City of Culture 2013 - a month by month guide to what’s happening

The Culture Crew Marathon runners arrive via Derry's Peace Bridge to deliver the first copies of the 2013 Programme of events. (2510Sl101) Photo: Stephen Latimer
The Culture Crew Marathon runners arrive via Derry's Peace Bridge to deliver the first copies of the 2013 Programme of events. (2510Sl101) Photo: Stephen Latimer

Journal reporter Ian Cullen takes a month by month look at 2013 events.

January - The year will open with Sons and Daughters, a spectacular free concert on Sunday 20 January 2013, staged in a new purpose-built pavilion in the heart of the city on the banks of the River Foyle. The concert will celebrate Derry’s rich musical heritage co-produced by BBC Television for broadcast.

Starting in January will be a year long celebration of the 400th anniversary of Derry’s Walls but the culture programme does not include any of the details of the planned events to be developed by the Holywell Trust’s City Walls Heritage Project

Home Grown 2013 will see three of Derry’s best loved musical talents, Paul Casey, Bronagh Gallagher and Paddy Nash and the Happy Enchiladas join together for a special Millennium Forum concert to kick start the City of Culture celebrations.

On January 25, there will be a special City of Culture Burns night celebration at Culturlann Ui Chanain.

The Verbal Arts Centre will host the Epic Awards on January 31. The voluntary arts awards ceremony will have winning groups from Scotland, England Wales and Ireland in attendance.

In sport, January will see Ulster Elite Amateur Boxing Championships held from 21-24. Preliminary bouts and Semi-Finals of the competition will be held at Du Pont Recreation Club, Maydown from January 25 with the finals at Ebrington Pavilion on January 24.

February - Other Voices: From Kerry to Derry

Dingle’s legendary Other Voices Festival, edited by musician Philip King, will expand to London with the Barbican and to Derry featuring world famous musicians in tiny venues broadcast to the world.

Local traditional music festival Feile Chaoimhin Ui Dhochartaigh will be held from February 7-10.

In sport, February will see the National Intermediate/Masters and Juvenile Development Cross Country Championships at Gransha hosted by City of Derry Spartans in conjunction with Athletics Ireland and Athletics NI. North West clubs will relish the chance to challenge for national honours in the 12 race programme which is one of the four major cross country championships staged by Athletics Ireland. In GAA, the All-Ireland Senior and Junior Scor finals will be based at Ebrington Pavilion.

March - March looks set to be a big month in the City of Culture calender with a host of big names in entertainment due in Derry.

Primal Scream and David Holmes

BBC Radio One will return to the city for what looks to be the highlight of the popular music line-up during the City of Culture year. Rockers Primal Scream and DJ David Holmes have been pencilled in to play the Ebrington Arena on March 19 as part of the BBC Radio One live broadcast. Celebrating 30 years of rocking, Primal Scream are expected to draw attention from around Ireland and beyond while Davie Holmes has been at the forefront of the world dance and film score scenes.

The Royal Ballet

March will see the first visit of The Royal Ballet to Northern Ireland in over 20 years and a chance for local audiences to watch Co Down ballerina Melissa Hamilton in action in a special Gala performance by members of the Company with the Ulster Orchestra.

And as if that wasn’t enough the London Symphony Orchestra will form part of performances in City of Culture for between March and July.

The London Symphony Orchestra brings to Derry the world premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s At Sixes and Sevens, a new cantata featuring texts by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon. The major commission will be performed simultaneously by the LSO and Camerata Ireland in the two Guildhalls of London and Derry on July 3, 2013. The LSO will present a programme of film music by John Williams, including his scores for Star Wars and Schindler’s List, at the former Ebrington Barracks on March 18.

Political Mother Derry~Londonderry Uncut

Global dance sensation Hofesh Shechter and his company will be resident in the city for five weeks. He will re-imagine his acclaimed work Political Mother, originally staged at Sadler’s Wells, with a live band of 20 young local musicians performing alongside his own company of international musicians and dancers. He will also create five new pieces of choreography in collaboration with local dance groups, taking the dance out into the streets of Derry for free performances at landmarks across the city.

Early Years conference

Early Years, the organisation for young children, will host its international conference in the City Hotel, June 6-7.

In sport, the World GAA Congress is to be held in the city. St Mary’s Amateur Boxing Club will present a Derry Select versus Austria from 9-10 at Brooke Park Leisure Centre.

April - From Spring onwards 10 locations across the city will be the focus for artistic gardens. Artists Locky Morris, Katie Holten, Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey will create bespoke gardens within houses, on roof tops, in subterranean sites and local landmarks. The rationale of the project is to create “a city centre garden trail that changes along with the people and the town they are situated in”.

One of the highlights of April will be the City of Londonderry Highland Dance Festival at the Everglades Hotel. This is major event in the world of dance incorporates two championships, the European Open Championship and the Confined Ulster Championship.

Yet another annual Derry highlight which has been incorporated into the City of Culture programme is of course April’s Feis Dhoire Cholmcille which runs from April 1-6.

