Getting ready for positive change

EBRINGTON SQUARE... The transformed barracks site will be the focal point for a series of events in the countdown to and during City of Culture 2013.
EBRINGTON SQUARE... The transformed barracks site will be the focal point for a series of events in the countdown to and during City of Culture 2013.

Derry City Council’s Town Clerk, SHARON O’CONNOR, recently joined city representatives at a meeting at Stormont to share Derry’s story as it gets ready to host a line-up of world class events in 2012 ahead of countdown preparations for City of Culture 2013. In this article, she reveals what’s happening.

This year will see more than £100 million invested in city infrastructure, economic and profile gain by welcoming thousands of visitors to our shores through NI 2012 events and the opportunity to accelerate the transformation of the city through a world class City of Culture 2013 year.

From public realm improvements, the opening of new event and community spaces, business skills programmes, volunteer initiatives and public and private sector partnerships, the city is counting down to world class events in 2012 and 2013.

Some of the new events added to the city’s event calendar this year include the Celtic Film and Media Festival, Olympic Torch arrival on June 4, Peace One Day Concert on June 21, North Atlantic Fiddle Festival and Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 11-12 from June 29 to July 8, 2012.

The city is looking forward to the growth opportunities for tourism, creative industries and for indigenous business growth. Counting down to 2013, there is an opportunity to capitalise on the potential for events and how the city’s transformation can ensure the local and visitor experience is world class.

In terms of the tourism infrastructure, investment in many of the built heritage projects, such as the Guildhall, the Apprentice Boys of Derry Museum and Aras Colmcille, ensure the city’s heritage and cultural offering is constantly progressing.

Tourism currently generates approximately £30m. into the local economy, encourages 165,700 overnight visitors and supports 616,500 bed nights for the city and region and the City Walls are ranked fourth in the top ten visitor attractions in Northern Ireland. The capacity for hotel growth is demonstrated by a growing interest in the private sector for expansion and readiness for 2013.

This is supported by a new opportunity in the areas of camping and motor home locations. New business start-ups in relation to the tourism product, such as the Legenderry Road Train and the Blue Boat Tours on the River Foyle, show that entrepreneurial spirit is alive in the city.

The continued growth in the conference market is expected to add £2 million to the city’s business tourism economy in 2012 in addition to the increasing interest from conference business for 2013.

The Digital Derry initiative seeks to grow and expand the creative industry companies. From software to moving image, there is an opportunity to maximise the potential of this sector throughout 2012 and 2013. As a switched-on city, the telecoms infrastructure has expanded as Derry~Londonderry becomes the first city to become broadband enabled with more than £3m investment from BT.

This builds upon the lower cost and greater connectivity speeds through the realisation of Project Kelvin and the transatlantic broadband connection that is available.

There are also Business Capacity funds to grow the skills of local business for export and business growth for 2012 and 2013. This is also supported by the city’s international road show to San Francisco, New York and Halifax between April-July 2012 as part of the Clipper 11-12 and City of Culture 2013 programme.

Investment in physical infrastructure has already been made in the city in preparation for 2012. This will help grow the economy and leave a lasting creative, social and cultural legacy for all communities. It’s the start of a significant countdown to 2013 and the partnership and support to make the city a successful destination for business and tourism is better than ever.

The completion of the public realm improvements has transformed the city centre into an urban landscape and helped create a real buzz in the heart of the city. It has helped create an attractive and welcoming space for people to enjoy and has successfully generated tangible economic benefits.

The Department for Social Development continue to improve the built environment through a number of schemes and public realm improvements along the quayside and schemes will also vastly improve the appearance of the commercial businesses within the city centre.”

The Olympic Festival at St Columb’s Park will see the arrival of the Olympic Flame to the region, followed by the Peace One Day concert on 21 June, with Massive Attack as the headline act.

This concert will mark the start of the Olympiad celebrations and offer music lovers from across Northern Ireland to get involved in the Olympic celebrations, enjoy some live music and see Derry’s latest concert space at the former Ebrington Parade Ground which is now linked to the city centre thanks to the recently opened Peace Bridge across the River Foyle.

The River Foyle will be the focus of activity during the month of July as the city will be an official host port to welcome teams from the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race to the city.

There is significant investment in marine infrastructure coming into place with the new Clipper Marina funded by Interreg IV programme of the European Funding. It is a partnership programme between Loughs Agency and Londonderry Port.

The new events marina will create a legacy for marine events in the heart of the city. The city is also experiencing a resurgence of interest from Cruise Ships with nine scheduled to visit in 2012, the largest number of visits since 1998.

The pace of change enables us to tell a confident story locally and internationally.

The city team is working closely to grow a new confidence locally as well as creating new international connections with business, tourism, culture and Diaspora.

Through a road show to USA, Canada and Holland, we will be following the Clipper Teams to international shores to share this story of change.

Whether it is cultural, trade or tourism connections, 2012 is a new opportunity to be positive about the future and send out a global invite to come home for two great years of celebrations and change.