Continuing his countdown to City of Culture 2013 Garbhan Downey says momentum is building...
With just 15 months to go to 2013, the momentum behind the City of Culture project is starting to pick up rapidly.
Over the next few weeks, political leaders in both Stormont and Dublin will be hosting keynote events to highlight their support for our project. And they will be using these gatherings to encourage their colleagues in the world of arts and business to get involved too.
Then in December, our world-acclaimed pianist Cathal Breslin will be performing at London’s premier classical music venue, the Wigmore Hall, at a special concert for the corporate sector to highlight London-Derry links.
Similar events showcasing our city will also be staged early next year in the US and in Brussels. And, our city is also being heavily promoted at the dozen international stopping-points during the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
Currently, four council representatives are in South Africa, for the stopover there, where they will be speaking to tourism chiefs, business leaders and politicians about why they should visit Derry in 2013.
Locally, the big mo’ is apparent too. Many international cultural and media organisations are already keen to factor Derry into their long-term schedules and are flocking to the city to discuss plans and establish connections.
This week alone, the British Council, which has a huge cultural network stretching around the globe, visited Ebrington to offer a series of major commitments to our project.
Representatives of the GAA Council met with Culture Company to elaborate on their proposals for 2013 (full details to be released very soon – watch this space).
And earlier in the week, representatives from the BBC network travelled from London to meet us and take a whistle-stop tour a swathe of cultural landmarks, including St Columb’s Cathedral, the Verbal Arts Centre, the Nerve Centre, the Museum of Free Derry and An Chultúrlann.
On Wednesday, Derry’s commercial sector also got a sense of what 2013 could do for the local economy, when more than 200 of them packed into the BT/City of Culture Business Engagement Evening at the Waterfoot. Speakers outlined the potential benefits for tourism, the hospitality sector and the creative industries.
Physical signs of a growing confidence in the sector are beginning to become apparent too. The city’s hotel sector is set to double in size in the next two years, from 554 rooms (approximately 1319 bedspaces) to 1085 rooms (2533 spaces), if new projections released this week are accurate.
This expansion will be more than needed given a predicted additional 300,000 overnight stays in the city by 2013 – with an extra 100,000 visitors expected here next summer alone for the Clipper homecoming festival.
And Culture Company have this week unveiled new signage at Derry airport as part of the wider City Dressing scheme, which the Council will be rolling out early next year.