SOME of Londonderry’s brightest stars turned out for a wonderful night to celebrate the official launch of the city’s year as UK Capital of Culture.
Stars from the North West - and adoptive sons like Gary Lightbody whose parents come from the city shone at the Venue, and live to a large TV audience through BBC’s red button.
POP princess Nadine Coyle told of her pride in performing in her home city as Londonderry’s year as the UK City of Culture was launched with a gala opening concert.
The Girls Aloud singer, now based in Los Angeles, has not performed in her home city for nearly seven years.
Speaking ahead of last night’s concert, she said: “I am so, so excited about it. I cannot tell you how excited I am. It is so huge.
“It is emotional. It is a lot to take in. I just hope I don’t get too emotional.”
Coyle was among a host of stars taking part in the Sons and Daughters concert which was the first major celebration of 2013.
It was staged in The Venue, a new purpose-built pavilion in the former military barracks at Ebrington Square.
The singer added: “It’s Derry and it’s great to get the chance to perform here. It’s not somewhere that we always come back to. I am always having to beg people to let me come back.”
It is hoped the City of Culture will help change perceptions of a city once blighted by some of the worst violence of Northern Ireland’s troubled past.
The concert, which was broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster and will be televised on BBC Northern Ireland next Saturday at 10.30pm, aimed to showcase a host of Northern Ireland artists with international reputations to reflect Londonderry’s cultural achievements through music, word and song.
Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody, whose parents are from Londonderry, and told the crowd about his memories of the Fountain estate, was among the headline acts.
Neil Hannon, The Undertones, Dana, James Nesbitt, Amanda Burton and Phil Coulter — who has penned a new anthem specifically for the City of Culture — completed the line-up.
Tickets for the free concert were issued through a lottery and all 2,000 were allocated after 11,000 applications for tickets.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he hoped the event would help project a positive image of Northern Ireland after weeks of trouble on the streets over flags.
“The sooner we get rid of the negative reportage the better,” he said.
“[The concert] will send a powerful message that the north-west wants to move forward peacefully using these cultural opportunities that are presented.
“The events and activities of our year as City of Culture offer us the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that this is a city of hope, of aspiration and of creativity.”
Organisers expect an additional £500 million could be generated for the local economy as a result of the City of Culture.
A pageant on the River Foyle to celebrate the return of Colmcille — a warrior monk said to have founded the city — scripted by Frank Cottrell Boyce, who wrote the much-lauded Olympics opening ceremony, will be among the highlights of the year.
The all-Ireland Fleadh and a tattoo in August are also expected to attract huge crowds.