This evening the vast five-acre site at the former Ebrington Barracks will spring into life as a £7.5 million multi-faceted public space, with a kaleidoscope of live entertainment.
Leading the celebrations, which commence at 6pm, will be the Codetta Choir followed by Bronagh Gallagher and Band at 7pm, the Inishowen Gospel Choir at 8.10pm, Future Chaser at 8.35pm and The Wonder Villians at 9.15pm.
The long-awaited launch of the Ebrington development will also include the opening of Cunningham Square, which will allow open access from the bottom corner of Limavady Road, leading directly to the Peace Bridge and the new cycle track, which, when completed, will run along the outer edge west wall of the former Star Fort emerging inside St Columb’s Park.
As the ancient site was cleared it must have been hard to imagine what could be done to fill the vast expanse of land that stretched down to the water’s edge. To leave it as a single space would have meant it might be too sterile to offer much by way of functionality, so the design needed to not only break the space up without interfering with the new vista over to the city skyline, but without detracting from the myriad of listed buildings that remained.
So multi-functional are the spaces that now exist, they will allow for a myriad of activities and events to take place cheek by jowl, without impinging on each other, formal or informal.
Artists can sit and sketch, teachers can choose where to hold an outdoor class, retired people can stroll, cycle, or sit and absorb the atmosphere, feeding birds, while close by a theatre group could stage a play in one of the amphitheatre-esque niches that have emerged out of a groundspace which once supported regimented rows of military arsenal.
Despite the fact that a lot of building work is still taking place, birds have already begun claiming the newly-planted mature beech trees that have been strategically placed to draw nature into the expanse, like a willowy echo of the vertical lines created by the Mute Meadow public art work on the far side of the site.
The combined effect draws the eye up quietly encouraging the visitor to acknowledge the river and the Waterside’s sister, the Cityside.
In the centre of the development is a huge gravel square, the surface of which is specifically designed to allow the erection of large demountable structures, such as a marquee, and the amazing news is that the site can accommodate thousands of people.
As you stand taking in the view it becomes apparent that the new installations, such as the gravel and the five different surface types (granite, grass, gravels, cobbles) used to create the space, pick up on out motes of colour from the buildings across the Foyle, drawing the two sides of the city nearer.
In addition to static, creative seating, the various enclaves and open areas will be animated with public art and displays and a time capsule is being put together and will be housed in a custom-built compartment close to the west face of the Fort Wall.
Suggestions or queries for it can be made by emailing email@example.com or by telephone at 028 7126 9226. Alternatively visit www.facebook.com/legenderry.city to post ideas.
One thing you cannot see at the moment, but which will go on public display in the near future once they have been restored and put on new plinths are two huge cannon guns, unearthed by the builders in the area of the former parade grounds.
Both date from the late 1800s and will, in time go on display outside the yet to be created Maritime Museum, which will be located in one of the listed buildings on the north end of the site.
Over by the north west corner, where the pedestrian access to the Peace Bridge is located a glass bridge is being built to allow access to the buildings and public space on the north side, while pedestrians accessing the site to get to and from the Cityside from the Limavady Road will walk under the structure to get to the pedestrian bridge - itself designed to be another area of public realm space.
The whole site is gently bathed in carefully placed ambient lighting, which is sympathetic to the Mute Meadow and the underlighting for the Peace Bridge, and the over-arching effect is the entire development is a content and relaxed space, open to all and welcoming.