Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Don’t dare miss our spectacular year-long party

Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 will be one massive 365-day celebration. And you’re all invited, says Shona McCarthy

Every place has its time - a moment of magic where energies converge and the extraordinary becomes possible.

From the start of January to the end of December 2013, art and event and spectacle will spill out of every corner in Londonderry. The whole city is the canvas.

There are hundreds of free events, thousands of tickets and endless ways for everyone to participate. It'll be one huge party and everyone is invited.

Above all, 2013 will be a year of joyous celebrations. Derry has always been a place of music, poetry and art and, in 2013, this city intends to dance.

The challenge is to get it right and, if we do, it will be the starting-point of a wonderful future.

I'd like to emphasise that the programme launched yesterday is merely the first edition - a collector's issue - and a second edition will be published next month.

Even though I'm sure everyone will agree, when they look through the programme we have planned for next year, that it has many things to appeal to everyone, there will be announcements of additions to the programme on a regular basis from now on.

There was euphoria when Derry won the first UK City of Culture title.

It followed a trajectory of vital milestones - the Hume/Trimble Nobel peace prize, the ceasefires, the Queen's visit to Dublin, David Cameron's public apology post-Saville inquiry, Derry City of Culture 2013.

It is a privilege to have received the baton from the amazing festival that was London 2012 and to be carrying on the legacy from Liverpool 2008.

With this programme, we wanted to showcase to the world the wonderful people, talent, organisations, festivals and the arts and cultural scene of Derry.

We wanted to bring amazing work here and to create amazing work, which as many people as possible could access and participate in.

To do this, we endeavoured, among other means, to take art and culture out onto the streets. And we wanted to show this stunning city off in the process, using its dramatic historic landscape as a canvas.

The Return of Colmcille and Lumiere will paint pictures of this city just as the images we collect from our citizens are set to in our BT Portrait of a City project.

Choreographer Hofesh Shechter and theatre director Haris Pasovic are taking their work onto the streets, too, and - most importantly - they are involving people of this city in the creation of new works.

We wanted to focus particularly on the young people who make up such a large proportion of our population and we guarantee that every single child and young person of this city will have the opportunity to be inspired by, to participate in, or to learn from something extraordinary in 2013 for free.

We wanted, by the end of 2013, experiences that would stay with people for the rest of their lives and live on in their hearts and minds. We guarantee that there will be many such experiences.

And though, rightly, the legacy of this project will be judged in economic, socio-economic and maybe even political terms, what will really matter are the small, bright flames ignited in the 10-year-old boy in Nelson Drive, or 15-year-old girl in Shantallow, which will never be extinguished.

There are dozens of events that demand the attention of audiences outside of the city and, during the summer months in particular, our hotels, restaurants and shops will be teeming with visitors.

A call is being made to the diaspora and to the nine million or so people who claim Derry heritage to come back home.

We hope that the City of Culture year will bring a sense of wonder, a sense of ambition, a sense of pride in our community; a sense of being part of a global community, a sense of joy, a sense of ownership, a sense of feeling special, a sense of purpose and, at the end, a sense of achievement - that we all did this together and it meant something to everyone.

We are inviting everyone to join us and witness the transformation as our small city on the periphery of Europe presents a huge programme of art, music, dance, literature, sport and creative conversation.

Join us for the art and the cultural experience, but also to witness the beauty of the place. It is physically and visually transformed.

The iconic Peace Bridge has had more than one million crossings.

It has given the city new connection and placed the majestic River Foyle properly at centre-stage.

Derry now is a romantic city, defined by the quality of its air, the quality of its light and stunning skies and, in 2013, by the quality of its cultural life and the openness of its people.

The cultural programme for 2013 honours the promises and themes of the city's winning bid and the incredible team spirit that delivered the title for the city.

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