Here we go. It’s all happening in Derry. The Culture Programme is out there ready to go, and we are gearing for a year that will, I guess, either sink or swim this city.
As Martin Bradley, Chair of the Culture Company, said this is no dress rehearsal. We only get one chance to be City of Culture - and one chance to show the world what we can do.
And there is no doubt the world’s eyes will be on us. The year promises to bring people from all over the world - people for whom Derry probably never even featured on their radar before.
It will bring them right into the heart of who we are, what we do and what we are trying to do.
It will be strange to be under scrutiny for such a positive reason for a change and, as been said, this our time to write a new history. Of course we can’t rewrite the past - what happened on our streets happened. Our past is an integral part of our present, but it doesn’t have to dictate our future.
Which is why I think the most important thing about 2103 is that we use the year of Culture on our world aside, we have to use 2013 to show ourselves what we can do.
Can I respectfully suggest that we don’t need to worry so much about the world and what they think - we have a tough enough time trying to convince the nay-sayers and cynics on our own door step that we are a place to be reckoned with.
The people of Derry, well we speak of great pride in our city. We speak of our loyalty and love for this place we call home. We have a few jars and launch into The Town I Loved So Well. We talk of how we are the best people in the world, with the best talent on our doorstep. We’re great at bumming ourselves up - when we’re in the mood.
But the people of Derry are fickle. As much as we talk of talent and loyalty, of our civic pride and our hearts soaring with love for the banks of the Foyle, we are generally all too quick to criticize - to knock the stuffing out of our beloved home town, to tut and look shamed faced and slag off those who put their heads above the parapet.
There’s a delightful expression round these parts, in typical Derry colourful language. “When sh**e gets up, it’s hard to beat down”. It seems to raise its head every now and again when the people of this city think someone is getting a bit above their station.
People in our wee corner of the world, it seems, should know their place. Heads down, work on. Don’t be making a show of yourself or God forbid a show of Derry.
It’s a horrible expression - one which diminishes the hard work people of Derry do to try and make the most of themselves. But while we talk of pride and how great we all are - we don’t like anyone feeling we are too great.
It is as if we are afraid, somehow and for some reason, of success. We are afraid of being judged - even if people find out merits outweigh the negatives.
From the announcement that we are to hold the City of Culture title, people have been all too keen to criticize. If something bad happens in this city - as bad things do in every city, even the most affluent and cultured of cities - the critics are quick to comment. “City of Culture? Pah.. City of Terror”, “City of Vultures”, “City of Jokers”.
There are those who had written the year off, in its entirety, before yesterday’s announcement was made. There are those who still have, no doubt, even before the first event is held.
There are those in this city who just love to set something up to watch it fail - just so they can cross their arms over their jumpers or cardigans, purse their lips and nod knowingly - telling us all sure didn’t they say it was all going to fall flat on its face anyway.
They seem to get a certain glee from seeing their home town - which they claim to love - fall flat and fail. They seem delighted to see “sh**e get beat down”.
It shocks me always, when people hate to see the city do something well.
When people cry to have the world brought to our doorstep and, when it is, complain that the world isn’t quite what they expected and could we please get another kind of a world instead, thank you very much.
I’m not sure if we feel don’t deserve to do well. I’m not sure if we are so used to being disappointed that we like to pre-empt that disappointment by telling all and sundry it’s not likely to be very good anyway.
I hope that, as the pundits say, next year doesn prove to be a “game changer” for Derry. I hope we start to allow ourselves to feel more positive in ourselves and to embrace what the year brings. i’m sure some of it will fall flatter than other things.
I’m sure it won’t all be a roaring success and there will be bumps in the road but hopefully we can acknowledge those bumps as just that - and not write them off as a complete failure for our city.
Bring on 2013 - let it really be our time to shine and our time to be proud of who we are and what we do.