Please support Londonderry, UK City of Culture 2013

If the introduction could win it, Seamus Heaney’s eloquence in promoting Londonderry’s bid to become UK City of Culture in 2013 would see it home.

It seems to me that the omens are encouraging, in that the 400th anniversary of the building of London’s Derry could be read as a symbolic handover of cultural authority from London’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad. And if the omens good, so too is the etymology: Doire is the oak, as is ilex, but another word for oak in Latin is robur, which is also the word for ‘strength’.

The bid itself is not without its own lyrical quality but is hard-headed too. It ducks none of the legacy good and bad. The links to the City of London, to the US and its Donegal hinterland are all proclaimed and turned to advantage. Just to assure other city slickers, this is Northern Ireland’s only bid.It’s wonderful to see the bid exploits Derry’s identity in full. Nothing grudging here or even very political-sounding about the Union, while there’s total pride in Seamus’s “ eleven centuries of Gaelic cultural achievement.” On the edge of the Union it may be, but its contacts are good. And the prospects against competition from Birmingham, Sheffield and other much bigger and more central cities? Cameo-sized I suppose, but not to written off by any means. As a Derryman, I look forward to warm support from Sluggerites and will be staying in touch with progress until the result is declared in September.

  • Paddy

    Whatever culture Derry has comes from its Derry hinterland. Posts like this rmeind me of the black guy going through a traditional American village theme park. When asked about it, hwe asked: what time is the lynching?

  • union mack

    It’s easy to have a go at Derry/Londonderry and question how it can ever be considered a city of culture, as some commentators do. But I would ask this. What have Sheffield, Birmingham, Durham got culturally that Derry doesn’t? Derry has a long, varied, diverse and tumultous history, moreso than any of those cities. If it’s commodified (and often imported) culture you want, look to Birmingham etc. If it’s real, tangible, meaningful culture (however problematic it can be at times) then Derry/Londonderry has to be in with a real shout. I hope it does win, it would be a great accolade for the city and a sign that, however slowly, things are getting better.

  • granni trixie

    If it gets it it might give Belfast the kick up the behind it needs to exploit the undoubted talent that is there to have a go next time.
    Fair play to Derry.

  • KieranJ

    The UK cemented its interest and love for Derry through Operation Motorman.

    Remember all the folks coming out with flowers for the troops?

  • joeCanuck

    Derry is a city full of history and culture, on both sides of the divide. It deserves to win this as much or more than any city, perhaps with the exception of London and Edinburgh, neither of which appear to have entered.

  • BryanS

    Am I wrong in thinking that some unionist people only started to call it Londonderry in everyday speech as a reaction to the IRA? My mother was born 4 or 5 miles from derry and althought a Protestant unionist I never ever heard her call it londonderry. Mind you she was born in 1901.
    Good luck derry in the competition.

  • Marcionite

    It would be good to see the accolade of UK City of Culture granted to a city outside the UK for the first time. I wholly support it.

    It was as heart warming as seeing the first all British All-Ireland final a couple of years ago between Tyroneshire and Fermanaghshire.

    Something for everyone.

  • Marcionite

    Armaghshire I meant. Bah

  • georgieleigh

    “Doire is the oak”

    Actually dair is an oak. Doire is an oakwood.

    Irish is complicated in that way.

  • union mack


    my parents lived through the extent of the troubles, and they still call it Derry in informal conversation to this day, though when writing an address etc. it is always L’Derry. I think we should go down the South African route of having dual names for places where it is disputed (eg. Natal/Kwa-Zulu), and let people choose what suits them.

  • BryanS

    thank you Mack. That is my understanding too. But I often hear prods from portadown etc making the point of calling it londonderry in casual converstaion. It rankles with me! Isn’t that strange.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Oh good omen here.
    That city in the North West wants to be a city of culture and already most of the posts are about the name of the city.
    Persoanlly I cant support it (my lack of support is something the organisers will have to overcome).

    Belfast tried for this.
    Dont know how much it all cost.
    But I know if you spend money……somebody else gets it.
    Which leads me to believe nobody organising these City of Culture/Commonwealth & Olympic Games jamborees will actually be poorer as a result.
    Some PR firm somewhere always does well.

    Let the organisers put their own money into the effort…..I know its a novel suggestion.

    Its a bit like Mel Brooks and The Producers movies. It does not actually matter to the organisers whether Derry/Londonderry is successful.
    It only matters to the ratepayers.

  • martin r

    Londonderry, UK City of Culture 2013

    Is this a wind up, has April 1st crept up on me un-noticed this year????

  • martin r

    As an afterthought, maybe the money spent on this could be given to Derry City FC and then at least they’d have a football team!

  • union mack

    Christ Almighty what a thought, they were so careful with the massive sums they recieved for Paddy Mc and wee Niall I guess it’s deserving!

  • Neil


    hate to be another party pooper, but am I not correct in recalling Derry had been advised not to enter as it had zero chance of being succesful? In that situation is it not simply a waste of money? Will anything be said when Derry fails in it’s bid, wasting however much money on a competition it couldn’t win from the get go?

    Just another example of the NI mentality, that somehow we’re entitled or important on the world stage? Like people hypothesising about Brown coming here, when dozens of world leaders were meeting to discuss Afghanistan and while the Haitian earthquake was front page news. In reality we don’t matter that much, but we fail to grasp this. In much the same way some Derry wans have decided that it’s a great old place, so advice be damned and put in for city of culture anyway.

