City prepares for the return of Colmcille

Brother McMonagle handing out maps at Foyle Street Bus Station on Wednesday morning. 0706JM04
Brother McMonagle handing out maps at Foyle Street Bus Station on Wednesday morning. 0706JM04

What have the Loch Ness monster, a killer whale, 30 Joseph Lockes and a real life subbuteo team a squad of German U-Boat captains got in common?

They are just some of the many characters who will appear in Derry this weekend for “The Return of Colmcille”.

The large-scale outdoor extravaganza which takes place today and tomorrow has been written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, the author of the Olympic opening ceremony and outdoor art experts Walk the Plank.

Through a series of events played out in chapters, The Return of Colmcille welcomes the mysterious saint back to the very city he founded, to his people, and the remarkable tales that he missed whilst he was away.

With a cast and crew of over 800 people, the culmination of performances will be an unforgettable showdown on the River Foyle where a monstrous foe lies in wait.

The story started last week on the tiny island of Iona. From there the Colmcille Curragh, a 40 foot canvas traditional boat, and her crew of 13 rowers have been making an epic journey mirroring that made by Colmcille and his followers almost fourteen hundred years ago.

Their arrival tonight will mark the beginning of the weekend events. The Curragh will be followed by a barge carrying a large mysterious crate. This precious cargo is dramatically craned onto the Quayside and ceremonially processed to take pride of place in the Guildhall Square.

Tomorrow at 2pm the contents of the box are revealed to the curious crowds gathered in Guildhall Square.

Frank Cottrell Boyce said: “Colmcille is a colossal figure, a monastic superhero and his love for Derry is well documented in poetry and literature. Coming back to his home town he’ll want to hear all the stories he’s missed over the last 1500 years – from the shirt factories, to the Undertones, from Dopey Dick to the U-boat surrender on the Foyle and then of course there are suggestions that an old enemy might be afoot in the shape of Colmcille’s nemesis The Loch Ness Monster. The city of Derry~Londonderry is going to be completely transformed for two days and we want everyone to come along and take part.”

Culture Company Chief Executive Shona McCarthy said: “The Return of Colmcille will be one of the most iconic events to take place in the city during the City of Culture Celebrations in 2013 and the plans that Walk the Plank and Frank Cottrell Boyce have in place to celebrate the return of the city’s patron saint are amazing.”

The Peace Bridge will be closed on Friday 7 June from 7.30pm to 10.30pm and on Saturday 8 June from 7.30pm to 11.30pm.

Whittaker Street will be closed between 6.30pm and 9.15pm on Friday 7 June. Pump Street and London Street will be closed to vehicles between 8am and 6pm on Saturday 8 June. The rest of the city centre will be open to traffic as usual.

Queens Quay will be closed from 8.15pm to 11.30pm on Saturday 8 June. Foyle Embankment and Strand Road will be closed from 8.15pm to approximately 22.15pm on Saturday 8 June.

St Columb’s Road will be closed to vehicles between 4pm and 11.45pm on Saturday 8 June, with the exception of Browning Drive residents.

On the evening of Saturday 8 June The People’s Procession and the Showdown on the Foyle cannot be viewed from Ebrington Square or the eastern bank of the River Foyle and St Columb’s Park for reasons of audience safety and good sightlines and these areas will

remain closed. The viewing areas for the public are located along Queen’s Quay and also for The Procession at Foyle Street and Strand Road.

A platform for wheelchair users is located in Queen’s Quay car park. The drop off point is by the Strand Road roundabout. Anyone requiring this facility is asked to contact 02871 360886 to give your name and contact details.

Foyleside and Quayside car parks will open late on both Friday June 7 and Saturday June 8 but access will be restricted to them between 8.15pm and 11.30pm on Saturday. A ‘Park and Stride’ facility will be available at Fort George off the Strand Road which leaves approximately a 15-minute walk to the city centre.

The Taxi Association will run a temporary taxi stand from the Diamond on Friday 7 June and on Saturday 8 June.

To support audiences coming to the city for The Return of Colmcille Translink is running additional services to Limavady, Strabane and Dungiven following the events on Friday 7 June and Saturday 8 June.

Tickets must be purchased in advance of travelling.

Translink is also running additional city services on both Friday 7 June and Saturday 8 June to get participants and audiences to and from the events.

• Friday 7 June 5.30pm to 10.30pm • Saturday 8 June 6pm to midnight.