Countdown to 2013....

City of Culture Communications Executive Chris McCann on a great value bus trip to Cavan, an Olympic hero with a difference and the delights of Limavegas. . . .

One of the key objectives of Culture Company is to spread the City of Culture message as far as we possibly can.

Thanks to the efforts of teaching staff from Faughanvale Primary School in Greysteel there’s a corner of Africa that now proudly displays its support for City of Culture, St Luke’s Primary School in Kisumu, Kenya.

Michelle Kearney, Clare Gallagher and Bronagh McCann travelled out to the school to provide teaching support and were part of a larger group from the North West who raised almost £20,000 to help support the school.

St Luke’s school provides an opportunity for children who would otherwise be without an education. The school was founded by a local woman, Mrs Mary Oloo, as a response to the escalating number of children suffering from paediatric HIV Aids and exclusion from several primary services due to a combination of factors including poverty, being orphaned and a lack of access to appropriate medical care.

As well as providing teaching expertise, funding and equipment, the intrepid Faughanvale ladies also brought with them a City of Culture flag and some City of Culture badges to spread the Derry gospel.

The badges were used as medals on school sports day while the flag will now be flown alongside the Kenya national flag on special occasions at the school.

As traditional music fans from across the globe have descended on Cavan this week for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2012, plans for 2013 in Derry are already well underway.

The city’s hosting of the festival north of the border for the first time from 12th – 18th August 2013 will be one of the brightest stars in the City of Culture firmament.

Derry’s Fleadh Chairperson, Eibhlín Ní Dhochartaigh and a team from the city are visiting this year’s event in Cavan this weekend to extol the virtues of our city to regular Fleadh goers and they want as many stakeholders from the city as possible to join them.

For any interested parties who want to get a sense of what the Fleadh might offer for them next year a bus to Cavan will leave Cultúrlann at 8.30am (tomorrow) Saturday, August 18th.

It returns from Cavan at 10pm on that night.

The cost is £5 per person return and everyone is welcome.

Those of you who can’t make it to the Breffni county on Saturday can keep up to date with Fleadh 2013 developments on the website, on facebook at or on twitter via @fleadh4derry.

It’s not just in comedy that timing is everything, as is shown by the publication of a new book by Dr Nuala McAllister Hart on Derry’s Cultural heritage entitled From Farquhar to Field Day: Three Centuries of Music and Theatre in Derry~Londonderry.

Nuala is chair of the Foyle Civic Trust and also sits on the advisory group for City of Culture’s flagship project, Portrait of City. Her new book looks at the dramatic and musical life of the county between 1678, the birth of George Farquhar, and 2001, the end of the Field Day Drama Company. The book is divided into ten chapters, each focusing on a particular venue where drama and music were performed. Portraits of key musicians, actors, playwrights, theatre owners and impresarios are also included. It promises to be a great companion piece during the exploration that will take place of the city’s cultural heritage throughout 2013.

As a native of ‘Limavegas’ it would be remiss of me not to give a mention to the excellent Stendhal Festival of Art that takes place at Ballymully Cottage Farm on the outskirts of the town tomorrow.

I attended last year’s inaugural event and had a fine time watching the likes of Andy Irvine and Turin Breaks. It’s a fantastic family event and my four and five year old nephews had a ball thanks to the many child-centred activities and the separate family area on the campsite. Local Lads John Cartwright and Ross Parkhill have again produced a great line-up headlined by Offaly singer-songwriter Mundy. There’s plenty of Derry representation on the bill with Paddy Nash and the Happy Enchiladas, Best Boy Grip, Triggerman, Intermission, Soak, Wyldling, Balkan Alien Sound, Mojo Gogo and Rainey Boy Sleep all performing.

It’s not only bands from Derry who are getting involved, Echo Echo Dance Company are organising a brilliant dance picnic while Digital Derry and Nonzerosum are constructing the Augmented Woodland. In Your Space will be providing family workshops and street performers and The Heraghty School of Irish Dance will also be making the trip down the road.

With weekend camping tickets at an affordable £25 and day tickets for the Saturday at £20 it’s well worth the 20-mile run down the lough shore.

Just remember the golden rule - What happens in Limavegas, stays in Limavegas.

On Monday morning I had a vision of thousands of armchair Olympians frantically jabbing at the red buttons on their remote controls looking for a live fix of taekwondo, track cycling or rhythmic gymnastics only to be greeted with episodes of “Homes Under The Hammer”, “In The Night Garden” and the fact that BBC3 wasn’t even on air until 7pm.

The throwing, shooting, running, rowing and paddling that took place in London over the past fortnight certainly thrilled us all – but it’s fair to say that the public imagination had already been captured before a single ‘tumble turn’ had taken place thanks to the fantastic opening ceremony that heralded the commencement of the games.

The man who wrote the script for the Opening Ceremony was Frank Cottrell Boyce who is also penning “The Return of Colmcille” celebration which will take place here in June of next year.

We already knew that this celebration of the life of the city’s patron saint was going to be one of the highlights of our fantastic programme in 2013.

But having seen the colour, originality and imagination that Frank brought to the opening ceremony of the Olympics we’re now even more excited by the project.

The spectacle that will take place on the Foyle on June 9th year will besomething the likes of which this city has never seen before.  With a cast of 2,000 taking part there’s going to be a fantastic opportunity for local people to be right at the heart of one of City of Culture’s flagship projects. This extravaganza will be something that both participants and spectators willremember for a lifetime.

Maintaining the Olympic theme, one of the key components in the success of London 2012 was the contribution of the 70,000 volunteers who helped the event run so smoothly.

Volunteers will have an equally vital input into making sure that City of Culture 2013 is a success and through the North West Volunteer Centre the process of recruiting the 3,000 volunteers required to help out with next year’s celebrations has begun.

To register to become a volunteer email or contact the North West Volunteer Centre on 028 7127 1017. It’s a great chance to be an active participant in City of Culture.