am very keen to make happen is a joint Northampton Pride event, on the same day as the existing stateside one, with a form of video link to bring us together… I think that has the potential to be a real winner and having spoken to a number people from the LGBTQ community locally already, they are keen, as are the organisers across the water.
This list of ideas is not exhaustive and if anyone has any other suggestions, please feel free to email them to me via: firstname.lastname@example.org