A sea-change to build on 2013 legacy

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood pictured outside his constituency office at Northside Shopping Centre. 1301JM06
SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood pictured outside his constituency office at Northside Shopping Centre. 1301JM06
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The recent revelations about the difficulties surrounding some of the delivery of City of Culture 2013 have cast a bit of a shadow over a fantastic year.

While it is essential that proper accountability is sought around these issues it is also important not to lose sight of what this city has achieved.

A section of the capacity crowd at the final day of the Radio 1 Big Weekend.  (2805JB274)

A section of the capacity crowd at the final day of the Radio 1 Big Weekend. (2805JB274)

It is worrying and far from ideal to hear these difficulties being played out on the airwaves. It is also important that these issues, and any failings, are properly and fully examined.

We must also, however, be extremely proud of the fantastic change that we have seen in our city. When I say that we should be proud, I mean all of us.

The success of this year will not be measured by institutional effectiveness or otherwise.

It will be in the memories that we now all have of the tremendous we were part of. That is part of the legacy of City of Culture and we must now turn our attention to developing and cementing a legacy of positive change.

When the Bid Team went to Liverpool to persuade Phil Redmond and the other judges of Derry’s case we knew that all the people of the city were behind us.

In fact it was this force of a united city that ensured victory. I was very proud, as Mayor, to help carry the message that Derry was ready for change.

Responsibility for delivery of this year’s events has not rested with one or two organisations.

Hundreds of people from many different cultural and community organisations have ensured a positive experience for local people and visitors alike.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to staff at Derry City Council, the Culture Company and all other organisations involved in delivering the fantastic programme of events.

While the fight goes on for the North West to receive its fair share of infrastructural development it has been a welcome change to be able to stand up in the Assembly to boast about our city’s change when it comes to community relations and outsiders’ impressions of Derry, there has clearly been a sea-change.

Listening to the PSNI Pipe Band being applauded in Derry city centre during Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann or seeing thousands of young people dancing and singing in a former British Army base during Radio 1’s Big Weekend illustrate that change. These images, and countless others that we remember from this year should not be easily dismissed.

While it would be extremely foolish to dismiss the recent revelations of difficulties around some aspects of delivery, it would be equally foolish to obsess over them.

In the same way that the people of Derry ensured the success of the bid and a fantastic year of events, it is now the responsibility of us all to ensure that there is a real and lasting legacy of 2013.