Derry City Council is to invite representatives from a Chinese city to the city’s Halloween celebrations in what could be the start of a unique partnership.
The council’s Development Committee has backed a proposal from council officers to explore potentially linking with Xiamen City, which has a population of over two million people.
Paul Lynch, a local businessman with ties to Xiamen, made the initial approach to Council about developing a partnership, and is said to have done “considerable groundwork” in selling Derry to Chinese officials there.
In a report brought before the committee this week by Derry City Council’s Strategic Director Stephen Gillespie, it emerged that an official engaged in the setting up of a Beijing office for the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, “has agreed to help explore the possible city links with Xiamen and Quindao”.
The report added: “This may provide an opportunity to establish unique links for the city into an area of China and co-ordinate with the work being carried out by OFMDFM.
“This region of China has huge potential and we believe that this is worth exploring.”
It is hoped that arts, culture and tourism links may be developed as a result of any future partnership.
It has also emerged that Xiamen have already recently invited Derry City Council to an International Forum for Friendship Cities taking place there this week.
The invitation was declined because it was deemed too soon to be able to get council approval.
Mr Gillespie said that the there was also a trip to Boston- endorsed earlier in the meeting- to factor in.
He cautioned that the council had to be sure that such ties would yield “real and tangible benefits for the city.
“At this stage all I am asking is to explore the links further,”
An invitation will now be sent to officials from Xiamen to come to Derry for the Halloween weekend, which Mr Gillespie said would help further scope out the potential for a long-term partnership.
The suggestion was backed by the committee and the invite will now formally go out.
Xiamen is located off the south west coast of mainland China in its Fujian Province.
The city is famous for its attractive seaside location, and has an ancient maritime history as a major seaport.
The city’s name means “a gate of China” and it has been named over recent years as China’s most romantic leisure city and the second most suitable city for living.
At the same meeting on Tuesday brochures were distributed giving a few details of the forthcoming Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival, with the theme of ‘In the City of Bones’.
The Halloween festival will run from October 25th through until November 3rd .
Highlights of the programme include the Diwali Festival of Light on October 26th at the Millennium Forum. Admission is £2, and this includes a show, food and activities. The Piazza area will showcase Indian vegetarian food and family activities, henna tattoos, sari’s and turbans, rangoli floor decorations.
The stage will feature Bollywood and Bhangra, Indian fashion and more.
Around 2,000 are expected to attend over the course of the evening.
Other Halloween programme highlights include Awakening the Walls from October 30th to November 1st, Haunted House, a Freaky Funfair, Tower Grill and Walled City Night-time Markets, along with the Carnival Parade and Fireworks. A raft of new events have been added this year. Keep an eye on www.derrycity.gov.uk/halloween for updates.