A city transformed with the magic of ‘Colmville’

The Colmcille Catwalk performance in Pump Street as fashion and flitation met through the ages as part of the Return of Comcille to the City of Culture, Derry~Londonderry on saturday. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 08.06.13
The Colmcille Catwalk performance in Pump Street as fashion and flitation met through the ages as part of the Return of Comcille to the City of Culture, Derry~Londonderry on saturday. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 08.06.13

Martin Mullan, last seen in a very colourful lady’s outfit in the parade on Saturday night, was still buzzing in Sainsbury’s at lunchtime yesterday.

“Made me proud to be from the city, it was fanastic,” he said, as if that pride was ever in doubt.

The Return of Colmcille is still the talk of the town, and in particular the spectacular finale on the Foyle on Saturday night in front of thousands of people. Could it have been the biggest crowd ever in the city centre?

Martin had little time for anybody who missed it - it seemed that not many did.

“Somebody said, I had relatives over and I couldn’t get down. And I said, if you were in the States and they were putting on a weekend costing £1m, would you not make sure you got there?”

‘Colmcille versus the Lough Ness Monster - the Rematch’ was always going to be a biggie. Colmcille’s arrival ‘home’ on Friday night, if not quite Ali in Zaire, was a spectacle in itself. The trapeze artist’s gold outfit glittered in the evening sun, which also burnished the mystery box as it was lower onto the stage in Guildhall Square. Watching on were several thousand people - big crowds are now a feature of Culture year, after Bright Brand New Day, then the marathon. Dignitaries included the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin, Foyle MP Mark Durkan and others. A very athletic monk amused the crowd - and maybe scaredsome of them as well - with his antics on top of a giant thurible as it was hoisted high into the air by a crane about as tall as the Guildhall.

The consensus is that Derry is looking brilliant in this good weather. And there’s a buzz around which has only been helped by the success of ‘The Return of Colmcille’, a central event in culture year.

Roll on Saturday, and there was lots happening around the town - and I was somehow managing to miss most of it.

The opening of the mystery box again brought a good crowd to Guildhall Square on Saturday at 2pm. After the big countdown, the box indeed opened to reveal - the cover of a book. This proved something of an anti-climax, although before long art of monastic times was being created live on the book’s pages, and children were emerging.

Former City of Culture project director Dermot McLaughlin was down from Dublin again to soak in the atmosphere, and was raving about the Understones gig at the Gasyard.

Shona McCarthy’s mum and her friend were in good form. Shona arrived to pick them up and looked remarkable relaxed on such a crucial weekend for the entire project.

There were lots of people milling around. A string quartet, singers and a little acted show on Pump Street. A crowd under the canopy in the Craft Village. A harpist playing on the grass behind the Guildhall. Trad heads playing at Ebrington, and then on ‘The Maid of Ply’ in the parade.

And what a parade - full of music, colour, movement, local faces and good humour.

Back to the office very quickly to upload a video to the Journal facebook page. And of course that put paid to any chance of a great viewing point for the finale. But everyone could see the sky light up to end the battle. The winner - Colmcille. And Derry. Chalk up another triumph in 2013.