The population of Derry is expected to treble over the next ten days as the city prepares for the opening of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann on Sunday afternoon.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors and musicians will travel to Derry over the next week for the historic Fleadh Cheoil, the first to be staged in the North.
It will be launched in Guildhall Square on Sunday by President Michael D. Higgins following a parade of traditional curragh boats up the Foyle and an open air pageant.
The ceremony will herald the start of a week-long marathon of competitions, concerts, sessions, and celebrations at various venues across the city.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said it promises to be a historic week for the city.
“This is a fantastic event for the city and will see hundreds of thousands of people coming together to celebrate everything that is great about our culture.
“It will, no doubt, be the biggest event in what has already been a fantastic year for the city.
“Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is one of the biggest and best events in the Irish cultural calendar and over the next week in Derry we will be able to share our rich culture and heritage with visitors from across the world.
“I wish all those taking part in the various competitions during Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann well and hope that all the visitors who will come here over the course of the next week have a safe and enjoyable stay and a great experience.
“I’d also like to congratulate everyone who has worked so hard over the last year to bring this wonderful event to the city,” he said.
Foyle MP Mark Durkan also welcomed the Fleadh to Derry. “Like everyone else in the city I’m looking forward to a wonderful week in which we can celebrate a wealth of culture and a diversity of talent. The fleadh is the biggest global Irish event in any year and it is fantastic for Derry to be hosting it in this special year.
“We want to welcome all the musicians, dancers, singers, officials and volunteers who make the fleadh the wonderful event it always is.
“We also pay tribute to the Comhaltas members locally, the organising committee and all the local partners whose enthusiastic efforts will ensure that Derry really distinguishes itself as the first city to host the Fleadh.
“Next week will be rich in entertainment and enjoyment for all of us and we can all play our part in making it memorable for all our visitors for the hospitality as well as the talent,” he said.
The Mayor of Derry, Councillor Martin Reilly, added: “The city is looking forward to hosting the Fleadh and welcoming thousands of music lovers from across the island of Ireland and beyond to experience our city, its cultural offering and its warm and friendly welcome.”
President of the local Chamber of Commerce, Philip Gilliland said it will be a “brilliant accolade” for Derry.
“Once again we thank and congratulate all those involved in winning this for Derry. It is a high spot – and arguably the biggest one of all – of our year as City of Culture.
“We are already seeing the benefits of Derry hosting the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann – the city is looking great, with many city centre businesses sprucing themselves up and in some cases expanding their areas of operation.
“They deserve both congratulations and also the extra custom that will no doubt follow.”