Hogmanay festival, open air cinema and amphibious vehicle for Waterside?

Is the Waterside set to get its own amphibious vehicle?
Is the Waterside set to get its own amphibious vehicle?

AN annual Hogmanay event, an open air cinema and an amphibious vehicle for trips on the Foyle are just some suggestions contained in a far reaching cultural strategy for the Waterside, which could see a major new cultural hub created as the legacy of 2013.

The strategy also suggests attracting the European Highland Dance Championships to the city and working with the owners of the Beech Hill Hotel, the site of the Battle of Caw, Prehen House, the Old Railway Station and the Workhouse, to help tell the Waterside story and develop its unique identity.

The Waterside Cultural Forum supported by Waterside Area Partnership will launched its five year Cultural Strategy for the Waterside on Wednesday (October 17).

The strategy has been produced following extensive consultation with people and organisations throughout the Waterside and its rural hinterland.

The summary document, which has been obtained by the Sentinel, explains the rationale behind the bold statment of intent from the Waterside community.

“It was evident from the beginning of this process that the history of the Waterside was crucial in establishing a sense of place and community identity was a prominent theme,” the authors state.

“There was an acknowledgement that the areas in the Waterside are dislocated from each other and deeply affected by the population shift from the West Bank, as well as impact of the years of the Troubles.

“There were many suggestions on how the Waterside should start to celebrate its uniqueness, its multi-cultural appeal and its desire to focus on memory, commemoration and moving forward into the future.

“With a complex dynamic existing within the Waterside there was also a desire to connect on a positive basis with the wider city – particularly with the other cultural fora that exist,” the strategy continues.

The Forum has identified the need for a “collaborative approach, inclusive and respecting the diversity of cultural expression that exists in the Waterside.”

It also claims there is a demand for a Waterside Hub to to serve the needs of a developing cultural life in the area and that “there is a clear gap in cultural service provision in the Waterside area” at the moment.

To address this lack of provision it has drawn up a wide ranging plan setting out 17 key objectives across seven themes: Structure and Co-Ordination; Infrastructure; Waterside Identity; Connecting, Sharing and Participation; To Develop opportunities for participation in UK City of Culture 2013 and beyond; Young People; and Opportunities in digital media.

Amongst the proposals is the development of a Waterside Cultural Forum that will develop a Forum Map of local historic and cultural sites.

The identification of a suitable premises for a Cultural Hub is also a key part of the strategy.

The Forum will examine scope for development beyond the hub - considering the Old Railway Station, Spencer Road and local history trails, as possible extensions.

Development of the unique Waterside identity is a key objective with opportunities for local people to become tour guides and ambassadors for their own areas.

And unsurprisingly, 2013 is the cornerstone of the strategy.

Art exhibitions, drama, dance, band contests, Waterside in Bloom, Buskers Day, a choir of 100 voices from Waterside and rural schools, a St Patrick’s Parade and Naval and Maritime events are amongst the events suggested for Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013.

Strategic aims also include the attraction of the European Highland Dance Championships to the city and the establishment of an annual Hogmanay event starting in 2013.

Equally, the Forum will actively pursue opportunities to connect with the Londonderry UK City of Culture Fleadh Committee in advance of the All Ireland Fleadh in the city next year.

Local youth workers have suggested a number of colourful ideas including an amphibious vehicle on the river; an open air cinema and an Urban Festival incorporating music, dance, skateboarding and spray-painting workshops.

They also want to develop the concept of timebanking for young people whereby time can be exchanged for concert or event tickets.

A Young Citizen of the Year awards is also on the cards. And the Forum wants to get local young people involved in the Turner prize.

The authors of the strategy contend: “Throughout all elements of the research an underlying spirit of enthusiasm and passion for the development of a Cultural Strategy prevailed.

“Local people conveyed an interest in a new vision for culture in the Waterside and the need for an ethos which ensured sharing, learning and participation underpinning all the conversations and plans for the future. “It became evident during the consultation process that people were predominantly concerned with relationships in the Waterside and how conflicting and competing agendas influenced and impacted upon ability to work collaboratively and using a strategic outlook for Waterside wide development.”