Gathering rust: a tribute to Derry women’s industry
A sculpture designed and then reworked by Louise Walsh to commemorate the city’s famous ‘factory girls’ may never be put on public display
Positive Derry: City of Culture brings transformation
Halfway through its year as the first UK City of Culture, Derry is buzzing. The city is basking in the glow of unprecedented, positive publicity. During the past six months, high-profile events have brought thousands of locals and visitors to the streets, and filled cultural venues. A wealth of creative talent is being nurtured through community projects.
Music City Day transformed Derry into a vast open-air stage for professional and amateur musical performances; 38,000 onlookers lined the banks of the river Foyle during the Return of Colmcille pageant; 5,000 Annies broke the Guinness World Record for the biggest song and dance routine ever performed; and almost 40,000 music fans joined BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend; and the Royal Ballet and London Symphony Orchestra sold out their performances.
Infrastructural investment of more than £80 million has left Derry looking better than ever. Spectacular images of the river Foyle, iconic Peace Bridge, refurbished Guildhall, and the former Ebrington Army base – now a large performance area – are reconnecting Derry with its diaspora.
Average hotel occupancy in May was more than 80 per cent – the highest ever recorded – and there is talk of Derry being a leading contender when the UK hosts the European Capital of Culture in 2023.
Last week, a mid-point legacy conference was told that Derry had “come to life”. The council area, though, still has the highest unemployment rate in the North, with 6,000 people claiming benefit.
The digital economy and cultural tourism have been identified as the two main drivers for ensuring that Derry’s creative energy is used for transformation and regeneration after December 31st.
The Nerve Centre’s Creative Digital Classrooms project is a key element in this economic strategy. It has installed digital media suites in 17 special and primary schools, and is training more than 30 teachers and 900 children in digital animation, creating a new skills base for the future.
The Music Promise programme, as well as developing talent, uses music to boost children’s confidence, language and literacy skills. More than 7,000 children, in schools across the city, are involved. At neighbourhood level, another thousand 11- to 18-year-olds are learning performance, composing and music-production skills.
The City of Culture project partners are already preparing a funding application to support a Legacy Plan for after 2013. And despite early concerns that a £600,000 funding shortfall could damage the remainder of this year’s programme, the organisers insist all of the main events will go ahead as planned.
Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann will come north of the Border for the first time next month, bringing an estimated 250,000 visitors.
The Turner Prize will follow in the autumn (leaving England for the first time ever) and the spectacular Lumiere Festival will brighten up early winter with a city-wide celebration of light.