'Making Derry the star of the show will be a delight'
The man behind the transformation of Dublin tourist Mecca Temple Bar hopes to help create a similar successful legacy for his native Londonderry.
Dermot McLaughlin spoke as he took up his new role as project director for Derry’s City of Culture year yesterday.
Mr McLaughlin said he only found out he was moving back to Derry for a year-long secondment within the past few weeks.
He revealed that the Strategic Investment Board in Northern Ireland had approached the chairman of the Temple Bar Cultural Trust, where he is chief executive, and asked to borrow him.
It also approached the Trust’s main shareholder, Dublin City Council.
He said: "It’s a big change for me. I’m 50, I didn’t expect to be having such a change at relatively short notice.
"My board and shareholders were 100% supportive and positive. They could see the significance Derry 2013 has for these islands. It is an important, significant milestone the city is going to show leadership on."
Speaking about his return he said: "It is great to be back here. There is a whole other element to returning home, you have got the heart talking and the brain talking as well.
"This is an opportunity I would never have dreamed of having, not just to come back here but to come back in a way that is productive and relevant and helpful for my own town.
"The upgrade in the physical fabric of the city is absolutely marvellous.
"Thinking back to the mental map I had of the town, and looking now at the riverside, the Peace Bridge, it is breathtaking.
"To consider where we are now with the quality of the cultural buildings I just think it is an absolute delight. There has been unbelievable progress made here."
Mr McLaughlin was born in Ernest Street in Rosemount. He left for Trinity College in Dublin at the age of 18.
He has gone on to become one of the most powerful figures in Ireland’s arts and cultural scene.
He said that Derry was now in a similar place and had a golden opportunity to make its mark on the world over the next year.
"Many people come in to Ireland through Dublin and make decisions there about where they go after and there is an amazing opportunity for Derry to play for that market."
He added: "A successful place needs people. You want people who are going to use, value and enjoy the space so it becomes a place."
He said his new role was to be the "lynch pin to pull together and direct all the different components" for 2013.
"The whole 2013 project is a means to an end. It is really important the star of the show is Derry. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to end up in a different place and much better off."