A social regeneration expert believes Derry’s public must stop writing off the “huge potential” of the city.
Dubliner Michael Pyner - who has championed social entrepreneurship in one of England’s most economically polarised areas - is in Derry to help feed ideas into the city’s social revolution. The CEO of Shoreditch Trust, which has successfully delivered sustainable neighbourhood development projects using free-market principles in Hackney, is in the middle of a month’s free consultation in Derry.
And he’s seen the “fantastic potential” for social enterprise with the help of a little confidence from its citizens. He has applauded the increased efforts in recent times to market Derry internationally, paying particular tribute to the work of US Special Economic Envoy to Ireland Declan Kelly. However, the man renowned and respected for straight talking has highlighted the need for self belief in the city’s people.
“The message that Derry is open for business is a very important. That message going out to the world is one thing but Derry believing it is another. It’s all very well building bright shiny buildings but regeneration works with people so unless it gets into deprived areas such as the Fountain and into the Bogside then it’ll be a failure. All you’ll be doing then is talking to the same audiences all the time - if Ebrington becomes a place where middle class Derry gets another place to go for a cafe latte then I’m not sure what it’s about.”
He added: “I’ve rarely been to any city where people so underestimate their own potential and the potential of the place. You say to people Derry’s beautiful and they say ‘Ah go away’ - it is one of the most beautiful places to be in terms of its geographical location but when you’re in it, you kind of lose that perspective.”
He also highlighted that Derry and the North West has some of the highest quality of life indicators in Western Europe.
“It is easily one of the most beautiful cities on this island and there is huge capacity in this city, in the people already here to exploit their skills and beauty of the city. It’s about not writing Derry off, it’s about believing in and realising a bright future.”
Mr Pyner said he believes that Derry’s future can be helped along by long lost descendants of the city. “Derry has yet to exploit the diaspora, there is a real sense that there are some very wealthy Americans who would claim heritage to Derry or Donegal.
“There’s a real opportunity for the city to talk to the people who want to do well by us and tap into that in an appropriate way rather than slapping a shamrock on your head and saying I’m Irish give me money.”