Anne Robinson shows her support whilst the online campaign picks up pace
Say Derry to any northerner and the following artists spring to mind: Roma Downey, Seamus Heaney, The Undertones, Phil Coulter, Damien McGinty and more. So when the campaign to find the UK’s City of Culture 2013 began, it seemed obvious that Derry should be a candidate. The 29 cities that applied for the honour have been whittled down to a final four: Birmingham, Derry, Norwich and Sheffield
'It was a hard choice,' says Phil Redmond, a TV writer and the Chair of the independent advisory panel judging the competition. 'But also heartening that all bidders had recognized the power of culture to bring people together, to work collectively within existing resources for a common goal and bring into being networks that may not have existed before.'
His words are echoed in the social media campaign currently rallying public support for Derry’s 2013 bid. Spearheaded by local marketing firm ION, it is currently raging across Facebook and Twitter with supporters adding the Derry 2013 icon to their profiles and #Derry2013 now a trending topic on the latter.
ION approached a number of local businesses and entrepreneurs popular in the social media space to help ‘spread the gospel’ that is #Derry2013. 'The key people involved are the citizens of Derry', says Niall McKeown, Commercial Director of ION. 'The diaspora and the people of NI will make the bid successful. We need them to use social media to amplify their voice.'
One of the people approached by ION is Derry entrepreneur Mark Nagurski. 'I was born in Derry and came back to live here several years ago. For a small city it has an amazing cultural scene, but unfortunately the picture in people’s heads is understandably dominated by the politics of the last 30-40 years. We need to change that picture.'
For others it is the tourism factor that drew them to the cause. 'We are involved because we feel that the positive outcome of winning the title will not only impact Derry but Northern Ireland as a whole with regard to tourism and investment,' says businesswoman Jacqueline McGonigle.
Under the terms of the competition the winning city will play temporary host to the Brit Awards, The Turner Prize, BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards and the Stirling Architecture Prize. To win, according to the Department for Culture, Media And Sport, they must meet a number of criteria including delivering 'programmes and events that lead to lasting social regeneration'.
Derry’s bid is being supported by figures from across the world of sport, drama and news including The Weakest Link presenter Anne Robinson. The normally acid tongued presenter, whose first contact with Derry was reporting on the violence in 1969 for The Sunday Times, has given the city her full backing.
'For a city of its size Derry has an amazing range of cultural attractions which will form the basis of a strong bid to become UK City of Culture 2013. [That] media coverage for 40 years, perhaps inevitably, has been dominated by negative stories.
'Yet in the past five years when I visited the city on a regular basis I’ve been astonished at the spirit and energy of the city. Derry is a story of hope and triumph. The change is so dramatic and delightful it is surely time for the rest of the world to have the chance to hear of this miraculous transformation,' she said.
So what are the chances of Derry winning the bid? 'The chances of winning are very high,' says Niall McKeown. And with that, he taps the side of his nose as if privy to some big secret and ends the interview.
For more ways to support the Derry bid for City of Culture 2013 go to their website to find out more.