Belfast Telegraph

20 reasons why city's bid should succeed

THE PEOPLE: Londonderry’s diverse mix of people from Catholic, Protestant and other ethnic backgrounds have come together to show their enthusiasm for the bid. The city is buzzing with excitement about winning the Culture title.

ECONOMY: Derry has the highest unemployment in Northern Ireland and many of its most deprived estates. The bid team said the City of Culture accolade could bring up to 3,000 badly needed jobs to the city.

UNITY: For decades Derry’s image has been one of a city divided, a place where bad things happened; where atrocities took place. The peace process and cross-community initiatives have brought the two main communities closer but the City of Culture bid has united people like never before towards a shared, common goal.

LEGENDS: The city has a long history stretching back to prehistoric times and has been important throughout Ireland’s history. Mystery, myth and legend abound about the old Dhoire meaning ‘Oakgrove’, ranging from the tales of Eoghan of Irish lore to Half-Hanged McNaughton, to the Headless Coachman of the Brandywell.

THE WALLS: The most visibly striking feature of the city, Derry is the only remaining complete walled city in Ireland and one of only two in Europe. 2013 will mark the 400th anniversary of the Plantation of Ulster and the construction of the Walled City.

FESTIVALS: The City of Derry Jazz festival attracted over 300 performers and 30,000 people. Derry also hosts one of the largest Halloween festivals in Europe, with tens of thousands taking to the streets, pubs and clubs in fancy dress. Other festivals include the St Patrick’s Day Spring Carnival, Feis Dhoire Cholmcille, The Maiden City Festival, City of Derry Drama Festival, Tesco Foyle Cup, One World Festival, Carnival of Colours, Gasyard Feile, Big Tickle comedy festival, Amelia Earhart Festival, Foyle Film Festival, Celtronic music festival, Foyle Days shipping and boating festival and Children’s Art Festival.

WORDS AND PICTURES: Derry has a strong literary and artistic tradition with a wide range of internationally renowned writers, sculptors and painters including Seamus Heaney, Dave Duggan, Felicity McCall, Seamus Deane, the Bogside Artists, Willie Doherty, Maurice Harron, Richard Livingstone, Echo Echo, Jennifer Johnston, Nell McCafferty, Richard Doherty, Eamon McCann, Willie Carson and Joyce Cary.

REGENERATION: The city is undergoing a massive programme of transformation and regeneration, particularly in and around the city centre. The Peace Bridge is under way, while construction work to transform the pedestrian heart of Guildhall Square and Waterloo Place and reintroduce traffic to the western end of the lower city centre are nearing completion. The former army barracks at Fort George and Ebrington are earmarked for |massive regeneration, with plans including a outdoor plaza, a Museum of Art for Northern Ireland, boutique hotels, corporate centres, commercial clusters and residential areas.

MUSIC: Londonderry’s musical legacy is unrivalled and extremely diverse. Among the most famous musicians the has produced are The Undertones, Nadine Coyle, Dana, Josef Locke, Gay McIntyre, Cecil Frances Alexander, Phil Coulter, Peter Cunnah, Ruth McGinley, Paul Casey, Cathal Breslin, Maeve McGinley, the Balkan Aliens and Here Comes The Landed Gentry.

ARTS: Derry has a wealth of arts organisations and cultural hubs including the 1,000-seater Millennium Forum in the city centre, the newly refurbished Playhouse and Waterside Theatres and the recently unveiled An Culturlann Ui Chanain Irish arts centre. Other cultural and arts venues of note include the Gasyard Centre, the Verbal Arts Centre, the Void Gallery, the Context Gallery, the Gordon Gallery, the Bogside Artists’ Studio Gallery, the Craft Village, the Nerve Centre, Echo Echo Dance Theatre and the Foyle Arts Centre. Derry also has a wealth of different museums.

NIGHTLIFE: Variety in tastes is well matched in Derry by an array of pubs and clubs, restaurants and cafes offering a vibrant and diverse range of music, poetry and dance events, from the trendy Metro, Sugar and Earth to the trad sessions of Paedar O’Donnell’s to the band scene at the Bound For Boston, The Iona, Gweedore, Dungloe and Mason’s, to the eclectic events run at Sandino’s and Cafe del Mondo.

WATERWAYS: The River Foyle will be pivotal to the development of Derry. One of the widest rivers in Europe, the Foyle snakes north and is used as a fishing port and cargo docks as well as for water tours and kayaking. It is also an important environmental site with porpoises frequently spotted and its mud flats a protected sanctuary for birdlife.

EDUCATION: The University of Ulster at Magee is poised to expand at a galloping speed once the cap on student numbers is removed, while the North West Regional College is currently expanding with a massive new premises being constructed around its Strand Road base. Local secondary schools and colleges in the city are working together under a new umbrella group to promote IT, science, technology, engineering and maths subjects and develop a strong workforce equipped for modern industries.

LOCATION: Derry is one of Europe’s most westerly cities and is surrounded by some of Ireland’s most stunning natural scenery including the Giant’s Causeway and Glenveagh National Park, the Sperrin Mountains and the stunning Inishowen Peninsula. The sprawling hills and mountains form a striking backdrop to the city, with the undulating landscape boasting a variety of golf courses and renowned as ideal terrain for biking, hiking and mountaineering.

ACTING AND SPORTING PROWESS: John Duddy, Charlie Nash, Paddy McCourt, the late Spider Kelly and his father before him, Darron Gibson, Ken Goodall, John ‘Jobby’ Crossan, Liam Ball and Martin O’Neill are and were among the county’s sporting superstars, while top actors include Roma Downey, Bronagh Gallagher, Amanda Burton and Carmel McCafferty.

HISTORY: The city remembers its history, from mass emigration in the 18th century to the Siege of Derry, Londonderry’s role in the two World Wars, to the location where The Troubles began. All of these events are commemorated and incorporated in local art, song, theatre productions, exhibitions and museums.

PROFILE: In terms of raising the city’s profile, the culture tag will be invaluable. It has already put Derry on the map in the UK and raised a few eyebrows by beating much larger cities to the shortlist. There is now a golden opportunity to catapult the city’s profile beyond these isles to Europe, North America and beyond.

TOURISM: The city already attracts up to 40,000 tourists for its dozens of annual festivals and historic sites. It is busiest at Halloween and during the Jazz Festival, but a successful bid could see the number of tourists explode.

SUPPORT: The number of online supporters of Derry’s bid dwarves that of Sheffield, Birmingham and Norwich. An unprecedented range of celebrities are also backing the Maiden City.

THE PROVINCE IS BEHIND IT: From Banbridge to Ballintoy, from Newry to Newtownards, Ballymena to Ballycastle, Lisburn to Limavady, Strabane to Stranmillis, a tidal wave of support has been rushing in from across the province. The Belfast Telegraph’s ‘Back the Bid’ campaign has helped raise awareness across the whole of Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph

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