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Working together around the world - The journey of two Green Flag Award judges through Europe to Asia

09 August 2018

In February this year, Incilipinar Park in Denizli became the first park in Turkey to be awarded a Green Flag Award. The success was a result of  building relationships between towns and cities as well as personal friendships across three countries: England, the Netherlands and Turkey.

During a town twinning exchange visit to Preston, UK in 2002 council managers from Almelo, the Netherlands enquired about a Green Flag Award flag flying above Grange Park in the city. This prompted officers from Preston to offer to visit Almelo in 2003 and give recommendations on how to improve Goosenmaatspark and other sites in the city using the Green Flag Award criteria, essentially kick-starting a move towards launching the Award as an international standard.

By 2008 Goosenmaatspark and Schelfhorst Park in Almelo had achieved the first Green Flag Awards outside the UK. In the process, Harry Schrotenboer of Almelo Council became the first non-UK Green Flag Award trained judge and Almelo offered to act as a link city for the scheme, also playing a major role in bringing the Award to Germany.

Green Flag Award ceremony in Almelo, 2008

Harry said:

” It was an honour and very inspirational to work with the Green Flag Award team and Preston Council to bring the Green Flag Award to The Netherlands “

Some years later, in 2016 through a second twinning exercise between Almelo and the city of Denizli in southwestern Turkey, the idea was developed to bring the Green Flag Award further east.

Harry worked alongside Mike Bent, an experienced Green Flag Award judge, regional judges’ representative for the North West of England and Parks and Countryside Manager at Bury Council.
Together they formed part of a working group to turn the idea into a reality. In 2017, after support and guidance, Denizli submitted their application and in 2018 Incilipinar Park became the first green space in Turkey to obtain the coveted Award.

Mike said:

“This whole trip has been inspirational, interesting, cultural and history making. Our visit to Turkey showed us the importance of parks in this country; and how they are valued as public open spaces not only for tourism but as a local community asset.”

Mike and Harry Istanbul, Turkey 2018

Mike and Harry volunteered their time to carry out the preparations and judging, and over the years, have become the best of friends.

The experiences and outcomes from this story inspired the Green Flag Award International Development Manager, Carl McClean, to establish an international judges’ exchange programme in future.

Carl said:

“This is a fantastic example of how the scheme has been a success worldwide. It not only celebrates how parks professionals can work together on a global scale, but also highlights the positive collaborations taking place over 10 years, 11 countries and over 100 parks outside the UK that have adopted the standard.”

Applications from new countries don’t need to be established through town twinning. All countries can enquire about an Award via the Green Flag Award website and select ‘Other’ if the country isn’t listed. The team at Keep Britain Tidy will work towards introducing the Award in any country.

If you have links in a country outside the UK or not currently in the International Green Flag Award scheme network why not encourage them to apply for the Green Flag Award? Get in touch with us or make an introduction. Be part of a new story in the journey of the Green Flag Award.