Derry Essays 7: Derry Culture or Londonderry Culture. Which?

Culture is a slippery concept to get a grip of. According to Chairman Mao: –

“ People live and move in culture as fish live and move in water.”

This is true of an homogeneous people like the Chinese. The people of Derry aren’t homogeneous but are culturally divided. A more apt view of Derry culture is that of Dr Goebbels: –

“ Every time I hear the word culture, I reach for my Luger and release the safety catch.”

This is true of Europe with its plethora of clashing cultures. The clash of cultures in Derry has been a factor in the troubles.

If one were to ask the Bogside —What is your culture? — You would be told –Irish–. But the nature of such a culture is unclear.  The people in the Bogside speak English watch the B. B. C. and I. T. V. and read the “ Catholic” Derry Journal. The same is true of the middle class Culmore Rd.

If one were to ask the people of the Fountain Estate their culture, you would be told — British–.but a British culture for the Fountain is as enigmatic as is an Irish culture for the Bogside. The people of the Fountain speak English, watch the B.B.C. and I.T.V. but read the  “ Protestant” Londonderry Sentinel.

The same is true of middle class protestant areas in the Waterside. A British culture is puzzle. There are English, Irish Scottish and Welsh cultures for sure but surely British has nothing to do with culture but with political power and economic strength. Sinn Fein’s objection to linking the term U.K. to culture in Derry is valid.

In fact the U.K. is a constitutional matter and is unconnected with culture.

Culture can be expressed in language, a literature of stature, song dance and music. Has Derry got a literature of stature? Brian Friel has rightly won international acclaim for drama but only two of his plays are about Derry. Brian Friel hasn’t attempted to bridge the city’s cultural divide in his writing. He is identified as being on the Irish side of the divide. The same is true of the writing of the Derry academic Seamus Deane.

Nothing more than song reflects the sectarian cultural divide of the city. A well known song about the city has two names — Lovely Derry on the Banks of the Foyle is the Catholic name— Londonderry on the Banks of the Foyle — is the Protestant name. The well-known song by Phil Coulter — The Town I Loved So Well – polarises the communities in these lines: –

“ Now the army’s installed by the old gas yard wall,

And the damned barbed wire gets higher and higher

With their tanks and guns, my God what have they done?

To the town I loved so well.”

This goes down well with the Catholic community but angers Protestants. They point out that these lines are a slur on the British Army and what was done to Derry was done by the guns car bombs and death squads of the Provisional I.R.A.

Dana is associated with the cultural life of the City but the song— All Kinds of Everything—is a song about anything and anyone. But by going into politics in the Republic and as a defender of Catholic values these place her on the Irish Catholic side the city’s cultural divide so like other Derry celebrities she doesn’t bridge the divide.

The Undertones won acclaim far beyond Derry with the pop song  —Teenage Kicks –.  But here Teenagers from the Protestant Waterside are reluctant to socialise in the Catholic West Bank lest they be assaulted. Those are the real “ Teenage Kicks” of Derry

The people are also divided over dance. Prior to the troubles there was a ballet school in the City but ballet was seen as dance for Protestants while Irish dance was dance for Catholics. Music is similarly divided.  There is a beautiful melody associated with Derry but in the Protestant community and by the B.B.C. the melody is named — The Londonderry Air– but in the Catholic community and on R.T.E. the melody is named — The Derry Air—.

The promotion of Derry as the U.K. City of Culture is an attempt by the British establishment in Ireland (North and South) and by Westminster to apply a cosmetic to mask the ugly sectarian scar that disfigures the face of the city. To correct this scar will require radical constitutional surgery not alone to the face of Derry but to the face of the whole of Ireland.

In the meantime Derry would be well advised to put culture on the back burner and make its first priority the eradication of the sectarian sickness that infects the city; the second priority is to have the city’s economic growth increase to raise the level of wealth in the city. Wealth and culture are inter-related.

The outstanding cities of culture in Europe like Milan, Florence, Venice, and Vienna, Paris and Berne are all wealthy cities. A wealthy non-sectarian Derry will be a cultural city. It has been said of Derry— If a Rembrandt were put up for sale in Derry one would be offered a fiver for the frame–.

