I perhaps view things on a very simplistic level. For example if something is going to come to our city which will increase revenue, perhaps increase jobs, make us noted on the world stage for something positive and allow me the chance to meet all sorts of interesting people I consider that to be a good thing.
Alternatively, if something is going to happen in our city which disrupts the lives of many of our citizens, makes our young people afraid, pushes away possible investors and makes us all walk about in a bad mood fuelled by anger, sorrow and fear I tend to think that is a bad thing.
To illustrate the point, last Thursday night I was at choir practice (a good thing). We had just welcomed new members (also a good thing) and had been discussing our plans for the coming year. Our members hailed from all over the city and beyond, all ages, all backgrounds. We were learning a new song and having a bit of much needed, stress-relieving craic and talking about how much we were looking forward to 2013.
Sure maybe we would even get a chance to perform during it? We are certainly hoping to make the most of the opportunity. There has been much talk of a kind of friendly stalking of Snow Patrol to see if we can sing with them should they visit the city next year.
The atmosphere was light, fun and creative. We were starting to get a hang of our latest song when the first message came through that there was a bomb scare (A bad thing). Then the second message came through and we started to wonder if we were okay where we were (rehearsing at a mid point between the two scares).
Then the first bomb went off (Also a bad thing) and we started to get messages from concerned relatives who knew we were in the city centre. Then the second bomb went off, and the messages became a little more hysterical.
Younger members of the choir who were blissfully unused to such goings on became nervous and upset. Some older members of the choir, who had been used to such goings on in what we thought was the past became nervous and upset. It was decided to call an end to proceedings and we all made our way home, feeling a little shaken and a little angry. The calm, creative, positive buzz was all but gone.
Instead it was replaced by upset, by fear and by a sense of disgust. I know which of those two sets of emotions I prefer and I know which of them I would choose for the future.
Perhaps it is politically naive of me to say such things but I don’t really give a rat’s ass about which banner our City of Culture flies under. I don’t care if it’s a UK City of Culture, an Irish City of Culture, a European City of Culture or a friggin’ Outer Mongolian City of Culture. I don’t see next year as any country laying a great claim to us. I don’t see our acceptance of that title as a climb-down or sell-out in any way.
What I see is that something good could happen in this city; this city which has had more than its fair share of bad things thrown at it over the years. This city, where the people have campaigned for equality, for parity of esteem. Where we have asked that we get the investment, the jobs, the infrastucture and the recognition we need and deserve and have complained (rightly so) when those key ingredients to our growth as a city have not been provided.
So we have this opportunity facing us; one where our city will be able to showcase all that is good about it. One where we will see our infrastructure improved, where please God we’ll see new jobs created and our city flourish instead of flounder.
Those who object to this positive future for our city are not true Derry people. They are stamping steadfastly over the hopes and dreams of the majority of the citizens of this city who want and need something positive to look forward to and to work towards.
The logic of those who want to drag us all back into a big pit of in-fighting and bitterness is astounding. To try and convince a city that hosting a year-long cultural showcase is wrong by offering an alternative of explosions, blocked roads and tearful children beggars belief.
I’m not alone when I say we don’t want to go back. We want to keep moving forward,- onwards and upwards. And it’s not just because the choir I’m in want to sing with Snow Patrol next year, and it’s not just because, as an author, I’m excited at the eyes of the cultural world being on the city. It’s because I’m a Derry woman who is proud and wants to continue to be proud of the great city I come from. It’s because I’m a mother who doesn’t want her children to have guns pointed at them as they walk to school. It’s because I’m a human being who does not want to live with fear and disruption.
So to those brave men with their bombs and their threats and their tired rhetoric, if you don’t like Derry - if you don’t like the direction in which we are marching, heads high knowing that ‘We Will Overcome’ - then you know which roads leads out of the city. I suggest you use them.