Children of Derry return for City of Culture gig
Derry kicked off its year as the UK’s inaugural city of culture in style last night with an atmospheric opening concert.
More than 2,000 people filled to capacity the city’s newest venue, at the former British army barracks at Ebrington, to hear some of the northwest’s most famed musicians, including Phil Coulter, Dana, Gerard McChrystal, Neil Hannon, Nadine Coyle and The Undertones bring the house down.
Phil Coulter launched proceedings with an emotional rendition of his famous ballad The Town I Loved So Well.
Dana received a similarly raucous response for her revisiting of All Kinds of Everything, the song that won her the Eurovision song contest.
Paul Brady, from nearby Strabane, Co Tyrone, was also on the bill, along with two members of Snow Patrol.
Actors Amanda Burton and Jimmy Nesbitt co-hosted part of the show, which was broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster.
It wasn’t all music, however. Dublin-born but Derry-raised actor Eva Birthistle paid tribute to Brian Friel – “Ireland’s best living playwright” – to thundering applause, while words from Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney punctuated proceedings.
The team has been praised for its high-calibre programme. Highlights later in the year include a new production by American playwright Sam Shepard and the return of the Field Day theatre company with three new dramas.
The Return of Colmcille river event, designed by Frank Cottrell Boyce, who scripted the London Olympics opening ceremony, is expected to be a massive crowd-puller.
The city has also scored a few coups, hosting the Turner Prize outside England for the first time and wooing the All-Ireland Fleadh to come north of the Border.
As well as the feel-good factor, an economic spin-off of up to £500 million has been predicted for the city. Derry was recently named by Lonely Planet travel guide as one of 10 must-see cities of 2013.
The mood across the city in recent weeks has been buoyant.More than 11,000 people applied for the 2,000 free tickets for last night. Those who lost out could tune into BBC Radio Foyle and Radio Ulster, both of which broadcast the concert live.
It was also available on BBC TV via the red button. For those who missed it altogether, another screening will go out on BBC NI next Saturday, January 26th, at 10.30pm.