Get ready for Walls 400!

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When you have been around for 400 years, it is not surprising that you can become a little taken for granted.

The Walls of Derry are so visible as a feature of the city of Derry, it is easy to assume that there is nothing new to discover about them.

In this quadricentennial year, Holywell Trust believes it is time to shake up our preconceptions about our national monument and have brought together an unparalleled line-up of experts for a weekend of talks and practical workshops.

The Walls 400! History Conference takes place on Saturday, 6th and Sunday, 7th of April in the Verbal Arts Centre by Bishop’s Gate.

This August marks the 400th anniversary of the start of the process of building Derry’s historic City Walls.

In August 1613, two Londoners arrived in Derry with instructions to sort out the contracts for the building of the City Walls. Along with ten experienced local officers, they “viewed and trode out the ground at the Derry for the fortification there.”

That simple act of marking out the ground on the Island of Derry, four centuries ago, has left an enduring imprint on the cultural identities of the people of Ireland and Britain. The Walls 400! History Conference aims to examine the present-day legacy of those events in 1613.

Some of the questions to be teased out at the unique two day conference include: What was the legal basis for the confiscation and plantation of Derry? What was the reaction of the native Irish to the imposition of this instrument of war on the landscape? What do we know of the English and Scots people who settled in the new London-Derrie? How much of the 1613 designs remain in the present day Derry’s Walls? How have the Walls been used in 400 years of conflict and municipal life? What stories lie behind the evolution of the separate communities of the Fountain and Bogside which live in the shadow of the Walls? Who actually owns Derry’s Walls and how are the Walls perceived today?

Speakers include Dr Brian Lacey, who will examine Derry before the arrival of the Londoners; Prof James Stevens Curl, who will look at the background to the financing and building of the Walls; Dr Annaleigh Margey, who will use 17th century maps and surveys to examine the place of the Walls in the contemporary landscape and perception; and Eamon McCann who will look at how the communities view the Walls today.

Practical workshops will reveal overlooked features of the City Walls and the bits that have gone missing down through the centuries.

There will also be demonstrations of the weapons around which the Walls were designed. Tickets for the event are priced at £10 (£5 concession) and must be reserved and paid for in advance of the conference. Conference size is limited to 100 delegates. Contact The Playhouse Box Office on (028) 71268027.