, , , ,

  • Pete Baker

    “Sinn Fein’s objection to linking the term U.K. to culture in Derry is valid.”


    For a start the term U.K isn’t being linked to culture in this case.

    The bid is to become the UK City of Culture.

    Sinn Féin’s objection is to the linking of the term UK to the City part of that title.

    And that’s because they’re in the delusional position of pretending that we’re not in the UK.

  • Pete Baker

    For some reason the archived link isn’t working

    But here’s the quote from the Sinn Féin party leader on the council, Cllr Maeve McLaughlin

    “While we are a city of culture there has to be a recognition that we’re not part of the UK.”

  • Brian Walker

    Although I started the sequence I’m slightly sorry that the name thing has been so dominant in these essays. I think we need to get beyond description and analysis to prescription. I know too little about contemporary life in the town but I do remember that the edge of difference was much softer 30 years ago. We have to recover this and improve upon it.This will need determined institutional and personal effort.

    We can agree that the arts rise above the divide. Friel and Heaney were on my children’s English syllabus in SW London. Build upon this naturally common ground. And aim high. Raise cultural ambition, without limiting the genres. Artistic practice must reach a quality and produce a cultural as well a purely social benefit. Otherwise, it will fail..

    In my childhood the divide was apparent when both sides took part on the “English” ( or rather general European) Londonderry Feis for a week – all very proper, the classical singing and instrumental canon.

    The following week it was Catholics only for Feis Doire Colmcille – a fact I resented as a child as I could fiddle with the best of them. I got picked for the green kilted Little Gaelic Singers to go on an American tour but my Mammy wouldn’t let me go as my 11 plus was coming up.

    For music and drama which Derry thinks it’s good at, the aim today I suggest is to go upmarket a bit. The town is coming down with publicly subsidised theatres

    The Operatic society which had a passable amateur orchestra should be revived ( if it hasn’t been).

    Both sides together should exploit both the English choral and Roman traditions to the benefit of all in both cathedrals. The Church of England and the Catholic church in England do this as they do in Dublin, Why not in Derry?

    Like the GAA, Comhaltas should be pressed to go more cross community and foster those remnants of the Protestant tradition of Irish music that quietly survive in north Antrim.

    From now on I would hope for a genuinely shared culture with real efforts made to induct Prod kids into Irish music and dancing and reciprocally both sides into ” foreign ” and Gaelic games. The infrastructure for this mercifully survives

    It’s a rich prospect if they’d just get on with it. I suspect there’s a lot of well meaning messing about in subsidising self expression. That takes us into the controversial field of Arts Council policy but we won’t go there now. Maybe I’m unfair and they’ve done more than I think. But why don’t I know?. If I could get excited about it, so could thousands of others.

  • You have just about encapsulated the cultural ‘achilles heel’ of Derry/Londonderry. Why don’t we just call it ‘City A’ to avoid arguement?

    These pedantic arguements totally ignore or are at least insensitive to the ‘other sides’ political opinion. Directly or indirectly political and economic power has everything to do with culture. Money to make art has to come from somewhere & it’s the U.K. that has the purse strings tied on this one.

    It would be interesting to draw up a comparative report on government funding in Derry balanced between our British counterparts ‘across the water’ and population density. One things for sure creative enterprise is more facilitated over there than here and if your a creative (northern)-irishman in Britain prepare to be exploited.

    Derry’s cliques in the ‘media & arts sector’ mean that most creative jobs are ‘hatched off’ – little fresh water gets through and things remain very much behind the times in many senses.

    Even so there are an abundance of technological facilities available in the city it is just apparent that the politics of the key holders is very much ‘self preservation’ rather than social opportunity. For a true evolutionary cultural paradigm shift people from all classes and political backgrounds need to contribute to ‘The Walled city’.

    Unfortunately as a well educated, experienced and skilled person I feel walled out by ignorance. It’s a long walk from Culmore to the dole office and the paycheck is the same size. My ‘college boy’ education was the same as my friend’s from the Brandywell and the Waterside.

    In fact I cant help get the feeling if I had grown up round these parts I would have had more of an opportunity at home. Instead of having to live on a shoestring in a list of English bedsits and rented rooms having committed the worst ‘Derry Crime’ of all: Being Creative.

