Hot on the heels of the Ulster Museum winning the Art Fund Prize of £100,000 comes to the news that Londonderry is to be the first British Capital of Culture in 2013. Beating off competition from Birmingham, Norwich, and Sheffield, Londonderry-Derry, as the winning city was called, was announced on BBC’s The One Show last night.
Prior to the announcement, Norwich was thought to be the favorite until the final week but not having the unerring accuracy of Paul the Octopus, many people got it wrong. So congratulations to Londonderry-Derry.
What will the award mean?
Well for a start it brings no cash with it. Conceived by the last Labour government it was copied from the European City of Culture idea which has since been adapted to places around the world. The success of Liverpool in winning the European City of Culture some years ago stimulated interest since it appeared that winning the award brought about £800 million into Liverpool’s economy. That was made up of investment in the region but, more crucially, tourism. Visitors came to Liverpool- and the other European Cities of Culture- in droves
As The One Show seemed to be the government’s orchestrated vehicle for the announcement, the award was prefaced by Phil Redmond (the chairman of the judges) with a review of what the award had brought to Liverpool. He summed it up by saying that culture brought cash which brought regeneration. These days regeneration often means tourism. It is estimated that tourism brings £30 million and 3,500 jobs to the city. So what does Londonderry offer the tourist? We’ll have a longer look at that later in the year. Way back in February, Lawrence Bate, the UK Director of Discover Ireland in the UK told us that he was planning on visiting Londonderry in May to show it to his family. He probably showed them the old 17th-century walls which are a reminder of the divides that have existed. Today the local council is considering applying for World Heritage Status for that them. Festivals certainly loom large. Starting the 24th July is the Waterside Community Links Festival which comes in the middle of the marching season in Northern Ireland. As it says, the festival is a community exercise to bring all sectors together to celebrate a joint heritage.
And that is what the organizers will hope will happen in 2013. Along with lots of visitors and lots of money.