As the shortlist for City of Culture 2017 is revealed, Shona McCarthy chief executive of 2013 winner Derry-Londonderry reflects on the cultural year at the halfway mark
As I watched 2,000 runners collapse over the finishing line at the end of the Walled City Marathon on 2 June, I knew exactly how they felt. Delivering the programme for the first UK City of Culture is a marathon and we’ve just reached the 13 mile point.
It’s hard to believe we are halfway there. The year is flying past us in a blur of exceptional art, music and dance, sport and theatre and song and spectacle and new conversations. It is an exhausting but exhilarating pace, and it has been wonderful.
‘A confident city in celebration’
The first quarter of the year put us on the map for celebrating the great talent and creativity of the city and for reaching out in programming partnerships to the South of Ireland and across the UK. Our opening concert Sons and Daughters reached the highest BBC viewing figures via the red button. Hofesh Schecter blew us away with a NI take on his acclaimed Political Mother. Other Voices took exceptional music from Derry and beyond across the world via digital technology. The Lonely Planet Guide placed Derry-Londonderry in the top four of its recommended cities to visit in 2013.
We’d tested the city’s readiness for the bigger things to follow, built the anticipation, the expectation, the capacity and the audience for one big summer. The second quarter of our City of Culture year has taken us to another level!
Over three magical nights in May, Radio 1’s Big Weekend rocked the city. The city looked resplendent with the ancient Walled City and its Guildhall connected by the iconic peace bridge to the reclaimed military barracks – the perfect site for joy and celebration and One Big Weekend of great music. We were very proud of Derry-Londonderry and these new images of a confident city in celebration.
When we launched the 2013 UK City of Culture programme back in October 2012, one of our promises was to bring and to create amazing work here which as many people as possible could access and participate in.
In the last two months we saw the BT Portrait of a City project really come to life. We are aiming to create one of the largest digital community archives for a city.
Picturing Derry at The Shirt Factory is another stunning exhibition of photojournalism, with many unseen images of the city and its people. Downstairs, Northern Ireland artist Rita Duffy has worked with former city shirt factory workers to transform the ground floor of Patrick Street Shirt Factory into an exhibition, shop and performance space.
London Street Gallery, a new gallery space for exhibiting works of local artists, run by artists, is now on its fourth successful exhibition. It has addressed a real gap in the cultural infrastructure of the city and has welcomed thousands through its doors.
S’Wonderful and s’inspirational
There have been rich conversations and ongoing purposeful enquiry. Melvyn Bragg, Robert Fisk, Colm McCann, Jon Ronson, Steve Wozniak have all been in town within the last month. Rotary hosted their international peace conference here.
Melvyn Bragg was asked by a local journalist how he felt Derry-Londonderry was handling the accolade of first ever UK City of Culture. “It feels great, it feels a sort of triumph of the human spirit,” he said. “It’s wonderful and it shows the democratic power of culture that it can bring everybody together. And it’s wonderful imaginative democracy. It’s terrific that Derry has seized that crown.”
Derry-Londonderry, the first ever UK City of Culture, has seriously risen to the challenge. In the six months to come we will ensure that 2013 continues to be an inspirational and unforgettable moment in the city’s story. However, but only the springboard for what we do next…
Come and join us!
You can find more information, a full itinerary of events coming up and book tickets on the Derry-Londonderry City of Culture 2013 website and keep up speed with what’s happening via City of Culture 2013 on Facebook.
Shona McCarthy is Chief Executive of Culture Company 2013.