    If (London)Derry people support their own it may been a good idea to broaden perceptions of what that is. I’m certain there should be more of an output in a city that has learned to raise it’s voice and paint it’s walls…

    As Einstein once said. “The true measure of a city’s vitality is not it’s commerce but it’s art”

  • You’re missing the elephant in the room in that attempted synopsis of local culture. And ‘foreign’ sports? And the Church of England?


  • Interesting perspective from what I presume to be a mainstream art/media pov.

    It would be interesting to draw up a comparative report on government funding in Derry balanced between our British counterparts ‘across the water’ and population density.

    But across the water there is no need to fund the politically-inspired projects that pass for art or whatever over here. Our share of government budgeting attention gets spent on such black holes as the Bloody Sunday Inquiry and other opportunistic political guilt-trips and sops.

    Very little (time or budget) left over for real progressive measures once the local politicians and media tell everyone what’s in our interest.

  • Tell that to Victor Sloan or Willie Doherty about politically inspired projects. The panel of the turner prize are aware! Who say’s all art must be politically inspired?

    In truth The Bloody Sunday inquiry is a waste of money. The government’s deception has cost millions. The murder of unarmed civilians by an army that was supposed to keep the peace goes unrecognised. It’s more like justice for state murder
    I have met British people who said they would have joined another army in those circumstances…

    In reality backward politics is at the root of the problem as you have highlighted: Social justice is low on the agenda. Once again it is this kind of social inequality that stunts the potential creative output of a great city. Not all art is politically inspired. Sometimes art just is…

  • basta

    “an homogenous people like the Chinese….” hmnn

  • Spotty Muldoon

    I think this essayist is over-egging the pudding. The only people in my experience who really care – and I mean really get hot under the collar about the Derry/Londonderry thing, are people who don’t live in Derry and never visit. To me, Derry is an abbreviation, much as Carrick is an abbreviation for Carrickfergus. As a Culmore dweller who did ballet and never reads the rag that is the “Journal”, I find it hard to recognise the stereotypes in the essay. For that’s what they are. We need to get over ourselves. And I wonder how our Chinese readers will react to being described as homogenous? For God’s sake, you couldn’t get more homogenous than the people on the island of Ireland.

  • Who say’s all art must be politically inspired?

    Such is the nature of the politically patriarchal society NI is enveloped in. As if to emphasise the point you yourself are unable diverge into your own political viewpoints when comparing other spending projects in the cold light of day.

    Sometimes art just is…

    No more than drawing the dole is in my book.

  • Sectarianism is so much part of the culture of Derry that I suppose it is impossible to discuss one without including the
    other. It has so many manifestations that are a permanent part of the culture of the city. Nor should we want to somehow banish sectarianism. It is part of Derry,

  • Seamus Crawley

    What I have enjoyed about these essays, is the utter nonsense that Protestants don’t socialize in ‘Derry’. What a load of crap, thousands of Protestants live and socialize on the ‘West Bank’, and did right through the ‘Troubles’. Why don’t the writers of these essays follow essay writing rules-do the research and don’t give opinion!!!

  • smellybigoxteronye

    “but surely British has nothing to do with culture but with political power and economic strength”

    What a lot of nonsense! There is a common British culture throughout the entire British Isles.

  • What is important is that the culture of the city reflects all the differences between us, and no city does that better than Derry.

  • St Etiene your grammar is terrible for such a proudly argumentative British man.
    Culture and politics aren’t mutually exclusive. That’s a general consensus and a global one. Clearly your not familiar with Du Champ.

    Your aggressive and ignorant comments symbolise either your own short sightedness or maybe the people you represent. My own political viewpoints are not relevant: It’s about the good of the people.
    There have been better arguments over scottish football teams!
    Thanks for trying, keep practising…

  • Michael Gillespie

    If the Irish are a homegenous people why is the island partitioned? China isn’t partitioned. The European cities of culture aren’t culturally subsidised but are culturally self sufficient.

  • The borders of some countries are drawn in straight lines across a map. I am not positive but I believe France lost Quebec in a game of cards, and the French Canadian argument has gone on ever since, fortunately the Canadians, apparently so much more civiliised than we are, restrict their confrontations to the ballot box.

