Liverpool shows just how Derry can scale new heights: Sharkey
Its musical exports include Gerry and the Pacemakers, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Coral — not to mention The Beatles.
And now Londonderry has been urged to learn from Liverpool's experiences as the culture capital of Europe ahead of its own year in the musical spotlight.
One of its own musical giants, former Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey, said Liverpool pointed the way for how the city could be transformed.
Preparations are well under way for Derry to become the UK's first City of Culture in 2013, and yesterday Mr Sharkey described how both cities had used music to overcome their difficulties.
He was hosting a fringe event at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, where panellists, including Shona McCarthy, city of culture chief executive, said the culture capital status could change the perception of Northern Ireland.
Posing the debate's key question “Can a city sell itself through music?” Mr Sharkey, now the chief executive of UK Music, said: “Liverpool and Derry were not at their best in the 1970s. It's remarkable how they have transformed themselves.”
Liverpool was the European Capital of Culture in 2008, and its success spawned the title UK City of Culture, with Derry first to wear the crown in 2013.
Ms McCarthy said: “The opportunities for Derry are quite phenomenal.
“It is a city of music, in no small way due to Feargal and his colleagues, who really proved that music and creativity can carry you through the toughest of times.
“The legacy of much of that remains in Derry.”
Seventy per cent of the programme would be focused on music, she said, including a pledge to give every child in the city access to a musical instrument and tuition. Ireland's second biggest festival, Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann, would take place north of the border for the first time, Ms McCarthy said, adding that the celebrations would improve the image of the province.
She said: “We need to change the way it's covered. The same old lazy story has been told, not only about Derry, but about all of Northern Ireland.
“We have got a new story to tell, and we're going to tell it.”
Labour MPs Luciana Berger and Steve Rotheram described the legacy left by Liverpool's year.
Ms McCarthy was also warned of the mistakes made in Liverpool, including a lack of co-ordination early on which led to it being compared to a “scouse wedding” by its organiser, pledges for projects that were not delivered and a focus on the city centre, rather than the outskirts.
Ms McCarthy said her team had learned from the Liverpool experience and planned to open up school buildings on the outskirts of the city to host community concerts.
She said all of the city's libraries would be involved in the celebration, with Seamus Heaney at the forefront, saying the “positive impact” of the events would spread across the whole of Northern Ireland.
Mr Rotheram warned of the effects of spending cuts on the legacy, saying: “There is a real danger that we are facing, because of this pernicious, horrible Government, that we could lose what we gained.”