Gerry Anderson pens a love letter to Derry - or is it to Stroke City?

Gerry Anderson, popular BBC Radio Ulster presenter.
Gerry Anderson, popular BBC Radio Ulster presenter.
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Gerry Anderson writing a love letter to Derry. Confused? Well, don’t be because that’s exactly what we have in ‘A City Dreaming’, the eagerly-awaited new film in which the popular broadcaster goes back in time to paint an intimate portrait of his home town.

‘A City Dreaming’ will receive a gala screening at Derry’s St Columb’s Hall on December 6 ( 8 p.m.)

Gerry says he’s looking forward to seeing how people react to the film which he also narrates.

Gerry, of course, has been out of the public eye for the past year or so as a result of illness.

However, he says he hopes to be back behind the microphone in the near future.

He told the ‘Journal’: “I don’t want to say too much about it at this stage but it’s been quite a complicated time. I’ve undergone a number of operations and it’s involved a long recovery process.

“However, I’d like to be back at work in the near future - possibly some time in the new year.”

Turning to the new film, Gerry acknowledges it was an “emotional journey” for him.

“Don’t want to sound too cliched but I did learn loads about myself.

“It involved alot of sitting down and deliberately thinking quite deeply about a range of things - particularly the past - and, as a result, I think it’s an extremely personal film but one which, I hope, people can relate to.

“While it’s a personal piece, I was very careful to avoid being overly self-indulgent. What I wanted to do was to try to bring people into a particular life experience. Hopefully it all connects.”

‘A City Dreaming’, described as a beautiful portrait of Derry, incorporates a series of personal and intimate recollections of a city and its people.

It’s a story that weaves its way through half a century of history during a time that saw Derry rise from poverty and neglect to hitting the headlines around the world.

The film has its genesis in a conversation a few years ago between Gerry and the film’s director, BAFTA Award winner Mark McCauley - another Derry man.

They then took their idea “of a film about Derry” to Northern Ireland Screen which realised its potential and, with the British Film Institute on board, the idea has grown into a compelling feature length film that is described as “a love letter to Derry”.

Gerry explains: “Derry people have always maintained that the city and its people are unique.

“Outsiders are often puzzled by this because the Derry man or woman in question is often unable or, indeed, unwilling to explain this uniqueness in any concrete fashion. We thought it would be worthwhile to a have crack at what it was about the Derry way of life that enabled the city to come out from the Troubles bruised but undaunted.

“The city has survived the Troubles mainly because of the spirit and verve that was characteristic of pre-Troubles Derry.

“We have tried in some small way to convey that unique spirit by going back in time to paint a frankly personal picture of what it was like to be living in Derry past.”

Gerry, who grew up in Sackville Street in the 1940s and 1950s, says the film depicts Derry - both as a place and a people - as “gregarious, good natured and larger than life.”

“I talk about the house I lived in, the social set-up in which I was reared and the vibrancy of the city when I was a kid.

“Derry had and still has a spirit which other places don’t and it was this very spirit which, while somewhat kept under wraps during the Troubles, saw it through those dark days.

“And, let’s remember, it was a spirit that was nurtured in families and in a society that was very matriarchal. “

Derry, says Gerry, is also unique in that it can juggle the twin challenges of being “international and parochial at the same time.”

Without its past, says Gerry, Derry is just another place. “That’s why our past and its uniqueness is so hugely important. “

Mark McCauley says the film portrays a past which has almost disappeared.

“It’s a city which is unrecognisable in many ways,” he says.

“The film takes us from the 1940s until the late 1960s and looks at the warmth of a people who, despite living in relative poverty, maintained tremendous spirit and generosity.

“Even as the turmoil of a changing world brought the global media to their door, they somehow managed to keep that spirit alive.”

The executive producer of “A City Dreaming” is another Derry man, Andrew Eaton, who is, perhaps, better known for working with the likes of Hollywood A-listers such as Angelina Jolie.

The film’s producer Chris Martin recently worked on the movie ‘Good Vibrations’ which followed the story of Belfast impresario Terri Hooley and featured The Undertones.

Much of the archive film for “A City Dreaming” was provided by local film-maker Vinny Cunningham from his own local film library.

The film score was written by Michael Keeney and local musician Paul Casey has provided a track for the end of the hour-long feature.

‘A City Dreaming” receives its gala screening at St Columb’s Hall on December 6. Tickets for the screening are on sale now from the Millennium Forum box office.