    The city of Derry has many scars, they are part of its culture. The people created the culture and there are a few dinosaurs who cling to sectarian enclaves, which, you guessed it, are also part of the culture of the city. In the meantime and despite the best efforts of some to derail the application, Derry is still on the shortlist.

    The award would enable the people, those who unconsciously or not create the culture of the city, to create jobs, tourism and income in an area badly effected by the recession.

  • What about Imagine Belfast 2008?
    Here’s a quote:
    “NIAO believes the actions of the key organisation, in particular the earmarking of £9 million by the Arts Council and £33 million by Government for arts & sports capital infrastructure developments, regardless of the success of the bid, show commitment to the spirit of the Belfast Bid”

    I DJ’ed at the reception for this in Belfast. I’d love to contribute to ‘The Walled City’s’ bid. Perhaps in a way I already have. Places like the aptly named Void and Nerve Centre could do with funding to enable more people to actually create things the city can be proud of. Accessibility is paramount: not everybody gets ‘Swan Lake’. Culture needs a sponsor. It’s not a charity: It’s a source of meaning, depth and positivity from all backgrounds and all generations. One thing is for certain, if it is big enough everybody will be there. Even the bigots and the thieves that detract from the greater good. Which like sport is what Art is all about….:-)

  • I completely agree with you. If you want to participate why not contact the sponsors of the bid?

  • I’m not sure why you choose to, oh what’s the term, play the man here? I’m pointing out the contradictions in your argument. Aggressive? Nah.

    The point stands – the cultural movements locally have been hijacked by politicians here since the dawn of time. Of that there can be no doubt. That they use these as weapons no different to an independent tribunal/money pit for lawyers is the reason we are underdeveloped elsewhere.

    I’m therefore somewhat incredulous each time I hear someone cry inequality, and in the same breath put forward some other accusatory political point.

    I don’t know how you expect a mainstream ‘media and arts’
    sector here to gain from this approach. Granted it’s been bread into us, again with the dependency culture. The time for change has come.

  • Culture needs a sponsor

    Culture does not need a sponsor. Most worthwhile culture is voluntary.

    I’m not saying culture cannot be funded. But the idea it has to be is plain wrong.

  • No culture does not need a sponsor, the idea is not just wrong it is silly. However, the City of Derry needs people to promote the application.

  • Alias

    “This is true of an homogeneous people like the Chinese.”

    Actually, China is comprised of 56 nations. There is no common language, with its nations speaking a mix of Sino-Tibetan and non-Sinitic languages. The largest Chinese nation is the Han, which comprises circa 91% of the population of China.

    From a homogeneous perspective, the Irish nation on the island of Ireland and the minority British nation are virtually indistingushable from each other. The main differences are political and religious, with culture being another indistingushable factor.

    Other minority nations on the island of Ireland (at one time the Poles looked like replacing the British as Ireland’s largest minority nation) are far less homogeneous than the two nations in Derry.

  • “If a Rembrandt were put up for sale in Derry one would be offered a fiver for the frame”

    I hate to be rude…
    If Rembrandt’s are going for a fiver in Derry surely some funding in comparative stakes to Belfast will be needed. The title of ‘European City of Culture’ still means the same thing it did when Image Belfast was thought up…
    Sadly persistent pedantic comments continue, perhaps Jesus can help there… Government funding is a form of legislative sponsorship -let’s not split hairs. Though another idea would be some form of Commercial Sponsorship from big business Tesco etc.. I do not represent anyone, just trying to contribute positively to a dialog about my home town. I wish all the people in charge of contributing the very best of luck. There are some stellar people to do so and I hope they reach the people they need to reach…

    Some sponsored festivals…

  • Jim
  • Michael Gillespie

    To the person who claims there is a British Culture I will attempt to explain the difficulty in this in this way.

    Poetry is a well known expression of a culture. If one takes the well known line by Robert Browning: –

    “ Oh to be in England now that April’s there.”

    And replaces England with either Great Britain or the U.K. the line becomes laughable rubbish.

    Similarly if one takes William Blake’s line: –

    “ Till we have built the New Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land.”

    And replaces England with either Great Britain or the U.K. again the line’s reduced to laughable rubbish.

