Hopes of new beginning as Derry Peace Bridge opens
It’s distinctive S-shape is a symbol of the Maiden City’s future.
Designed to form a symbolic handshake across the River Foyle, Londonderry’s new Peace Bridge is being heralded as a watershed moment in putting the city’s historic troubles in the past.
Six hundred schoolchildren from across the city, representing all faiths, helped usher in a new chapter of the city’s rich story when they gathered on the new suspension bridge to sing it in, with a song especially written for the occasion by Ian Wilson.
Thousands of people, including dignitaries, were set to gather along the riverbanks this afternoon while half the children walked from the east side of the river to meet the other 300 from the west in the middle. They formed a rainbow of colour before the landmark footbridge — which links the Waterside to the city centre — was officially declared open to the public amidst a carnival atmosphere.
Foyle MP Mark Durkan said: “The iconic new peace bridge redefines our cityscape and links the exciting prospects at Ebrington with a renewed city centre. It is not only a landmark for visitors but can help change our own concept of our city centre and how to grow it. It also provides an exciting taste of the regeneration this city can achieve.”
Open air concerts, international music and dance and world renowned circus acts will converge at either end of the bridge for the One World Festival on the cityside and the Carnivale of Colours at St Columb’s Park.
The bridge itself was due to open at 2pm for dignitaries after BBC presenter Wendy Austin welcomed the orchestra and choir of children onto the bridge.
Following a series of speeches from five dignitaries, the public were then expected to be invited to take their first steps on the new bridge over the Foyle at 2.45pm.
Tonight at 9pm the former army barracks at Ebrington will host a tribal fire, drum and fire performance ahead of the fireworks extravaganza over the Peace Bridge from 10.30pm.
This will be followed by the launch of the first phase of Derry’s new £800,000 public artwork, Mute Meadow.
Following on from this, hundreds of local people are expected to arise from their slumber and take part in a Midnight Dander across the bridge in their pyjamas to raise funds for Derry charity Children In Crossfire.
A special guest from the European Union, which awarded £14million in PEACE III funding for the project, was also due to attend today's ceremony.
The celebrations continue tomorrow with a massive open air yoga extravaganza.
Hundreds of yoga enthusiasts from both sides of the bridge and from both communities will gather at St Columb's Park for two hours of yoga under the guidance of one of the city's top teachers.
The open air yoga class begins at 1pm on Sunday and is one of many events that will run through the day at St Columb’s Park as part of the weekend’s celebrations.
Reggae star hopes for peace in communities
By Brendan McDaid
Northern Ireland’s top reggae artist has said he hopes the opening of the Peace Bridge will mark the start a new chapter in community relations.
Belfast-based Rassie Ai was speaking as he prepared to headline at the One World Festival at 6pm this evening after the opening ceremony of the £14m bridge.
The Zimbabwean-born artist recently moved from an east Belfast street engulfed this week in sectarian violence.
He said it was heartbreaking to see the clashes on the streets he and his family had called home for a decade.
35-year-old Rassie said reggae music had its roots in politics and protest and had a message to deliver to the youth.
“Most of the music today is a means of making money but with Bob Marley and the others it was a way of expressing themselves, a way of life, getting themselves out of poverty and dealing with injustices in society.
“Modern music culture doesn’t have many figures like that. Artists like myself and others, we try to maintain that reality within our music.
“You find that with reggae music, people come to hear the latest message. Reggae artists will comment on any issue. Don’t be surprised if I say something about east Belfast and what has been happening there.”