Strike out for that ‘further shore’

Stephen Kelly of Velocity Worldwide - says it should be all hands on deck to help Derry reach Heaney's 'further shore'
Stephen Kelly of Velocity Worldwide - says it should be all hands on deck to help Derry reach Heaney's 'further shore'

STEPHEN KELLY, the former city centre manager now with Velocity Worldwide, says people in Derry need to celebrate success, and to work together for ‘massive action’ on more progress....

‘So hope for a great sea-change

on the far side of revenge.
 Believe that a further shore
 is reachable from here.’

Heaney’s poem, “The Cure at Troy”, plays centre stage in the brilliant ‘Voices’ film which helped win our upcoming City of Culture title. Heaney challenges us to hope and believe.

Hope falls somewhere between the impossible and a sure thing – to believe, we must be confident that the “further shore is reachable from here”. It’s been a big month for statistics giving good cause to believe, but as always, our hopes were a little dashed.

As part of the Northern Ireland Executive’s heralded £200m jobs initiative, they announced 500 new undergraduate and 150 PhD student places. We celebrated as we hoped that Magee was, modestly, on its way to becoming the full economic powerhouse we need it to be. It may only be small amount of new places, but surely they were to be ours?! Despite the evidence, despite the University of Ulster saying any new students will be going only to Magee, no other institution bidding and a united voice from political, civic, academic and business leaders, it seems the Minister believes that others are equally worthy.

Maybe Queen’s University would do the right thing and send their new places to their satellite campus at Altnagelvin? We can but hope!

The Minister’s Executive colleagues also announced that 8.6% of the Derry workforce claimed benefits last month - twice that of Antrim, Castlereagh and North Down. Derry remains top of the league, and our friends in Strabane and Limavady aren’t far behind. Are we there to stay? However, it’s not all bad. Dog Ears, a great local publishing company, announced an exciting new partnership with Penguin; City of Culture is around the corner, All State announced 60 well-paid jobs; and we learnt that over £100 million worth of media and a global audience of 900 million were exposed to our involvement with the Clipper Race and the memorable Homecoming Festival. During those 10 days in July we collectively experienced a growing pride; a city changing; belief that we do deliver. And now we have this evidence that good news for our city does travel!

Clipper, and the excellent CultureTECH Festival which followed, was a trailer for our city’s extraordinary new story. The city worked together – our people, business, Council and public bodies – we delivered and the world heard us. That provides the confidence which turns hope to belief.

A successful 2013 is now up to us. However, we are our own biggest critics, appearing disunited and providing opportunities to be ignored. We don’t always celebrate success, preferring to find fault like an old married couple frustrated by toilet seats left up, or the wrong bin being left out. We believe we’re not worthy or lacking in ability. We are not. We should be confident. We are LegenDerry!

“Give us your plans,” they said. We gave them ‘One Plan’ and yes, the Executive is providing support and the city is changing. But progress is slow as it appears they are hearing but are they really listening? Our MLAs and others are working hard; they need support so that the message for full investment in Derry gets through.

So, here’s an idea for our local media. Be the voice for a single, united call to action to believe and invest in Derry. For one month, concentrate on giving the City a massive shot of confidence by celebrating local success and alongside give space for the Executive Departments to account for their delivery on the ‘One Plan’ and where needed use your collective investigatory skills to shine a light on any apparent lack of performance.

Our imminent departure on our exciting City of Culture journey should be ‘the end of the beginning’ and herald massive action to deliver that ‘great sea change’ for Derry. Together, that further shore is reachable from here.