  • This is old news Brian, there was a discussion about it here some time ago and someone rightly pointed out that it is a pretty meaningless, second rate competition. No doubt our rates hike will be going to fund this ‘Kugel Fresh’ type prize when they can’t even provide sand/grit bins for the cold weather. This money would be far better spent in any number of ways, including community programmes (even arts and culture wans), but the money goes as usual to the city centre heritage and riverside gentrification black hole. Here’s hoping the Council don’t get it, it will only encourage them.

  • abc123

    BryanS – “Am I wrong in thinking that some unionist people only started to call it Londonderry in everyday speech as a reaction to the IRA?”

    Unionists didn’t have a problem either way as they knew the official title kept the link with London. Then Pan-Nationalists started to insist that the name was Derry at all times. That caused many people to start using the official title again. It’s not unusual around the world for some cities to use shortened names. At least SF now recognise the value in the link with the City of London. Best wishes to Londonderry and their bid for the city of culture.

  • socaire

    addition to message 9. ilex is holly, quercus is the oak

  • BryanS

    This is most unsatisfactory. How am I ever going to learn Irish if you keep changing your mind on the word for oak
    Confused North Down

  • smellybigoxteronye

    Bryan S, abc123 is absolutely correct.

    Unionists call Londonderry “Derry” in the same colloquial way they might call Newtownards “Ards” or Carrickfergus “Carrick”.

    This is not the same as the Nationalist behaviour of zealously only calling it “Derry”, with a complete (and petty IMO) outright objection to the word “London”. Any Unionists calling it solely Londonderry is merely a reaction to this general Nationalist behaviour that became its most aggressive throughout the recent troubles – it is not specifically a reaction to the IRA.

  • joeCanuck

    smelly fellow,

    But they don’t call Ards LondonNewtonards or Carrickfergus (once my hometown) LondonCarrickfergus. You’re comparing oranges to lemons.

  • smellybigoxteronye

    joeCanuck – I’m simply explaining that from the perspective of unionists calling Londonderry “Derry” was seen in the same terms as calling any town with a long name, by its less formal shorter version. It only became an issue for Unionists once nationalists started making an issue out of the “London”.

  • joeCanuck

    I don’t think it’s an issue for most unionists. I grew up in Strabane and visit there every year or two. My unionists friends still call it Derry. Never heard anyone call it LondonDerry.

  • The Raven

    Souvarine @ 17. Councils don’t do grit/salt.

    Good luck to them, I say. I think the place is awful. Blue bag heaven.

  • smellybigoxteronye

    joeCanuck – your first sentence is what I’ve been trying to tell you – it’s generally NOT an issue for most Unionists – though when they say “Derry”, what they are saying is actually “‘derry”.

    If nationalists would give the official name a bit of recognition and stop making such a fuss, then they would actually win as everyone would just end up calling it “Derry” anyway – “Londonderry” would then be used in the less frequent formal and written contexts such as letters/maps etc.

    I don’t believe your last sentence.

  • joeCanuck

    Pray do tell us which other applicant city would meet with your approval?

    Aberdeen, Barnsley, Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton & Hove, Carlisle, Chester, Chichester, Chorley Council, City of Bath, Cornwall, Derby, Derry City, Durham, Gloucester & Cheltenham, Hull, Ipswich & Haven Gateway, Leicester City, Manchester, Norwich, Oxford, Pennine Lancashire, Reading, Sheffield, ‘The Countryside’, Urban South Hampshire and Wakefield.

    One other city has put its name forward but would prefer not to be named at this stage.

    Note that Belfast is there though Brian says that Derry is N.I.’s only entrant.

  • joeCanuck

    Smelly Fellow,
    My last sentence is entirely true if I modify it to say I never heard in person (face to face) anyone call the city Londonderry.

  • joeCanuck

    I’ll add, I have suggested in the past, and support still, calling the walled city Londonderry and having plaques at all the gates saying “You are now entering the ancient city of Londonderry”.

  • Davros

    Amazing, cuts to the arts budget but we still find the cash for a pointless opera company and doomed to fail bid for a city of culture.

    “lack of basic controls”,four freelance creative directors, no tender contracts, 28% of credit card expenditure unaccounted for. For giggles here’s the audit office report into Imagine Belfast…

    More constructively, I suggest the Stroke City boasters skip straight to p58

  • joeCanuck


    No bread and circuses for you then? Let the plebs suffer in silence, no mirth at all at all.

  • Davros

    If the bid is used to coax a few more million out of the taxpayers of Surrey I’m all for it but my feeling is it will take away from what little local funding there is for culture for some imaginary office jobs for arts bureaucrats for a few years.

    And sometime circa 2015 a NIAO report will surface along the lines of “This was obviously a totally crazy idea, we were up against Brighton”. Bid if you have something to bid with.

  • Seamus

    If nationalists would give the official name a bit of recognition and stop making such a fuss, then they would actually win as everyone would just end up calling it “Derry” anyway – “Londonderry” would then be used in the less frequent formal and written contexts such as letters/maps etc.

    I don’t believe your last sentence.

    Posted by smellybigoxteronye on Feb 04, 2010 @ 08:56 PM

    Thats why when i recently had reason to phone the police in Coleraine in connection with an aledged sectarian assault of a family member the officer taking the call said “pardon me where” twice before I caught on that i was`nt naming my City of residence properly when telling him where i was calling from.

  • abc123

    smellybigoxteronye – “If nationalists would give the official name a bit of recognition and stop making such a fuss, then they would actually win as everyone would just end up calling it “Derry” anyway – “Londonderry” would then be used in the less frequent formal and written contexts such as letters/maps etc.”