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Derry businesses must step up to City of Culture plate

The Culture Crew Marathon runners arrive via Derry's Peace Bridge to deliver the first copies of the 2013 Programme of events. (2510Sl101) Photo: Stephen Latimer

The Culture Crew Marathon runners arrive via Derry's Peace Bridge to deliver the first copies of the 2013 Programme of events. (2510Sl101) Photo: Stephen Latimer

Businesses in Derry can’t simply wait around for the City of Culture boom to come to them, says Culture Company Business Engagement Manager Andrew Potter.

Andrew Potter is tasked with helping to guide Derry businesses to success in the City of Culture. He speaks to the Journal’s Ian Cullen about how local companies must seize the opportunity.

Businesses in Derry can’t simply wait around for the City of Culture boom to come to them, says Culture Company Business Engagement Manager Andrew Potter.

The man tasked with helping as many as possible of Derry’s 2,500 businesses to make the most of the opportunities of 2013 says now is the time “to pull out all the stops” to make the year an economic success in the city.

He says it’s important to ensure that there is much more business in the city when the culture celebrations are over than there were before it began.

With the year long party in Derry expected to generate up to £1.4million visitors to the city and a whopping £39m in tourism revenue, the prospect for a bumper year looks very likely for many businesses. However, Mr Potter is keen to point out that businesses will have to ensure they make the right moves to reap the full benefits.

“There are companies setting up in the anticipation of next year and the companies that will be successful are the ones who seize the opportunity and realise what the customers are looking for. If you are a business person sitting in your shop waiting for tourists to arrive with you, you’ll have less of a good time. It is definitely a year to pull out the stops.”

In particular there have been fears raised by Waterside traders and businesspeople who are concerned that the City of Culture boom may pass them by. Mr Potter is urging those who feel they may be left behind to act now by thinking outside the box to ensure they benefit.

“Lots of business are changing their uses for the year, for example estate agents who shut up shop during the year, renting their properties for sweet shops and music suppliers.”

“I think the businesses which will really make a success out of next year are the businesses that do something out of the ordinary, who see the opportunity and adjust their offering for the visitors that come. There are going to be opportunities for pop-up shops and temporary retailing units in Ebrington so if there is a concern about visitors getting to you, maybe you have to get to the visitors.”

In terms of business development from the City of Culture, much of the focus is on the legacy, Mr Potter explains.

“The whole of the City of Culture is not just about 2013. This is a marathon not a sprint - the targets around City of Culture go up to 2020.

“Obviously next year is the turbo charger but we’re certainly not banking everything on next year.”

Mr Potter, who lives in Portaferry, is on secondment to the Culture Company from his post as BT Marketing manager for Ireland. He took up the post as part of BT’s sponsorship of the Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture.

His “challenging role” as Business Engagement Manager for the Culture Company has quite a scope of promoting the City of Culture to businesses both inside and outside the city and working closely with Derry City Council and Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau.

A massive amount of money has gone into drawing up an impressive programme of events for the City of Culture year.

However, the returns from the events alone is not where the major profits from the year will come from, as he explains.

“The way we’ve gone about looking at the opportunity is by looking at the project plans that are currently in place which define what we need and what the budget is for our needs. Right now we have detailed project plans for around half of what we need to deliver next year because stuff at the back end of the year we haven’t got detailed project plans for. Looking at those plans there is roughly around half a million pounds worth of business that local companies can benefit from.” That may not seem like a massive amount of money but Andrew is quick to point out that much of the money will be spent on staging the events.

“I appreciate that someone will say that you have a budget of 12.76m . . . but a lot of the money has been spent on bringing the big international and high quality acts to the city.”

“Obviously a lot of the money is going on the booking of the artists and the actual high quality acts that are coming - the bulk of the money is being spent on getting the Hofesh Shechters and the Primal Screams and those type of acts to the city. Another generator of money is ticket sales, although a lot of the events are free next year.

“The big lumps of money are not necessarily from the Culture Company placing contracts, they are actually from the tourism contribution.

“Obviously we don’t control that directly, although we are putting on a programme of events which we hope will double the number of visitors to the city and the return in terms of value to the economy is £39m. The Fleadh alone should bring in around £20m or more; that is a huge coup for the city.”

With a huge variety of events planned for the 2013 programme, support will be needed across a variety of fields including, event management, security and stewarding, catering and many other services.

Mr Potter has been heavily involved in promoting the potential opportunities along with Derry City Council, including the issuing of brand licensing. But anyone looking to use the City of Culture is advised to get in early as licenses are being issued on a “first come, first served basis”.

Mr Potter also appealed to local businesses to get involved in the business engagement series of meetings being facilitated by Derry City Council as “they are proving very beneficial to local businesses”.

 

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