Peace Bridge To Open in Derry~Londonderry

Watch a video of the new bridge and download the programme of events

It’s set to be a busy weekend for Derry~Londonderry, with the opening of the newly constructed Peace Bridge coinciding with the launch of the One World Festival and the unveiling of the first stage of Europe’s largest open-air art installation, Mute Meadow.

‘For too long the River Foyle has been seen as a dividing line,’ said Aideen McGinley, chief executive of ILEX, the urban regeneration company established to promote the physical, economic and social regeneration of Derry~Londonderry. ‘The Peace Bridge will give a tangible sense of the city coming together as one.’

The Peace Bridge was funded by the European Union’s PEACE III initiative at a cost of £13.4 million. The only footbridge in the city, it measures 235 feet from bank to bank and will, according to Michael Hegarty, director of PLACE, positively affect 'the dynamics of the city centre as a whole' and 'create opportunities for development all around it'.

At both ends of the Peace Bridge, a series of celebratory events will begin at 6pm on Friday, June 24 and continue for the duration of the weekend. Venues throughout the city will host concerts, film screenings, workshops, street performances and readings from national and international artists as part of the One World Festival.

The Peace Bridge will be officially opened at 3pm on Saturday, when a chorus of 600 singers from schools across the city will perform a new choral work composed by Ian Wilson. It will be the first time that the public will get to see the bridge illuminated in all its neon glory.

Thereafter, revellers are encouraged to pass through Ebrington – site of the Mute Meadow light and sound installation – en route to the Carnival of Colours in St Columb’s Park.

‘The Peace Bridge was inspired by Maurice Harron’s ‘Reconciliation/Hands Across the Divide’ sculpture in Derry’s Carlisle Square,' added McGinley. 'It is a defining, iconic symbol of the city, and we hope that the Peace Bridge will signify a more equitable future. It’s all about hearts and minds, about the people joining together as one.

‘We will be launching our One City, One Plan, One Voice ten year regeneration strategy on Thursday, June 23, two days before the Peace Bridge opens to the public. And there is a great sense of anticipation here in Derry. It’s a very important time for the city. It is the culmination of a lot of investment and hard work, and paves the way for City of Culture 2013.’

It is a year since Derry~Londonderry was designated the first UK City of Culture, and in the past few weeks the momentum has increased rapidly. In late spring, the body charged with delivering the City of Culture project – Culture Company 2013 – was constituted. It immediately began recruiting a team that includes specialists in media, events programming, community arts and education.

Chief executive Shona McCarthy said that the Culture Company hoped to convince the world to join in Derry~Londonderry’s ‘purposeful inquiry and joyous celebration'.

‘To that end,’ added McCarthy, ‘we are already putting together a programme for the city that will include the Turner Prize; the Children’s Music Promise, which will give every child, in this most musical of cities, the chance to learn an instrument; and a groundbreaking closing pageant, The Return of Colmcille the Peacemaker, centred around our most famous son.

‘We are also endeavouring to bring a series of other landmark events to the city, including the All-Ireland Fleadh, a specially-commissioned Field Day play, Radio One’s Big Weekend, and the Stirling Prize. And to kick it all off, in June 2012, we will be staging the Opening Ceremony of the Cultural Olympiad.

‘But for our year truly to succeed, it is vital that there is full engagement with the real stake-holders: the citizens of the city. The whole city is the venue for 2013, and every part of its canvas can be filled with colour and activity. It is up to all of us to make it happen and our collective effort will be key to a lasting legacy.’

For now, however, there is plenty to see, enjoy and take part in. Download the Peace Bridge programme of events from the ILEX website here.