The new project director of the City of Culture celebrations has said he will be a “lynchpin” to pull together all the elements of next year’s events.
Derry-born Dermot McLaughlin took up his new position this week and has said he is looking forward to the challenges it will bring.
Dermot is no stranger to managing large scale events, having worked in the Arts Council in Dublin for many years and, more recently, with the Temple Bar Cultural Trust.
Speaking after taking up his appointment this week, Dermot said he has noticed a marked change in Derry since returning to the city ahead of the City of Culture celebrations.
“I have been keeping an eye on Derry from Dublin for a while; it is clear something has changed,” he said. “Every time I come back there is a real noticeable change in the mood of the city.”
The new project director said since the launch of the programme of events last week the City of Culture project has moved into a new phase.
“In the last week there has been the successful launch of the programme, as well as the Lonely Planet designation, so it’s been exciting. The big message for me is that the project is shifting up a gear to implementation,” he said.
Dermot explained that his role will be to coordinate the delivery of next year’s celebrations. “I have been introduced to make a contribution to making this a success and to bring my expertise to this process. I see my role as part facilitator, part leadership, part broker.
“My job is to be a lynchpin to pull together all the compound parts of this huge project,” he said.
He also said Derry’s place on the world cultural stage will be cemented by the events of 2013. “It is really interesting that the first big event of the year will be the Sons and Daughters event, it really connects the city with its diaspora. Derry has sent people right across the world, particularly musicians. Derry is on the music scene around the world in every genre of the 20th and 21st centuries. We have it in spades,” he said.
He also said Derry is ready to host major international events. “What we can learn and take from 2013 is the city’s capacity to take on big things. If we can take on Clipper successfully there is no end to what we can do.
“The All Ireland Pipe Band competition is coming to the city. Why not the World championships? These huge events happen every year, why should they not happen here?” he asked.
Dermot said 2013 provides an opportunity to link Derry’s past with the future. “I look at it as seeds and threads. Seeds will be planted and some will grow and some will not. It is also about threads coming together. One thing that caught my eye when looking at the whole project is the big event being staged about Colmcille. Looking back through the centuries and through the mythology, we see that Colmcille invented copyright and his influence spread right across Europe. Bringing it right up to the present day, Derry is a highly connected city through Project Kelvin and Culture Tech. One of the major issues in the digital world today is copyright so there is a thread of innovation running from the earliest stages of Derry’s history right up to today,” he said.
An accomplished fiddle player, Dermot said he is particularly looking forward to the Fleadh Cheoil na h’Éireann in August. “I live a lot of my life in the traditional music world. I like to say when I rise in the morning it is fiddler’s feet that go on the floor first; then I readjust.
“It will be a major draw in attracting visitors to the city. Our challenge in Derry is to ensure that people who are coming to the north come to the north west first,” he said.
Dermot also said the City of Culture celebrations continue after 2013 and will make a lasting impact to people’s lives. “City of Culture is a means to an end, it is not an end in itself. It is not simply a prize for being good. It is an opportunity to excel. It is to take us somewhere better. People have to feel it is worth all the effort.
“2013 is a neutral platform until we make something of it. My job is to ensure that what we do is valuable and relevant. There are big challenges for the city. It will be great to see people taking part in 2013 but I would say why not keep going after that. I think Derry will start finding different feet.”