In this article, Sinn Fein Councillor Barney O’Hagan - a member of the Culture Company Board - asserts that at the halfway point in the City of Culture programme, it is timely to start examining how to build a legacy for 2013.
Given the fact that we are now halfway through the City of Culture programme, it is timely to reflect on what has been achieved since the start of January.
Hotel bookings have dramatically increased, numerous concerts have taken place in the city with large audiences and BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend has put Ebrington right on the map as a location for large scale concerts.
Then, within days, the City again showcased itself as a world class destination with the Return of Colmcille celebrations followed by the Music City event last weekend.
None of this would have been possible without the intervention of the Executive, and in particular the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure under Caral Ni Chulainn who provided the vast bulk of the funding required to deliver this year’s events and projects.
This combined with substantial funding from Derry City Council helped to ensure the successful implementation of the programme.
This was also despite the fact that the private sponsorship that was anticipated by those who made the City of Culture bid never materialised to the levels required to ensure a holistic programme of events would be delivered.
It is now timely to start looking to the future and how we build a legacy for 2013. In political terms, it is absolutely vital that the parties in the Executive, Derry City Council and other statutory agencies ring-fence resources which can be put in place to assist cultural programmes, events and projects post 2013.
For example, the Department of Employment and Learning could ring-fence funding to allow the further development of training programmes in the creative technologies sector, with an emphasis on creating opportunities for young people who have dropped out of the traditional education sector.
The Department of Social Development should also ensure that proper community facilities continue to be developed in areas like Shantallow and Waterside districts such as Top of the Hill to match the structures now in place in areas like the Bogside, Creggan and Clooney.
In particular there is an onus on the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to match the commitment of DCAL by ensuring that Derry gets its fair share of marketing budget through NITB post 2013 and that support for capital tourism projects is enhanced.
This is particularly important given the fact that post-RPA, Derry and Strabane will be merged into one Council area.
It is fair to say that the Sperrins area has not enjoyed the full attention of NITB in the same fashion as Derry especially in terms of tourism marketing; this needs to change.
In addition, RPA will see enhanced economic development roles for the new council structures. It is therefore vital that these new powers are used to develop new projects which build on the legacy of 2013, especially in continuing to develop year round programmes and structures in neighbourhood renewal and community areas.
Much has been done but we need to ensure that political pressure is maintained to make 2013 only a starting point in terms of developing Derry’s economic and cultural output over the next decade and beyond.