May - Field Day revived

Playwright Brian Friel and actor/director Stephen Rea founded Field Day in Derry in 1980. For over 30 years Field Day has been a potent theatrical grouping, credited with altering the terms in which culture and politics have been debated in Ireland, and Northern Ireland especially. Celebrating the return of the company to Derry, they will present the world premiere of a new play, workshopped in Derry, by internationally acclaimed playwright, actor and director, Sam Shepard.

There will be an exhibition on the history of Field Day, and The Field Day archive held at the National Library of Ireland in Dublin, will be opened up for free access online, leaving a lasting legacy from the season.

Friel drama

Alongside this, there will be a season of plays by Brian Friel presented by local venues including the Millennium Forum and the Playhouse including Performances, The Enemy Within, Freedom of the City, and the seminal Translations directed by Adrian Dunbar, premiered by Field-Day at the Guildhall in Derry in 1980.

Grand Vintage Ball (May)

An opportunity for the whole community to step out and dress up for a vintage-style ball. The Ebrington Pavilion will get a lavish makeover for what’s being billed as “a joyous celebration of the city’s cultural past”, a throwback to the styles trends and fashions of the 1920s-1960s.

Jazz Festival

Annual favourite, The City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival will also take place over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

May will also feature the Rotary Club international conference in Derry, from 24-26.

June - Phil Coulter and Friends

On June 15 Phil Coulter will return to Derry for the biggest and most ambitious concert he has ever performed in his hometown. He will be joined by the Ulster Orchestra and guests for a unique concert in Ebrington Square.

City-wide pageant

The Return of Chomcille pageant is to take place over the weekend of June 7-9. The large scale, city-wide spectacle was devised by Frank Cottrell Boyce, writer of the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, with Walk the Plank. The 24 hour performance will be spread over three days and celebrates Colmcille, the warrior monk who founded the city and a seminal historical figure in the story of Ireland.

Columba Canticles

On June 9 St Columb’s Cathedral will be the venue for the performance of a new oratorio commissioned specially for the City of Culture year. The Columba Canticles marks the association between St Columb’s Cathedral and the city’s patron saint.

Music City

Music City will transform the whole city into a stage for local and international professional and amateur musicians in partnership with Exit Festival of Serbia bringing music from cities on the edge throughout the world to Derry – Beirut, Tblisi, Tel Aviv, Harare, Havana, Sao Paolo.

The Sky Orchestra will also be visiting the city. Sky Orchestra is an ongoing research project and is made up of seven hot air balloons each with speakers attached which bellow out musical scores.

On June 26, the annual Celtronic Festival will showcase the best in all forms of electronic music from around the world.

In Sport thousands of athletes are expected to take to the streets of Derry for two of the biggest sporting events in the City of Culture calendar: The Walled City Marathon (June 2) and the City of Culture Sprint Triathlon (June 23).

July - On July 7, an extraordinary arts event called Dominoes and devised by Station House Opera group will make an appearance in the city. The giant domino rally will thread its way through the city aiming to create a “symbolic as well as a physical chain of cause and effect” Volunteers are being sought to take part and eager members of the public are being encouraged not to miss the opportunity.

The City of London Festival is to team up with the City of Culture in July with three concerts from the June festival due to be revisited in Derry in July in partnership with the Walled City Music Festival: The Brodsky Quartet featuring Mezza-Soprana Lore Lixenberg and Derry Pianist Cathal Breslin (date to be confirmed); Pianist Barry Douglas performing at the Guildhall on July 3 (World Premiere of musical Canata ‘At Sixes and Sevens’) and Fidelo Trio, narrated by James Nesbit.

The World Premiere of musical Canata, ‘At Sixes and Sevens’ - commissioned from two the world leading creators in words and music - will take place jointly at the Guildhalls in Derry and London. It will consist of five sections written by Pulitzer Prizewinning Northern Irish poet Paul Muldoon and the composer Mark Anthony Turnage. The work will be interspersed with four further sections devised by communities in Derry and London.

The 68th All Ireland Pipe Band Championship will descend on St Columb’s Park and Ebrington on July 6 and the public is invited to come along and enjoy a “superb family day out”. The best pipe bands and drum majors from all over the world will compete for an All-Ireland crown. The event will feature more than 70 pipe bands over six grades and more than 2,000 musicians.

The drama highlights of July are the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performances of Titus Andronicus and The Rape of Lucrece at the Playhouse.

August - The key anchor event for the 2013 City of Culture will undoubtedly be the Fleadh Cheoil na h’Eireann - the biggest celebration of Irish Culture in the world. The Fleadh pormises to fill the city with craic agus ceoil from August 12-18.

It promises to be a truly historical event. It will include traditional music, pageants, marching bands, competitions, ceili bands, concerts and singing as well as drama and exhibitions. The Fleadh will take place across the city for the first time, transforming Derry into one enormous performance space over the course of seven days and playing host to over 300,000 visitors, as the city becomes the Mecca for the cream of traditional talent.

