Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Fair Maiden richly deserves the title

Londonderry/derry has long had a split personality, manifested by the fact that it is the only city in these islands known by two names.

Yet even in a fractured society like Northern Ireland, it has managed to rise above its historic divisions and set an example to other parts of the province by reaching consensus on contentious issues like parades. And now its citizens have united behind its bid to become the UK City of Culture in 2013.

That is a crown which would rest easily on the Maiden City. For Derry has a cultural heritage stretching back centuries to pre-Christian times. Its culture, like its history, embraces all traditions and a list of even its modern cultural alumni reads like a who's who of popular music and the arts - ranging from Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney to Nadine Coyle of Girls Aloud. In spite of being the province's second city, Derry has a well-matured cultural infrastructure - including museums, art galleries, festivals and attractions.

There are always some dissenting voices in every endeavour and Sinn Fein introduced a sour note by raising concerns over the bid to be a UK City of Culture. That was a narrow, parochial point of view. Derry is part of the UK and perfectly entitled to enter the contest - and that is a view shared enthusiastically by most of its citizens. Thankfully, the City Council, including Sinn Fein, is pressing ahead with the bid and trying to maximise support.

This newspaper is proud to be an ambassador for Derry by backing the bid. This is a perfect opportunity for everyone to demonstrate how cultural endeavour can break down, or transcend, barriers and divisions. The city has endured many hardships in the past - from the siege in the 1600s to the Troubles of the late 1900s - but those ordeals have forged its unique cultural identity, which, with luck, may see the city triumph in its bid. It certainly has the right credentials.

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