Derry launches programme for 2013 UK City of Culture


WHAT HAS been described as the most ambitious and varied programme of arts and culture ever assembled on the island of Ireland was launched in Derry yesterday as the city prepares to host the UK City of Culture in 2013.

Among the hundreds of events taking place in Derry next year are the Turner Prize, which will be presented outside England for the first time, a new commission by the London Symphony Orchestra, a new play by American playwright Sam Shepard, performances by the Royal Ballet, the All Ireland Fleadh, which will be staged in Northern Ireland for the first time, the return of the Field Day theatre company which was founded in Derry in 1980, an address by Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney and a spectacular Return of Colmcille river event.

The 102-page programme also includes national and international sporting events, arts and music festivals, community events as well as numerous festivals which will be staged on the city’s historic walls and in local community centres.

Thousands of programmes were brought downstream on the River Foyle on a motor boat yesterday morning before being distributed to dozens of citywide locations by teams of athletes.

Speaking at the formal unveiling of the programme in Ebrington Square overlooking the river Foyle, the city’s mayor, Cllr Kevin Campbell, said the time had now come for the people of Derry to take their place on the world stage of the arts and culture.

“It is our time to shine. I am privileged to be mayor of such an historic city on such an historic day for its citizens.

“The UK City of Culture will be our showcase to the world and it will enable us to deliver an astonishing year to the people of this city and to the hundreds of thousands of visitors we expect to visit us next year.

“But equally as important it will enable this generation to leave a legacy for future generations. We have involved everyone in putting together this programme of events, people of national and international standing but equally local people, young people, local communities. I invite the people of the world to come to Derry next year to party,” he said.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, whose “wanted” poster used to hang inside Ebrington when it was the British army’s headquarters in the city during the Troubles, said the programme of events was amazing.

“It’s not just a case of there being something for everyone, there’s lots for everyone. As a Derry man I’m proud to be here on such an historic day for my home city. To have Derry hosting such a high quality year-long series of events is just amazing. Next year is our chance to celebrate our astonishing heritage in a way that embraces all of our people,” he said.

Derry-born Phil Coulter, who was also at yesterday’s launch, said the range and variety of events was spectacular.

“I just can’t wait to perform in the town I love so well next June. This is the most ambitious programme of events I’ve ever seen and what I really like about it is the community involvement. I’ve performed with some of the most famous orchestras in the world in some of the most iconic venues but this will be the most unique and historic of them all for me,” he said.

Local tour guide Martin Crossan said national and international interest in Derry for next year was already running at a record high.

“I’ve been in this business for over 20 years and I’ve never experienced such an interest in people wanting to come to Derry for the City of Culture year. It’s phenomenal and in terms of the local economy it will give the whole city a lift. When I started out as a tour guide during the Troubles, people thought I was mad. But even then the tourists were coming here and just imagine how many will be coming next year. It’s going to be an incredible year for this city and an unforgettable year for all the right reasons,” he said.