    Shakespeare wrote great poetry about England. W.B. Yeats wrote great poetry about Ireland. Robert Burns wrote great poetry about Scotland and Dylan Thomas wrote great poetry about Wales but I know of no poet who wrote poetry about Britain, Great Britain or the U.K .so what is British culture?

    I invite the person who claims there is a British culture to write a poem about Great Britain and one about the U.K. and publish them both in Slugger

  • Michael Gillespie

    The thing about the culture of a place is that it is an amalgamation of all the influences. England is not just England, any more than Ireland (in spite of all the protestations) is not just Irish. Culture is not bound by our rules. It starts off that way yes, but it evolves and gives the area or country that which makes them unique. England is a green and pleasant land, but so is Ireland and so is almost every other country. If grass were culture everyone would be bored rigid.

  • This is the work of one of the most accessible poets from Britain that appeals to people from all areas of ‘The Walled City’
    Masterful wordsmith Jon Lydon had this to say of the UK. It proved to be an influential satirical piece that provoked a thriving music scene in the North. The lyrics are as follows…

    Right! now
    ha ha ha ha ha…

    I am an antichrist
    I am an anarchist
    Don’t know what I want
    But I know how to get it
    I wanna destroy passerby

    ‘Cause I wanna be Anarchy
    No dogsbody

    Anarchy for the UK
    It’s coming sometime and maybe
    I give a wrong time stop at traffic line
    Your future dream is a sharpie’s scheme

    ‘Cause I wanna be Anarchy
    In the city

    How many ways to get what you want
    I use the best
    I use the rest
    I use the N.M.E
    I use Anarchy

    ‘Cause I wanna be Anarchy
    It’s the only way to be

    Is this the M.P.L.A or
    Is this the U.D.A or
    Is this the I.R.A
    I thought it was the UK
    Or just another country
    Another council tenancy

    I wanna be Anarchy
    And I wanna be Anarchy
    (Oh what a name)
    And I wanna be anarchist
    I get pissed, destroy!

    A kind of Neo-elequence really captured the spirit of the moment in the 1970’s dont you think.

    Very fitting around election time!

  • Another more reasonable and agreeable viewpoint comes from these guys. The yin and yang are necessary that’s for sure…

    Is it getting better
    Or do you feel the same
    Will it make it easier on you now
    You got someone to blame
    You say…

    One love
    One life
    When it’s one need
    In the night
    One love
    We get to share it
    Leaves you baby if you
    Don’t care for it

    Did I disappoint you
    Or leave a bad taste in your mouth
    You act like you never had love
    And you want me to go without
    Well it’s…

    Too late
    To drag the past out into the light
    We’re one, but we’re not the same
    We get to
    Carry each other
    Carry each other

    Have you come here for forgiveness
    Have you come to raise the dead
    Have you come here to play Jesus
    To the lepers in your head

    Did I ask too much
    More than a lot
    You gave me nothing
    Now it’s all I got
    We’re one
    But we’re not the same
    Well we
    Hurt each other
    Then we do it again
    You say
    Love is a temple
    Love a higher law
    Love is a temple
    Love the higher law
    You ask me to enter
    But then you make me crawl
    And I can’t be holding on
    To what you got
    When all you got is hurt

    One love
    One blood
    One life
    You got to do what you should
    One life
    With each other
    One life
    But we’re not the same
    We get to
    Carry each other
    Carry each other



  • Alias

    GB (and the UK) is a political alliance of four principle non-sovereign nations, so it is not surprising that those nations would write about their particular nation and its country. Being British as opposed to English or Welsh would be a displacement of their sense of nationhood.

    It’s a bit unfair to confine the challenge to writing a poem about a constitutional construct and to imply that because this is difficult that British culture does not exist. It exists in all of those novels and stories that feature characters from those four non-sovereign nations, and that do so to reflect life as it is lived in either of those countries. So even if it is a requirement of being a member of the British nation that one must first be a member of another nation, the culture can arise from that political construct if that is the choice of the author.

    The author is usually classified as British rather than as a member of his particular nation, but that is primarily to censor the nationalism of the non-sovereign nations, ensuring that they see themselves as part of a shared past, shared present and shared future.

