Belfast Telegraph

'Another bitter blow': Report on massive success of 2017 EU Capital of Culture highlights missed opportunity for Northern Ireland

By Michael Sheils McNamee

A report on the huge success of the 2017 European Capital of Culture, the danish city of Aarhus, has dealt a "bitter blow" to Northern Ireland.

In a joint bid, Belfast, Londonderry, and Strabane had been in the running to secure the coveted title for 2023 - before the bid was scuppered by the UK's planned exit from the European Union.

Speaking about the success of Aarhus, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Northern Ireland was "missing out" on a major opportunitiy.

A new report on the success of the Aarhus shows it enjoyed a major boost to culture, tourism, and its economy.

In the course of the year, overnight stays in the region hit a record high, businesses saw their turnover surge by €159.1m, and the creation of 2,000 jobs.

The investment in culture saw 442 creative collaboration carried out during the year, bringing together Danish and international artists.

"The report released about Aarhus, the European Capital of Culture for 2017, speaks volumes. The positive cultural, social and economic opportunities that being the European Capital of Culture can bring are immeasurable," said SDLP leader Eastwood.

“An immense amount of preparatory work went into developing the joint bid to bring the European Capital of Culture title to Derry and Belfast but due to the onslaught of Brexit, this bid was stopped in its tracks. This represents yet another bitter blow for people in the North, missing out on opportunities for economic growth and a chance to advance our cities.

“The people of the North voted to remain, they voted to protect their socio-economic needs but so far all Brexit has brought to the North is missed opportunities and uncertainty for the future.”

Speaking about the success of holding the European Capital of Culture, CEO of Aerhus's successful bid Rebecca Matthews spoke about how the results would continue to be seen in years to come.

“The seeds we have planted in our year as European Capital of Culture will continue to grow in the rich soil of the new collaborations and partnerships formed, the emboldened cultural organisations and creative workers, the vision shared among municipal councils, and the citizens energised by the cultural experience,” she said.

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