Derry’s Mayor, Councillor Brenda Stevenson, issued a ‘shout out’ to the new Derry and Strabane super council on Wednesday and urged them not to forget about the work being done in local communities.
The Mayor was speaking to a packed conference room at the City Hotel as Councillors, MP Mark Durkan and a representative from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure reflected on the “outstanding” achievements of one of Derry’s biggest community arts groups.
The event saw the launch of ‘SHINE’ - a publication produced to highlight the success of this summer’s Earhart Festival which pulled bigger crowds than ever before to the Galliagh and Shantallow areas for a cross cultural, cross community celebration.
Compering at Wednesday’s launch, Dr. Matt Jennings, a lecturer and expert on community arts said:
“This year, the Earhart Festival was back where it belonged in the heart of Galliagh. This is no longer about people living on the periphery being brought into the centre - that centre needs to be expanded. I started working in Derry 13 years ago while doing a PHD in Community Arts and what has always impressed me is the fact that Greater Shantallow Community Arts are a real grass roots community organisation who have built everything from the ground up. They continue to deliver the kind of arts programmes that communities actually want.
“They have a fantastic record of working with other communities and this year we’ve seen participation from members of the Chinese, Filipino, Palestinian Cuban and Egyptian communities. None of this would happen without the efforts of the people who are the life blood of this organisation. These people are the people who make this a real city of culture and put 100 per cent into every project.
“Community arts is particularly significant because of the social impact and this group highlight the concept that doing arts makes you feel better. One third of the population of the city live in Galliagh and Shantallow areas and what’s happened this year is that the people brought the centre to the edge and it wasn’t about that idea of bringing the edge to the centre.”
Mayor Stevenson agreed with Dr. Jennings and shared some of her own memories of participating in festivals in the Galliagh area while growing up.
“In these areas, housing estates were built on top of one another with very little infrastructure surrounding them and people within communities worked hard to establish things to do for young people. Greater Shantallow Community Arts is one of those groups. I’m delighted that Derry City Council has continued to support the Earhart Festival and I would give a ‘shout out’ to the new regional council not to forget the people working hard in our local communities as they get to grips with the nuts and bolts of the new council.”
Presbyterian Minister David Latimer said he had thoroughly enjoyed taking part in this year’s Earhart Festival and suggested that such events had a major part to play in promoting peace in the city.
“The notion of peace is a fragile one and it requires the actions of everybody to continue to work together to shape our communities. What has happened here proves that when resources are brought together in a meaningful way dreams become a reality.”
Joanna McConway, Head of the North West office for the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure spoke on behalf of Arts Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said that DCAL were committed to supporting arts organisations on the ground in Derry.