National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain

The Orchestra will take up residence in the city presenting performances and workshops including the 200th anniversary performances of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with musicians and singers from England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland conducted by Vasily Petrenko. Members of the National Youth Orchestra will pair up with local young musicians to give 100 mini-concerts in peoples homes, on the streets, in the community, of new duets inspired by Beethoven’s Ode To Joy.

The Walled City Tattoo

The Walled City Tattoo is a blend of home and international talent. With a 600 strong cast, music, song, dance and theatre will display a vivid reflection on our coloured history. Traditional favourites will feature as Highland and Irish dancers come together to present a whirling and vibrant display that fuses the main cultures within our society.

And of course a highlight for many will be the appearance on Donegal’s very own international singing sensation Daniel O’Donnell at the Millennium Forum on August 22.

In sport, May will see the All-Ireland Club Sevens rugby finals hosted by City of Derry Rugby Club at Judges Road. The Foyle will host the City of Derry Regatta and sailing in the GP14 Association of Ireland Ulster Championships.

September - September will feature ‘72 Hour Urban Action’, a competition in which ten teams of architects and volunteers have 72 hours to transform ten city spaces.

Roddy Doyle and Julia Donaldson headline the Children’s Literature Festival while Carol Ann Duffy in partnership with John A Sampson lead the way during Poetry Month. Nobel Prize-winner Seamus Heaney will give the opening address at the Poetry Festival 2013 and his work will be featured alongside international poets in The Poetry House in September.

On the stage, Sole Purpose Productions and the Rainbow Project presents’ Pits and Perverts’, at the Playhouse. The drama is a comedy following the story of a young gay man, who leaves Derry in the 1980s for reasons including the Troubles and trying to hide his sexuality.

October - Turner Prize

The cultural heavyweight event of the year is without doubt the Turner Prize in Derry. Founded by Tate in 1984, the Turner Prize will come to Derry in the first time it has ever been held outside England. The exhibition will be staged in a bespoke renovated building on Ebrington Square, the site of a former military barracks.

All school children in Northern Ireland will have the opportunity to visit the Turner Prize exhibition. (March – September)

Willie Doherty Unseen (October)

Unseen will be the largest ever exhibition of works by acclaimed Derry born artist Willie Doherty. The exhibition will feature works from throughout Doherty’s career as well as a new series of photographs taken in Derry in 2013. It will also showcase a number of Doherty’s most important video installations that make use of some of Derry’s best-known and more hidden places for his narratives, as well as a new film. The exhibition is co-curated by Robin Klassnik of Matt’s Gallery, London, and the Nerve Centre, Derry.

Boy Blue

Jointly commissioned by the Barbican in London and Derry 2013, Boy Blue, the Olivier Award-winning dance company behind Pied Piper, will premiere a new production taking inspiration from the world of Manga, martial arts, the quirky and impossible physical feats so central to the comic book genre.

Poetry month

October is poetry month and it will feature performances from Carol Ann Duffy, John Sampson and Colette Bryce on October 5.

It will also see the hosting of the City of Derry International Choral Festival from 24-27. The four day celebration of choral activities will bring together international choirs and local ensembles for a series of performances

November - Teenage Kicks: A Punk Musical

Set in Derry during the late 1970s, when The Undertones, perhaps Derry’s most famous export, burst onto the scene, this new musical is written by Northern Irish award-winning novelist and screenwriter Colin Bateman (‘Divorcing Jack’, ‘Murphy’s Law’). Featuring classic songs from the punk era, Teenage Kicks is about being a kid, rebelling against authority and falling in love. Children and young people in the city will take part in a Music Festival alongside the production.

Echo Echo Dance Company (November)

The City of Culture Year will be the launch-pad for Northern Ireland’s first dedicated dance and movement festival, created by the province’s only professional dance company, Echo Echo, cementing Derry’s role as a centre of excellence for dance culture. They will also premiere a new work by Rosemary Lee.


The historic walls city of Derry~Londonderry provides a spectacular canvas for this critically acclaimed festival of light, first staged in Durham, produced by Artichoke with principal event partner NIE.

Foyle Film Festival 2013

Foyle Film Festival is one of only a handful of international film festivals with Oscar affiliation and BAFTA recognition. During 2013, the Festival, organised by the Nerve Centre, will spread out into the open air for the first time with screenings in unusual locations, directors’ talks, and a community based cinema initiative engaging local communities in making and screening films about their areas.

International Kickboxing

In Sport, November will see the biggest ever kickboxing event in Ireland take place at Ebrington Pavillion. The event, which is being staged by PT’s Kickboxing and K1 Gym, will feature ISKA World Professional Champions Daniel ‘Pinta’ Quigley, Aidan ‘Lights Out’ Lafferty and Natalie ‘The Blade’ McCarron.

December - The City of Culture programme for December seems a bit scant at first glance in terms of big name performers but there are several culturally significant events taking place.

On the stage, ‘The Trial of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lundy is to be performed, although the venue has yet to be confirmed.

As in other months, the usual annual December highlights have been incorporated into the City of Culture 2013 programme including the Annual Shutting of the Gates events on December 7.