If it weren’t for the graffiti, “you could be fooled into thinking you were somewhere in the south of France,” Ross Kemp said of Derry in his Extreme World show on Sky1.
The Belfast Telegraph’s Andrew Johnston took exception and now I’ve taken exception to Johnston’s comments about Derry. He wrote: “Next, Kemp headed to Derry-Londonderry. The dual name will have had viewers in, say, Norwich or Dundee, scratching their heads at our pedantry almost as much as this writer was at Kemp’s fanciful notion…” that Derry could be like the south of France. Well actually Mr Johnston, Derry can be like an attractive town in France or Italy. All we need is the sunshine. When Kemp was here last July we had it. When the yacht race came here the year before, we also had it. With the boats moored in the city centre and thousands of people en promenade along our impressive waterfront, bedecked with its stalls and displays, Derry really did look and feel like a town on the Riviera. The walls, well OK, apart from the graffiti do give the place the look of an ancient European town. Belfast, eat your heart out. There’s no danger of the city, “knocked up from the swamp in the last 50 years,” (Louis MacNeice) ever being mistaken for an old city in France or Italy even if they did have sunshine. As seen on Kemp’s programme, even if Belfast did have the attractive appearance, the pettiness, the bleating and the grimly predictable violence would give the game away. No, Mr Johnston, there’s no need to be so surprised. If Derry looked like Nice on Kemp’s show, Belfast just looked bloody awful.