Belfast Telegraph

Derry celebrates being shortlisted for first UK City of Culture award

Celebrations were in full swing last night as it emerged Derry City has been shortlisted for the UK City of Culture 2013.

The Maiden City was one of only four cities to make it through from an initial list of 14 which had submitted bids.

Londonderry will now go head-to-head with Birmingham, Norwich and Sheffield for the title of the first UK City of Culture, with the winner due to be announced in July.

Branded the “fantastic four” by judges, the final line-up was revealed by the UK’s Culture Minister Margaret Hodge yesterday at lunchtime. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Ms Hodge said she was thrilled for Northern Ireland’s second city.

“I am delighted Derry/Londonderry got through because in 2013 this is going to be the first time we have a UK City of Culture and it is also the 400th anniversary of the Plantation of Ulster and the links between the city and London.

“It is a chance to bring people together with the diaspora as well, and what they showed was the importance for local people that their city is put firmly on the national and international map.”

Ms Hodge added: “I sincerely hope this will provide a real boost to the international image of Derry/Londonderry and a boost to tourism and confidence as well.

“The city already has a host of great annual festivals and this will help to expand those.”

Welcoming the city's success yesterday, mayor of Derry Paul Fleming said: “This is a great statement of confidence in the city's cultural wealth and an endorsement of the commitment and effort so far.

“We look forward to building partnerships to progress through to the final stage.”

Aideen McGinley, chief executive of Derry’s Urban Regeneration Company, Ilex, vowed: “We're in this to win.”

She said: “The energy and commitment galvanised by the bid process to date will now re-double in the final push to bring |together in a compelling way our cultural champions, venues, organisations and artists to showcase the unique talents of the city and region.”

Derry town clerk and chief executive Valerie Watts added: “This is a unique opportunity to create a lasting legacy for the city and for Northern Ireland”.

Phil Redmond, chair of the Independent Advisory Panel which made the selection, said: “In deciding on the four cities recommended — Derry/Londonderry, Birmingham, Norwich, and Sheffield — the panel was influenced by the expected step change each city was asked to envisage, if they gained the title and subsequent media spotlight.

“It was a hard choice but also heartening that all bidders had recognised the power of culture to bring people together; to work collectively within existing resources for a common goal and bring into being networks that may not have existed before.”

The other members of the judging panel included TV presenter Lauren Laverne; former BBC Northern Ireland controller Anna Carragher; Margaret Evans, former director of Culture in the Welsh Assembly; Derek Anderson, chief executive of Lambeth Council, and Robert Palmer, chair of Visiting Arts in London.

Derry will now submit its final bid by the end of May, followed by presentations by local civic and cultural leaders. People can get behind the bid by registering on www.cityofculture2013.com or follow progress on Facebook.

Belfast Telegraph

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