Councillors have expressed concern Brexit could torpedo a joint Derry/Belfast bid for European Capital of Culture status in 2023.
One of the masterminds of the hugely successful City of Culture bid for 2013, the current Director of Legacy at Derry City and Strabane District Council, Oonagh McGillion, said she believed a successful bid would yield “very, very positive outcomes” for the city and region.
On Tuesday she asked members of the council’s Business and Culture Committee to mandate officers to carry out a scoping exercise under the council’s due diligence obligations in order to explore a European Capital of Culture tilt.
Belfast’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee will discuss the joint bid this afternoon.
The ambitious proposal received wholehearted support from members, however, fears were raised that the United Kingdom Brexit from the European Union could jeopardise the endeavour.
Ms. McGillion referred to this when she revealed that the English Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) temporarily pulled the UK’s European Capital of Culture competition in the wake of the Brexit vote last June, only to reinstate it in December.
Sinn Féin Councillor Mickey Cooper backed the proposal but commented: “In relation to the Brexit scenario, the fact that we are even discussing it shows in its own light how disastrous it could be for all of us.”
Councillor Cooper said that having been involved in City of Culture 2013 he was acutely aware of the reputational impact and economic boon that was achieved for the city and which was still reaping dividends.
SDLP Councillor John Boyle said he was happy to allow Belfast piggy back on Derry’s track record of expertise in order to elevate the city to the next level in terms of cultural status.
“In a sense we’re trying to get into the Champions League of capitals of culture and that’s not without its financial implications,” he commented.
Councillor Boyle said: “I do concur that Belfast have coming looking for us because we have the expertise built up already, however, I’m not sure we could do it all on our own.”