Whether it is the Derry Air, the Londonderry Air or Danny Boy you sing, one sure thing is that if you’re from the North West you have a more than reasonable chance to have a fine voice and musical talent – and as a musician born from the musical Cassidy clan from Derry I don’t need to throw the stone too far at all!
Of course another feature is the modesty of those in all of the Arts field whose names happily trip off the tongues internationally, nationally and locally…
The reality of this, given I’m watching and living this from a vantage point of 14 years in National politics and a lifetime based in Derry’s hinterland of Donegal, is just how both the difficulties and the opportunities associated with Derry intrinsically link us, in the North West together.
The North West is very much that jewel in the Island Crown – maybe others would say the Crowning glory that has not yet had its public Coronation? The ‘traditional route’ of funding and prioritisation was, and remains Easterly and so, this application for City of Culture could not be more timely.
Letting the secret out as to what a gem it is could bounce essential infrastructure such as the Dublin to Derry train up the funding ladder. It could ensure that the political charge of ‘nothing West of the Bann’ is explored, exploited and exchanged for a fairer more equal development of the natural beauty, the natural talent, the genuine opportunity that exists because of the people and the place – and, dare I say because of its capital of the North West status, with its twinning with Letterkenny.
Yes, within the words Derry, Londonderry, Doire, the Maiden City, Stroke City… there are the many dividing lines of culture. That is still a culture divided by the river Foyle.
Step back a level and you have ‘that city’, which is economically and geographically linked to Donegal by that same river – creating another enigma, as it is known as the North linked to the South, even though much of Donegal is North of Derry.
Step back again and you have an entity known as the North West, with wonderful diversity and loads to offer all who want a truly different cultural experience.
Yes, Derry has the features that can win any Cultural Challenge. It has its cultural challenges too. Come explore what’s there and help that next conversation get going as to how the cultures of this ‘multi named’ place that embraces a hinterland ‘North of the North’, can be redefined to unite or at least blur the ‘close up’ sharp distinctions that exist, to maximise the potential for the future of all of the community.