Garbhan Downey continues his countdown to City of Culture 2013...........
With just one year to go before our city embarks on its greatest adventure ever, Derry’s reputation as a centre of cultural excellence is already beginning to embed itself into the international consciousness.
In the last week alone, there have been several examples of how Derry’s transformation has caught the imagination of the world.
During his visit to Downing Street last Thursday, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny again singled out the City of Culture project as a model of excellence.
In a speech devoted to how Ireland was planning to trade its way out to recovery, he pointed to the lead being taken by our city.
Mr Kenny told David Cameron: “The opening of the Titanic Quarter in Belfast this year and the eagerly awaited start of Derry’s tenure as the UK City of Culture 2013 will attract huge international attention.
“The vision and energy of the people behind these two major projects symbolises the significant regeneration that is taking place in Northern Ireland.”
That same morning, the Northern press were reporting on the latest Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland, which identified Derry as the island’s cultural “powerhouse”.
The new guide also sings the praises of our fascinating historical sites and “determined can-do optimism”.
Then at the weekend, our friends in the Derry Visitor Convention Bureau revealed terrific new figures, showing that tourism in the city is already growing at twice the NI average.
Visitors to the DVCB centre on Foyle Street were up by 18 percent, while other markets in the city were reporting a rise of between 28 and 34 percent – as compared to an increase of 11 percent across NI.
Catherine O’Connor revealed there had already been a large increase in those travelling from the US – and this was prior to the launch of Culture Company’s campaign to target our diaspora and invite them home for 2013.
She commented: “We realised the impact made by the 2013 announcement earlier in the year and we hope that will have a greater impact as we approach the run into and the launch of the City of Culture 2013 programme.
“As more details on the content of the programme are released more people will book and visit the city.”
The full programme for 2013 will be revealed in the autumn, with a highlights launch planned for April.
But there will be major funding and programming announcements before then. Indeed, Culture Company hopes to release details of a new sponsorship initiative and of a significant sporting event for 2013 within the next fortnight or so.
Watch this space.
Read more from Garbhan in the Journal every Friday