Renewed focus needed on events at Ebrington and elsewhere in Derry & Strabane Council told

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Derry City and Strabane District Council is to examine ways to improve events in Ebrington Square and other sites across the district.

It follows a deputation by NW Events Industry Forum spokesperson Stephen Kelly at a Business and Culture Committee meeting on Tuesday, January 16.

At the meeting Mr Kelly said he worked with event planners in November 2022, to allow them to “have a voice” in decisions by Council around events.

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He said: “As we approached the tenth anniversary of the City of Culture there was uncertainty about the availability of civic spaces, and local suppliers felt they were being replaced by those from outside the district.

One Big Weekend back in 2013 at Ebrington.One Big Weekend back in 2013 at Ebrington.
One Big Weekend back in 2013 at Ebrington.

“Events are really powerful economic drivers and some of the most important and powerful means to connect with places and each other.

“In 2022, people felt that their role was being diminished or they were being pushed out.

“Issues were centred around availability of space, appreciation for investment and issues around planning, costs and sustainability.”

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Ballyarnett SDLP Councillor Rory Farrell proposed a meeting among Councillors, Council officers and sector representatives, at a future Business and Culture Committee meeting, to “agree tangible, specific, time-bound measures for improvements” to event planning in the city and district.

Ebrington Square, Derry,Ebrington Square, Derry,
Ebrington Square, Derry,

Colr. Farrell said it was a topic that “everybody should be interested in”, as Derry had a “certain degree of pedigree” when it comes to putting on events.

He continued: “Some of these events attract thousands and thousands of visitors to this town, but we can always do them to a better standard.

“We need to utilise local talent. The feeling within the local industry is that they’ve been let down and we’re here to address and fix that.

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“Ebrington has been discussed on numerous occasions and we’re hopeful there will be events there this year and hope the current cap on events is lifted in the near-future.

“We need to get everybody into a room to discuss the way forward; something similar to the Council’s co-delivery group for arts and culture.

“We want to support the local events industry and we want bigger and better events across the whole district, so we’re open to that conversation and to putting our shoulders behind the wheel.”

Faughan DUP Alderman Julie Middleton said her party would “certainly welcome” a meeting to discuss potential improvements in events.

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She added: “Events are important not only from and entertainment or social perspective but because of the economic benefits for the Council area, so we look forward to meeting with vendors”.

Ballyarnett Sinn Féin Councillor John McGowan said the lack of suitable venues across the district was “definitely a problem”.

“There aren’t suitable venues for certain events,” he said. “And we do need an around-the-table meeting.

“This is a musical city, and we didn’t build on the legacy of the City of Culture with music.

“There are a lot of young people leaving for outside venues, so we need to be receptive and open to that discussion,” Colr. McGowan added.

Andrew Balfour,

Local Democracy Reporter