It’s a bit of a longstanding belief outside the confines of this fine city that Derry people... well... we like to complain. The label is thrown at us quite a bit that we always feel hard done by and we like to whinge about it, loudly.
And in fairness, we have had a bit of a rough deal over the years. The North West and Derry in particular have been overlooked and forgotten about many times - in terms of jobs, in terms of infrastructure, in terms of well, just about everything.
I mean Belfast gets Mr Tumble (pre-schoolers’ hero) to switch on their Christmas lights - we get a randomer in a Santa suit or, in the “big years” a ‘star’ from Coronation Street. But... for fear of the whingey-ness taking hold I’ll move on.
We haven’t always had it easy but here we are this week, with a massive draft proposal for 2013 in front of us and you’d think we would be happy. I mean the programmers of City of Culture have delivered to us a year’s worth of a wish list covering everything from children’s literature, to Spielberg, to David Tennant (David Tennant for the love of God... he’s a babe), to the return of Field Day, to choir festivals, Belsonic, new works from local authors, Snow Patrol etc ... and the resounding response in the twittersphere from local folk - “a bit rubbish” (I’m putting it politely).
Now, Derry people - I love the very bones of you but what did you expect?
Not everything in the draft programme will appeal to all people. The sports side of it? Well it doesn’t excite me one bit and the thought of a great big Derry flash mob has me cringing - not to mention displaying the names of our city’s newborns to the street drinkers in Waterloo Place... But, there is enough there to whet my appetite and to have me genuinely excited about what may lie ahead. I find it hard to believe that people haven’t looked at the list of 100 plus events and thought, to at least one of them: “That sounds like it will be great”.
What annoys or perplexes me most about the whole thing is that while we have been bombarded with a resounding chorus of “not good enough” - have those who have turned their ‘whingey’ up a gear don’t seem to be willing to offer alternative solutions or ideas.
Far be it from me to knock the good people of Derry - but everyone and his granny knows that the best way to make a positive impact on something is to get involved at grassroots level, make suggestions, make changes - be a part of what could be ‘something amazing.
It’s so easy to sit back and knock those who are trying to pull together a programme which will hold appeal for everyone - it’s hard to actually make concrete suggestions and to be blatantly honest if I worked for the Culture Company now I’d be tempted to dramatically throw my rattle out of the pram and challenge others to “do better if they think they know so much”.
Is it any wonder we collectively have a reputation as a city who are never happy with anything when we turn our noses up in disdain at such a varied cultural programme?
Let’s think very long and hard about things. I’m a child of the ‘70s - my earliest memories are of the early ‘80s on the streets of Derry. And then we really did have nothing.
I remember walking past bombed out shops - everything seemed grey with dust. Boarded up windows, not a shopping centre to our name, barbed wire and a sense of hopelessness everywhere.
Now look around - it might not be happening quickly but in the 30 years which have passed we have transformed. We have a city centre to be proud of, shared spaces which make this town of ours more welcoming.
We are on the cusp of bringing world class events to our very doorstep - events we could never have imagined a few years back.
No, it is not perfect. There is no doubt in my mind that mistakes have been made. If I was in charge, yes, there are things I would do differently - but ultimately aren’t we moving in the right direction?
That doesn’t mean we stop asking for more, but it does mean that perhaps, collectively as a city, we need to do our best to remove that big fat chip that sits on our shoulder and accept that it’s not all bad and we aren’t always getting a bad deal.
It’s hard to change that mindset - when you have been used to fighting and arguing your case all these years but sometimes perhaps we should be grateful for what we do get and accept that while, personally, it may not suit your own agenda or tastes it does have a wider appeal across the city and beyond, which can be beneficial to us all.
And if you don’t like, and you feel the need to stand up for Derry remember what my own mammy always taught me, you catch more flies with honey - be nice about something, exude positivity, bring your own ideas to the table and help make the change.
And while you are waiting, why look through the draft proposals again? I’m sure there is something with some appeal.