Here is some good news.
In July 2010, Derry was selected to be the City of Culture in 2013.
Now here is some bad news.
In July 2010, Londonderry was selected to be the UK City of Culture in 2013.
Or put it another way, welcome to Norn Iron where good news for one (nationalist) person is bad news for another (unionist) person.
Any fool would know that selecting Derry (you dont honestly expect me to be “balanced” and use the L word) would be a disaster……or at least divisive……..so let me be the first fool to tell you “I told you so”.
I suppose the best way to describe the City of Culture concept is to say that it is based on the European City of Culture concept and “UK” cities allegedly vie for it as a kinda mini-Olympics. I say “allegedly” because the actual bids are made by PR companies on behalf of cities. As always, PR companies dont lose any money. The only losers are the council taxpayers in the losing cities.
Derry is actually the first winning city and it beat off such culture hot spots (???) as Birmingham and other cities (Wikipedia probably has a list of them). And that is kinda the problem. The award is actually for the “UK” City of Culture and there is a perceived irony in the fact that nationalist city Derry has won this award.
I have no idea what the point in a City of Culture is………except that every four years a new city will be selected……..and as well as hosting major arts events, it will boost tourism and the bank balances of PR companies.
Of course the nationalist city immediately began “neutralising” the UK bit. The City of Culture Offices in Derry makes no reference to the “UK”.
Of course unionists love saying “Londonderry” and “United Kingdom” almost as much as nationalists like saying “Derry” and “Ireland”. And there have been all kinds of attempts over several years to make the name of the City more neutral. It is not unusual to see signs that refer to “Doire-Derry-Londonderry”. The city council is “Derry City Council” but the official name is still “Londonderry” ……it has a “royal charter” for a few hundred years and Derry people therefore have no right to name their own city.
Of course this leads to trouble. One Sunday,about two years ago, a Canadian tourist went to the biggest bus terminal in Belfast and asked for a bus to “Derry”. He was told that there were no buses to “Derry” and was encouraged to go to another bus terminus. Of course the “helpful” Translink employee was just refusing to acknowledge the name “Derry”. The Canadian tourist missed his bus, complained, got some compensation and the employee was “retrained”. Of course in one of the great “letsgetalongerist” compromises, the public announcements in the bus station usually refer to “The Maiden City Flyer”
Several years ago, Gerry Anderson, a Derry based local broadcaster, invented the term “Derry-Stroke-Londonderry” and usually when people do not want to cause offence they ostentatiously or comically use the term. President Bill Clinton spoke in the Guildhall Square in Derry several years ago…………and obviously his advisors in protocol were on the case. There was no way that he could make an entire speech without saying the “D” word or the “L” word. So he referred to “Derry City and Londonderry County”…………and did this so often that the citizens loved it.
But really for the last year and a half, the entire project has been dogged by controversy, not least the fact that the City of Culture offices have been blown up……..which is not very……….cultured.
Nationalists have sought to neutralise the “UK” bit. Unionists have sought to maximise it.
Consider therefore………An Fleadh Cheoil……The Music Festival……..a celebration of Irish traditional music, organised by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann…..where the best singers, fiddlers, mandolin players, dancers from all of Irelands thirty two counties….plus USA, Britain, Canada, Australia gather in competition. Now that’s what I call CULTURE.
Except……….this is Ireland after all. The Derry branches of CCE have put in a bid to the CCE Board for An Fleadh Cheoil for 2013 to be held in Derry. Who could possibly object? Well the Ulster Council of CCE is not backing their colleagues in Derry. Although CCE is not political (in itself) it follows (as with other issues like Irish language, GAA Sport etc) that the fiddlers, whistlers, dancers and banjo players are Irish nationalists to a man and woman………..not to mention the Under 10s, Under 12s.
Of course all this has greatly amused unionists. Its a Win-Win situation. If An Fleadh is not part of the 2013 “UK City of Culture” programme, they will claim that nationalist intransigence is to blame. On the other hand if An Fleadh is part of the programme………they can claim nationalism has compromised.
Welcome to Norn Iron.