In March 2012, Culture Northern Ireland joined forces with Culture Company 2013 to launch a competition to design the official City of Culture 2013 mascot, as part of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure's Creativity Month. The competition received 120 entries, which inspired much debate and more than 10,000 views.
At the City of Culture Programme Preview event, ‘Oaky Dokes’ was crowned as the Official City of Culture Macot. The design will go on to become a symbol of City of Culture 2013, and will be showcased at events, on promotional material and on merchandise throughout 2013. The competition also featured a substantial prize fund of Apple products to the value of £3,000.
We met up with the winner Domnall Starkie, the 35-year-old Derry~Londonderry artist behind the design.
What was the inspiration behind your design?
It was a combination of a few things. I am a vegetarian and heavily into animal rights, so I was inspired by the red squirrels in Derry and knowing that there are only 50 of them left here. Also, Derry comes from the Irish word ‘Doire’ meaning ‘oak tree’, and that’s where the squirrels live. It's a concept the whole community can get behind and it’s not aimed at one side or the other. I think it’s good as kids will be able to relate to 'Oaky Dokes' and it brings the issue of our endangered squirrels to the forefront. It could be something that conservationists or Green Peace could also get involved in and get behind.
What are your thoughts on the other entries and were you surprised that your design was chosen as the winner?
I thought the other entries were good. A lot of them were from children so I’m not going to criticise those! I knew I had a good chance as I’m a graphic designer and I knew what would be wanted. Some were very good but a bit fussy in terms of being used as a mascot. I wanted to keep it simple.
What is your background and experience in art and design?
I have a degree in illustration, worked as a graphic designer in Derry, London, and Australia and also have submitted illustrations to various magazines and newspapers, so I have quite a bit of experience!
You are also known for your controversial artwork, the mascot competition is a step away from this, what style of work do you favour?
At present I am working on my art but also on a children’s book, so the two go hand in hand. I am an artist foremost and I see art as art so I delve into different types of artwork, although I’m not going to mix the two together and make a controversial children’s book!
What does it mean to you that your design has been chosen and will be used as Derry~Londonderry’s City of Culture 2013 Mascot?
It hasn’t really sunk in yet. When you win something like that you have visions in your head for what it is going to be like. I think it’s great from the point of view of promoting animal rights and hopefully this will market the issue, and raise awareness for the red squirrels in Derry.
Finally, have you any ideas for spending the prize fund?
Yes! I’m getting a 27 inch Mac desktop to help with my work on the children’s book, an iPad 3 for me and my partner and also a 2 terabyte network storage system, so money well spent!