Mayor Martin Reilly, has used his Christmas message to hail UK City of Culture 2013 for bringing a new air of confidence to Londonderry and promoting the city to an international audience whilst acknowledging we’ve always done ‘culture’ right anyway.
The Mayor said his favourite event was Music City, during which he floated over his city in a hot air balloon at dawn on the summer solstice.
He said: “The City of Culture title has brought a new air of confidence and pride to the people of this city, filling us with a great sense of achievement and giving us all new hope for the future .
“A tremendous amount of work and effort has gone into making 2013 the huge success that it is and I would like to acknowledge the role everyone has played in contributing to that success.”
The Mayor said “over £100m has been invested in capital infrastructure in the run up to the City of Culture year with the transformation of Ebrington, the restoration of the Guildhall and the new lighting strategy and the recent investment to regenerate the Brandywell Stadium to name but a few.”
He added: “There are plans afoot for a new multi-purpose arena at St Columb’s Park and, following the increased demand for accommodation, there are two planning applications for new city centre hotels. One of the most exciting legacy plans is the new national storytelling centre and maritime museum planned for 2016.”
He flagged up the Return of Colmcille Pageant, the BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend, the All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil, Lumiere and the Turner Prize as key events but said Music City was a personal favourite “when I had the privilege of viewing the city from a height when I took to the skies at dawn in a hot air balloon.”
“It was a truly thrilling experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the city at its best and to be part of the huge Music City celebration that saw thousands of musicians taking to the streets and performing,” he said.
Importantly, the Mayor pointed out that the city was doing things right in cultural terms prior to this year’s high profile event.
But holding the title had brought the city to the world’s attention for the right reasons, he said.
“The City of Culture year provided us with the mechanisms to build on the work already taking place across the city. Around 60 per cent of the events held over the year already existed in some form but we were able to work with the organisers to expand and develop their ideas and programmes and showcase them to a new and wider audience,” he said.
He said he was looking forward to kicking on from Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 during the year long Music City 2014 and of realising a ‘legacy.’
“One of the real and lasting legacies of 2013 is the changing way visitors to our city view Derry~Londonderry as a destination worth coming to see, a place where there is a warm welcome and a new landscape and story to tell.”
He also wished the citizens a Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.
“Finally I would like to extend my best wishes to all of you and wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year. I am looking forward to the Council’s 2014 Legacy Celebration event in mid-January which will start another year of celebration,” he said.