Belfast Telegraph

How cardboard sign clinched Womad festival for Derry

'Everybody had come with big pitches and presentations and wined and dined them and we came with a cardboard sign'

By Brendan McDaid

More than 500 acts will perform in Londonderry at the international World of Music, Arts and Dance Festival in 2013 – thanks to a cardboard sign and a cup of coffee.

The week-long Womad festival is expected to attract at least 50,000 people to the city and generate around £15m for the local economy.

And it’s emerged that the low-tech efforts of two community activists from Belfast and Derry helped bring the huge event to Northern Ireland.

Eddie Kerr, director of Derry-based global charity SEEDS, and Darren Ferguson, manager of Belfast group Beyond Skin, flew to Abu Dhabi with a simple cardboard sign bearing the slogan: ‘Womad for Derry’.

Mr Kerr said: “They basically told us everybody had come with big pitches and presentations and wined and dined them and we came with a cardboard sign and bought them a coffee.

Mr Kerr stressed that Martin McGuinness also played a key in bringing the festival to Derry.

“He gave the level of support needed — so it wasn’t just the piece of cardboard,” he said.

Mr McGuinness made the official announcement yesterday in the city centre, where the festival will take place across multiple stages.

Started by musician Peter Gabriel in 1982, Womad brings together performers from across the globe to stage unique, open air, family-friendly concerts in major cities across the world.

A Womad delegation will be arriving in the city in the next two weeks to set up an office, working closely with schools and community groups in the run-up to the festival.

Mr McGuinness said the announcement was a “great news story for Derry”, adding that the ball was also rolling in bringing the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann to the city for the same year.

Mr McGuinness said the decision to award Derry the UK City of Culture title for 2013 would have “far-reaching implications, not just for employment but for morale as we move forward”.

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