Editor's Viewpoint: The arts are putting a spring in our step
The arts are often seen as an adjunct to our lives, even something of a luxury especially in times of austerity like this.
But who could fail to be stirred by the programme of events lined up for Londonderry's City of Culture reign next year. This newspaper is proud of the support it gave to the city in its bid to claim the title and the star-studded projects revealed yesterday is superb vindication of our faith in that bid.
Derry's long tradition of artistic excellence will be enhanced by the events which should make it a must-visit destination for thousands of people in 2013.
To become the first city outside of London to host the Turner Prize is an astounding coup for the Maiden City, but the range of artistic and cultural events is equally astonishing. While there are still some mindless thugs who want to return the province to the dark ages of the Troubles, Derry has given us a tantalising glimpse of what the future can hold.
But it is not just Derry which can boast an artistic renaissance. The Belfast Film Festival which opens tonight will send positive vibrations throughout these islands and the city has also celebrated the recent opening of the magnificent MAC, now hosting its second play, and the new Lyric Theatre, which, on its former site, kept the torch for arts alive almost single-handedly. As well there will be a host of music festivals at various venues around the province over the summer.
Northern Ireland has often been portrayed as a dour, inward looking and joyless place, but a new, more positive and vibrant image is now emerging. We've even had that icon of popular music MTV screen live from Belfast, an indication that the province has something to offer people of all ages and tastes.
The arts are not necessarily high-brow or exclusive, but life-enhancing and joyous and an antidote to the gloom and doom which so often is part of daily life. Just look at the Derry programme elsewhere in this newspaper.