Well it has now been a month and what a month – my feet have hardly touched the ground as I have met so many different people and groups.
There were three major events that set the tone for the month and I hope will help create the positive atmosphere that is needed for my year ahead.
The events were a City of Culture reception in London, the Peace One Day Concert in Ebrington and the Clipper Race arriving in the city and staying with us for ten days.
On the morning of Friday week last, the first of the Clipper yachts Gold Coast Australia arrived in the city to begin ten days of maritime celebration and associated events along the banks of the Foyle. Every day, despite the inclement weather, the crowds seem to grow bigger and bigger, with families indulging in the seafood provided, the music and the various stalls erected along the river.
The atmosphere was buzzing as I moved among the crowds meeting people from Derry, all parts of Ireland and different parts of the globe, all of them excited about this event. The new permanent pontoon now gives Derry the ability to host more maritime events all year round, helping to transform the riverfront and putting us on par with other European cities.
There were over 200,000 visitors to the Clipper festival, and that outshone any projections we had in mind. It’s an example of the possibilities we have on our doorstep and what we can do if we have the imagination and the ‘get up and go’ to deliver a world-class event.
As Mayor of this city it was an honour to travel to London to secure additional funding for the City of Culture and build relationships that could benefit the entire community in the future. The City of Culture presents us with an opportunity to build a legacy for all the citizens in this city and as First Citizen I intend to maximise each and every opportunity.
If we are to achieve this then inward investment is crucial. In order to attain that we must put Derry on the world stage, as a place to bring employment, to build your business, as a place to visit, explore and more importantly to enjoy. Speaking in London allowed us to address a world audience where we were able to put forward our vision for the years ahead – the One Plan. I am happy to say that one investor, the Arts Council of England, promised £750,000 towards the Year of Culture Events and I am confident more will follow.
I attended the Peace One Day concert with my family and what a great time we had. Apart from the world class acts that provided the entertainment, the greatest joy was watching the people with huge smiles on their faces. The young and some of us, who are not so young, were dancing and singing along with the acts on a site that has been totally transformed. That, in my opinion, reflects the change in mood in this city.
I would like on behalf of our city offer our thanks to Michael Hamlyn whose generosity made this event a totally free concert – thank you Michael.
It’s worth noting that these events were held on opposite sides of the river with the iconic Peace Bridge linking them up. I believe that this bridge is like the last contact in an electric circuit allowing us to light up the entire city and showcase everything that is good about our city.
The Peace Bridge has opened areas to everyone that in the past people may have been seen as out of bounds. It has matured the city in helping reconciliation between the two communities and presented the city as one in which we can all be proud to call home.
The brightness of these events shone out across the island of Ireland and further afield like a beacon of what is achievable when we all put our shoulder to the wheel.
Derry people are renowned for their resilience, their wit and humour but especially their friendliness. Yet at times that ‘can do’ attitude has seemed dampened by old political ideals.
The mood has now totally changed for the positive with people confident about the ability of the city to put the correct foot forward and stand up in positioning Derry as a place that can grow and thrive in the years ahead.
We now must extend our new confidence into every community in our city.
My first month has been one of hard work, enjoyment and delight at seeing all the citizens of the city smile as hope of a better future is on the horizon.
As Mayor I want to build upon this start and ensure every home benefits from the opportunities we can create in the year ahead.