Belfast Telegraph

UK Culture Minister who has not visited UK City of Culture

BY DONNA DEENEY

UK Culture Minister Maria Miller has defended the fact she has not visited Londonderry once throughout its year as City of Culture.

Ms Miller was in Hull yesterday as it was named as the second UK city to be awarded the honour.

She said: "It is always difficult to fit every single thing in to the diary."

Stormont Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said local people would not be concerned.

"I don't think the people of Derry would notice in fairness to them, and they are not the kind of people to say if they did," she said.

Ms Ni Chuilin announced yesterday her department would create a new company to deliver the City of Culture legacy, with an office in the north west.

However the minister described the suggestion that she formed this new company because she did not have confidence in Derry City Council as "silly".

She also revealed that she has rubber-stamped £2m to fund the legacy this year.

This new company will be responsible for supporting and developing new initiatives – including overseeing a feasibility study to consider venues for cultural hubs.

The formation of the company could prove controversial, however.

The chief executive of Derry City Council made the decision to wind up the Culture Company, which was formed to deliver the City of Culture events, three months ahead of schedule.

This sparked a huge and public row between the chief executives of Derry City Council, Sharon O'Connor, and the chief executive of the Culture Company, Shona McCarthy.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Ms Ni Chuilin said: "The City Council was responsible for the Culture Company and DCAL is responsible for the legacy programme and that for me is the main thing.

"I think there has a silly amount of focus on the Culture Company versus the City Council and vice versa."

The aim is to move away from big ticket events to local communities.

Shifting the focus from Derry to the wider north west and incorporating Strabane, Limavady and Coleraine in recognition of the new councils, which will be established in 2015, is also part of the minister's legacy plans.

In addition to the £2m approved from DCAL, the minister also intends to make a bid through the Executive for funding.

Accompanying Ms Ni Chuilin, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "What gives me the greatest satisfaction of all – and it is an important part of legacy too – is the ability of the people of this city, no matter what the political persuasion are, no matter what their religious beliefs are, they are able to come together and realise that divided we are weak, but united we are strong."

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