Belfast Telegraph

Derry City of Culture - the big events unveiled for 2013

Northern Irish Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney will be among an array of international and local talent featured during Londonderry's year as the first UK City of Culture in 2013.

The Royal Ballet will visit Northern Ireland for the first time in more than 12 years and there will be a new commission by the London Symphony Orchestra, while the All-Ireland fleadh will be the largest festival of Irish culture anywhere in the world - part of a programme drawing from the best in British, Irish and international creativity.

A new play by American playwright Sam Shepard, the return of Brian Friel's celebrated Field Day theatre company to the city and the first presentation outside England of the Turner Prize for art are among other highlights.

Despite a peace process which has helped transform a city once blighted by violence, Derry has been targeted by dissident republicans for bombings and shootings multiple times in recent years - including an incident where explosives were planted outside the company which is organising next year's festivities - and security is expected to be tight.

Traditionally divided by the River Foyle between nationalists and unionists, it was dubbed one of the best cities in the world to visit next year by the Lonely Planet travel company.

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Culture Company 2013, said: "We hope that Derry/Londonderry's City of Culture year brings a sense of joy, a sense of ambition, a sense of pride in our community, a sense of being part of a global community, and in the end a sense of achievement - that we all did this together and it meant something. A huge success for a small city."

Derry triumphed over stiff opposition to win the title for 2013 - the first time it has ever been awarded.

Hundreds of events are planned, covering genres of theatre, music, dance, visual arts, architecture and film.

The programme will arrive by speedboat, before a marathon runner will then run with it over the Peace Bridge spanning the river dividing the mainly nationalist west from the mainly unionist east, and then deliver it to the mayor of Derry.

First Citizen Kevin Campbell said: "The City of Culture year will transform our city and region. The range of contemporary music, dance, theatre, arts and performance events will link our diverse communities in programmes of celebration."

Among the highlights are:

  • An appearance by Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, whose seminal works include Mid-Term Break, Digging and Death of a Naturalist and explore childhood experiences, the formation of adult identities and rural life. He will give the opening address at the Poetry Festival 2013.
  • The return of the Field Day theatre company founded by playwright Brian Friel and actor/director Stephen Rea. They will present a world premiere of a new play workshopped in Derry by director Sam Shepard.
  • A season of plays by Friel, including Translations - about a love affair between a British map maker in 1833 and a local woman who speak different languages.
  • Liverpudlian writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, who worked on the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in London, is involved in a special performance piece about city founder and warrior monk Colmcille. It will be a 24-hour performance spread over three days.
  • The world premiere of the Conquest of Happiness, an open air performance inspired by philosopher Bertrand Russell's essay on happiness.
  • A punk musical about the Undertones, a band championed by Radio 1 DJ John Peel which helped define the punk period with songs like Teenage Kicks.
  • Musician Phil Coulter will return to his home city.
  • The Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann includes Irish traditional music, pageants, marching bands, competitions, drama and exhibitions. It is expected to attract more than 300,000 visitors.
  • The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain will take up residence in the city next August, giving a 200th anniversary performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony conducted by Vasily Petrenko. Members of the orchestra will join local young musicians for 100 mini-concerts on the streets and in people's homes, inspired by Beethoven's Ode To Joy.
  • The London Symphony Orchestra will bring the world premiere of Mark Anthony Turnage's At Sixes and Sevens, a new cantata vocal composition featuring texts by Queen's University Belfast-educated Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon.

It will be performed simultaneously by the LSO and Camerata Ireland orchestra in the Guildhalls of London and Derry/Londonderry on July 3 2013. Earlier in the year, the LSO will present a programme of film music by John Williams, including scores for Star Wars and Schindler's List, at the former Ebrington army barracks on the Foyle River.

  • Award-winning choreographer Hofesh Shechter will be resident in the city for five weeks. He will perform Political Mother with a live band of 20 young local musicians as well as his own company.
  • The Royal Ballet will visit Northern Ireland for the first time in more than 12 years, with a homecoming of sorts for Co Down ballerina Melissa Hamilton, in a special gala performance by members of the company with the Ulster Orchestra.
  • Boy Blue, a new dance production from the company behind Pied Piper, will premiere and draw inspiration from the martial arts and physical feats central to the comic book genre.
  • The Turner Prize art exhibition will be staged from October-January in a renovated building on Ebrington Square. It is the UK's most prestigious contemporary art award. The shortlisted artists will go on display for three months, with the city also hosting the ceremony announcing the overall winner.

The square was a former army parade ground established as an outdoor space for concerts and festivals, and is linked by a new bridge across the river to the mainly nationalist Cityside.

The Waterside Youth Forum will present the city's first international world peace summit, encouraging dialogue amongst young people from conflict areas throughout Europe.

Londonderry is where Northern Ireland's 40-year Troubles first erupted in 1969, with rioting against police in the nationalist Bogside housing estate, and the site of the later Bloody Sunday massacre carried out by British paratroopers on civil rights protesters.

Dissident republicans remain active in the area, with the threat level still high. Recent murders included that of Kieran Doherty from the city by the Real IRA.

Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin is a former IRA prisoner turned Sinn Fein politician and is fully supportive of the peace process and Derry's year as City of Culture.

"Derry is ready to embrace this opportunity and to showcase Ireland's rich culture and heritage on the local and international stage," she said.

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