    It is only in Northern Ireland where the requirement to be a member of another nation before being British is discarded and replaced with the abnormality of being British only. Those who see themselves as Irish and British do so under the constitutional construct that they have no right to be a sovereign nation. That is what it means to be British. That is also the exact opposite of what it means to be Irish, since we hold to the principle of being a sovereign nation. So those who claim to be both British and Irish can never actually be Irish since it requires them to believe in being a sovereign nation and, ergo, to stop being British. Hence the GFA spiel of being “Irish or British or Both” is utter nonsense.

    I accept your point (in your main article) about ballet/Irish dancing in Derry but the common culture there is dance, so the two nations both share a culture of dance. Even within nations there is diversity within homogeneity that serves to subtlety differentiate, i.e. folks support different footballs team and different social groups favour different types of dance. These are very minor cultural differences that should be of no consequence. There isn’t any significant difference between the two nations, i.e. a culture of arranged marriages or greater or less respect for the elderly, etc. I challenge you to name one major cultural difference.

    It is true, however, that what the British nation in Northern Ireland largely defines itself by not being Irish. It dislikes the Irish state because that state exists to promote and to protect Irish culture. That is its major dysfunction, and is not one that can be remedied by hoodwinking the Irish nation into converting itself into a non-sovereign nation which has no right to use the state to promote its own national interests as is the process set out in the GFA.

    The British nation in Ireland is tiny. On the island of Ireland it is a minority. There can be no shared ownership of the state, any more than the state can be shared with the Polish nation or other minority nations but can be a respect for different cultures, and that already exists in Ireland. The trick will be to create it within Northern Ireland. That will take another few generations and the disposal of the GFA.

  • Alias

    Just to clarify: they can be Northern Irish and British but not Irish and British, since British has as its core concept the beleif that the prnciple nation should not be sovereign whereas Irish has the exact opposite concept. Hence Being Irish and British is self-contradicting.

  • skinbop

    Thousands of Protestants LIVED on the West Bank – let don’t anymore – care to enlighten us on the reason Seamus? Maybe you can do some research yourself.

  • fionn

    “Actually, China is comprised of 56 nations. There is no common language, with its nations speaking a mix of Sino-Tibetan and non-Sinitic languages. The largest Chinese nation is the Han, which comprises circa 91% of the population of China.”

    side point, but they do have a common language, called pu tong hua (literally translated as ‘common language’). This is widely used (to varying degrees of accuracy) and frequently resented as a settlers language in the further-flung regions.

    Glad you said it though. To outsiders Chinese may seem a homogenous people, they certainly are not, even within the Han grouping. Local customs come very much into play here. To the extent that each province has it’s own dialect, and sometimes even distinct languages.

    A person may describe themselves as Han, but they will usually identify first with the local region/customs/traditions and secondly with the Han tradition.

  • Perhaps you people in Northern Ireland should take a lead off the british. In mainland uk many different cultures are celebrated for example: Irish/Italian/polish:British, the various asian/african communities & in particular British Jamaican.
    Queen Elizabeth II is known as the ‘Queen of Jamaica. She doesn’t visit very often and this is more of an official title. This is metaphoric of politics here don’t you think…
    There exists perhaps no conception the meaning of which is more controversial than that of sovereignty. It is an indisputable fact that this conception, from the moment when it was introduced into political science until the present day, has never had a meaning which was universally agreed upon.

  • Battle of the Bogside

    Thousands of Protestants live, work and socialise on the West bank of the Foyle, that is a fact. You are listening to propaganda from Campbell. They have lived here all through the troubles with no hassle. That is a fact!!!

  • Let’s face it. Northern Ireland will always have a duality complex in regards to it’s culture. As will Stroke city. This is a never ending argument that can be sparred out forever. In reality it is the co-exitence of the British-Irish cultural heritage that makes this part of the world unique. Unfortunately bigots and narrow mindedness from both sides of the fence make co-existance not as harmonious as it should be.
    Argument for arguments sake and uncompromising identities from hard line traditionalists on either side make things difficult. On the other hand, the plus sides of shared educational resources and performance venues etc are much more positive. The re-imaging communities project (in Caw for an example) and projects like Different Drum are truly positive. For a long time there has been a shared international and local Arts presence with the Orchard, Context & Void galleries for example. A great international film festival: Foyle Film Festival. A welcoming dance and rock music scene, youth festivals, drama groups/performances and the occasionally uber-day out a-la BBC Radio 1, Oasis etc. The best form of tribalism is a non-politicised, non-violent one where people from everywhere can enjoy creative input everywhere from the dance-floors of sweaty night clubs to the latest Jeremy Deller installation.
    History should not be ignored but surely the best culture is multi-culture. Ironically if you claim to be British or Irish or Both then you must recognise that the rest of Britain or Ireland is much more open to a shared cultural heritage. The fountain of youth contains water from everywhere & fish prefer the freshwater…

