The next big target – 2020?

City of Culture media director Garbhan Downey talks about setting our sights high for 2020....

So, what happens after 2013?

The scenario everyone is determined to avoid is where the big shiny bus pulls out of the city leaving nothing behind it but memories.

And we’ve been burned before. But the recent experiences of Liverpool and Glasgow tell us that, with proper planning, the tourism sector, the hospitality sector and the creative industries could continue to thrive after our big year.

As such, the single most important question being asked by those planning any event or project for 2013 is, “What legacy will it leave?”

Inspired by that thinking, Culture Company board is already conducting a sizeable piece of research into how best we can use our City of Culture year to develop a sustainable cultural economy here.

And it’s good to see that there are those in the city who believe we should continue to raise our cultural ambition – as a way of keeping the momentum going.

Businessman Seamus Kennedy is a case in point. He believes Derry should announce its intention to compete for European Capital of Culture in 2020.

The slots (two EU cities per year) have all been designated up until 2019, and there is no British or Irish city included in their number.

But Kennedy says there’s no reason we couldn’t make our mark when the contest re-opens. He explains: “Derry beat off 40 other rival cities for the UK City of Culture title. Surely the most logical legacy we could have would be to become European Capital of Culture in 2020?

“This would also give us the time to complete the huge tasks of developing both the Ebrington and Fort George sites and to maximise the growth in our hotel sector.”

It’s a tall ask, certainly – particularly given the scale of the project currently upon us. But before you go writing Kennedy off as “barking mad” (his words), I should point out that others have made this mistake before and ended up red-faced.

Back in 2008, Tourism graduate Kennedy started bending the ears of everyone who would listen about taking part in the new UK City of Culture competition.

Bill Kirk of Ilex, who was staying in Kennedy’s guesthouse, decided to run the idea up the flagpole with the likes of Niall McCaughan and Declan McGonagle – and four years later, look where we are now.

European Capital of Culture 2020? Stranger things have happened...