Editor's Viewpoint: Province is united behind Maiden City
Tomorrow Derry-Londonderry will hand over its submission on why it should be chosen as the UK City of Culture in 2013.
The council officials carrying the final bid documents to Liverpool will also carry the good wishes of the entire province with them. From the offices of the First and Deputy First Ministers right down to street level, the level of support for the Derry bid is astonishing and must surely play a part in the judges' decision, which will be given in July.
Given the headlines that attached to the Maiden City over the years, the judges might be forgiven for not wanting to inquire too deeply into what happens in the city. They may think that it is a city which has been mired in controversy and that a judicious side-step might be the politic thing to do when choosing between Derry, Birmingham, Norwich and Sheffield. That would be a grave error and an injustice to what has happened on the banks of the Foyle.
Derry can trace its origins to pre-Christian times and it is doubtful if there is another city in these islands with the same depth of history and cultural diversity over the generations. It is to the eternal credit of the city that it has managed to create unity out of the division which has marred civic society on occasion and nowhere is that more evident than in the current bid. This newspaper is proud to have played its part in promoting Derry as a city of culture and will continue to press its case as vigorously as possible until the final decision is made. Victory for Derry would be an enormous fillip to the city but also to the cultural life of the entire province.
From a relatively small population base Derry has produced cultural icons of international repute such as Nobel laureate, poet Seamus Heaney who went to school in the city. The city's other Nobel prize winner, John Hume, got his for his peace work through politics, not strictly a cultural activity, but one which laid the foundations for the renaissance of the city.
Pop culture, literature, music, festivals and the largest Hallowe'en party in Ireland all form a strong case for the judges to give Derry serious consideration for the title. An innovative part of the bid is the suggestion that the city wants to make its cultural programme accessible to every citizen, with 70% of the output being free at the point of delivery.
If the title of City of Culture carries real meaning then initiatives such as this should be encouraged. It should never be a case of simply applauding the large metropolitan areas with their vast resources, but rather seeking out a city where culture actually means something; where culture is a unifying force; where culture is a badge of honour. The Derry-Londonderry bid wins on those criteria and let us hope at least one of the names of the city with two names will be on the lips of the judges when the winning city is announced.