Derry’s year as city of culture has featured in a number of positive reviews in the national media.
The 2013 Culture Calendar was the subject of a two page feture in the Irish Daily Mirror.
Reviewer Demelza de Burca referenced every major festival, concert and attraction the town has to offer in her piece, describing the city as; “Not just for party lovers. History buffs would get a real kick out of the 400-year-old city that boasts the beautiful 17th Century St. Columb’s Cathedral, overlooking the vast River Foyle.”
Readers were given a crash course in local history, architecture and the social scene - “If you’re up for the craic then Derry really should be on your agenda this year.”
The UK newspaper The Independent was much more straight laced in its review of The Town We Love So Well, which it pointed out will host The Turner prize this year.
It began: “The Turner Prize is no stranger to making headlines, but this year it is the venue – rather than the entries – that carries particular poignance.
“Ebrington Square, which overlooks the historic walls of Derry on the River Foyle, will be the first place outside of England to host the arts prize.”
The piece quoted local youth workers, as well as editor of the Derry Journal, Martin McGinley who said this of the Cultural celebrations: “City of Culture won’t change Derry’s child poverty, but it will change the atmosphere here, and might kick start other initiatives happening in the city. Organisers are aware of the need to involve young people. They have put in outreach programmes surrounding many of the events, including training teachers, and offering free tickets for the children. They also wanted to make tickets available to schools and children living in difficult neighbourhoods.”
Brian McMenamin, a youth leader at Long Tower Youth and Community Centre, said the City of Culture was already having an effect. “The kids know well about the City of Culture. It is making an impact in areas like ours.”
Joe Thompson, a youth worker, said the young people he works with were well aware of the significance. “Some had inflated expectations, saying we should be bringing Rihanna and Eminem. Others were more pragmatic, asking: ‘Will it mean jobs? And something after 2013; it’s nice to have culture but what happens after?’ They’re happy that it’s here.”
The national coverage has been positive despite the fact that the City of Culture organising bodies are reeling from two major departures only one third of the way through the celebrations.
Garbhan Downey was sacked last month after being removed from his post before Christmas.
On Good Friday news of the departure of Mr. McLaughlin broke, “personal reasons” were cited for his departure.
The Derry public in the meantime have been left to wonder what it all means.
“You can still feel the vibe about the place. People are still excited about the City of Culture year. It is exciting for the whole town and is a beautiful event which we should stay 100% positive for.” said Stanley Davidson from Hatmore.
“It has been concerning. As I understand it the fall out stems from arguments over budgets and the yacht race,” Paul McCloskey, Creggan
“I would say it has been damaging. Dermot’s (McLaughlin) departure has been surprising and the row about the sculpture today is another issue which leaves questions,” said Catherine Boyle.
May Breslin of Northland Road was much more succinct asking: “You’d just wonder what is going on?”