Joint European Capital bid can only be Belfast or Derry

Derry and Belfast will launch their joint bid to be European Capital of Culture 2023 today.
Derry and Belfast will launch their joint bid to be European Capital of Culture 2023 today.

Derry & Strabane could miss out on being officially named European Capital of Culture after those behind the joint bid with Belfast confirmed only one city can be awarded the official title.

The matter was raised during an update on progress of the Joint bid for 2013, which was delivered by Council’s Director of Legacy Oonagh McGillion before its Business & Culture Committee monthly meeting on Tuesday.

UUP Councillor Derek Hussey questioned whether, going on to the Stage 2, the bid would have the names of both areas included or just one. “Can we continue to be a joint nominee?” he asked.

Ms. McGillion responded that the Capital of Culture accolade can only be awarded to one city, but said that Belfast and Derry & Strabane Councils were equal partners in this.

Colr. Hussey said that he believed Derry and Strabane should be the lead city.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Hussey said he believed a lot of people didn’t realise it was the case that the official bid will be signed off by only one of the two councils.

He said he had previously reiterated concerns over the joint bid “because I believe we as a Council have an established expertise of dealing with this type of application, stemming from the UK City of Culture scenario, the All Ireland Fleadh, the Clipper.”

Colr. Hussey added however that the bid was a fantastic opportunity and said that whatever happens, there was a determination that Derry & Strabane wouldn’t be playing “second fiddle” to Belfast.

He said that if Derry & Strabane was the party named in the bid, he was sure Belfast would be treated fairly.

A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council said: “The Belfast Derry bid for the European Capital of Culture title is a joint bid by the two Councils. The European Capital of Culture guidelines state that only one organisation can be the candidate city and sign the application form.

“Up to this point the Councils have engaged with over 7,500 citizens who have directed the emerging concepts and themes.

“The commitment from the Councils is to work together with Europe through culture to make our cities better places for our citizens and future generations. The councils will consider the final detail of stage one bid book in the coming weeks and continue with their strong working partnership.

Speaking at the committee meeting, Ms. McGillion said that by the end of October, 10,000 people will have been engaged by the two Councils about the bid through a programme begun this summer, and which has including tailored workshops, and face-to-face consultation at festivals and events.

People have been asked what makes them happy and what keeps them awake at night, with many of those asked answering relationships and family. Responses, she said, are shaping the overall theme of the Stage 1 bid which “needs to be authentic to the cities as well as having strong relevance for Europe”.

She said brand options are currently being developed, and the brand for the Belfast, Derry & Strabane bid may take the shape of a heart with both areas represented.

As part of Stage One bid, a number of indicative projects will be presented, involving an open call for anyone to submit projects ideas, and a number of flagship project ideas. To date 150 proposals have been submitted.

A report brought before the Committee stated that a provisional budget of £51m has been identified, with a detailed fundraising strategy currently being developed. If shortlisted to stage two, a full business case will be developed the committee was told.