  • Michael Gillespie

    I would point to Alias I’m considering culture not the constitutional set up of these Islands. I’ve a perfectly good knowledge of that and a spiel on the subject doesn’t help. I would help if Alias would stick to the point and answer the question under consideration—What is British culture? Britain and the U.K. are not the stuff of poetry so what are these culturally. Britain and the U.K. are disputed constitutional entities that divide the people here and elsewhere. I don’t wish to enter into that dispute but to look at culture.

    Verse by Jon Lydon has been quoted but this verse belongs to the literary genre satirical verse but not to poetry, which belongs to a different literary genre. Moliere and Swift wrote satire but never poetry. Shakespeare wrote poetic tragedy and comedy but I’ve never heard of any of his work being called satire. Pope wrote satirical verse but Wordsworth revolted against that and wrote poetry. Poetry expresses culture but what we now need is a satirist who will hold-up the sectarian culture of Derry and Ireland to ridicule and scorn.

    An attempt is made to classify all the literature and culture of these islands as British. This classification is political and bogus and doesn’t stand-up to analysis.

    A writer says there are 56 nations in China. If there is, is there 56 borders in China?. It would help if the writer would explain what a nation is. Did Chairman Mao see China as a territory of 56 nations? I don’t think so. In his statement on culture he saw it as one thing.

  • British culture is endemic to these islands – pop culture here is largely a shared British identity.

  • Brian Walker

    We are hell for getting off on definitions aren’t we?
    “Britishness” has most recently been described historically by the husband and wife team of historians David Canadien and Linda Colley, dating from the union of parliaments in 1707 .See Colley’s definition in “Britons”:

    Colley’s Britain was accomplished before the Victorian Age, a Britain of England, Scotland, and Wales, more linked than blended, and forged in the face of menacing “Other[s]”: “The sense of a common identity here did not come into being, then, because of an integration and homogenization of disparate cultures. Instead, Britishness was superimposed over an array of internal differences in response to contact with the Other, and above all in response to conflict with the Other.”

    In others words, Britishness was forged in war and empire building – not altogether inappropriate for Ireland but nowadays being redefined in “values” like the NHS.

    Note though, no mention of any part of Ireland in these works. In the old UK, “British,” where it was not synonymous with “England,” referred only to Great Britain and not Ireland.The term was not all embracing althugh where both were mentioned collectively, no doubt “British was applied. The concept of citizenship was vague and tended not to be used. “England” was the broad generic in politics used as much as “Britain” until I suppose well afrter WW2.

    What does all this do for Derry? Well, recogniition of Britishness is as valid as Irishness is the correct equality stance and has the merit of formal accuracy.

    On refs to “British” in poetry I can immediately think of Masefeld ‘s Cargoes”

    Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
    Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
    With a cargo of Tyne coal,
    Road-rails, pig-lead,
    Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays
    learnt in Londonderry half a century and more ago.

  • Brilliant!

  • Alias

    Actually, all nationalities are the product of a “constitutional set” so it nonsense to seperate Chinese culture from China, French culture from France, or Irish culture from Ireland.

    British culture is, as I described it above, a product of Great Britian/UK. The clue to the relationship between the nation and its state might be in China/Chinese…

    If you don’t believe in categories like Irish or Chinese then why do you use them?

  • Battle of the Bogside

    Still awaiting moderation????????????


    If 80-90,000 people live on the West bank, at least 8000 would be 1in10. 4000 would be 1in20, 2000 would be 1in 40. Think about it. Where are you from by the way???

  • Battle of the Bogside


    How can Irish people, be they Anglo-Irish or British-Irish be true British, when they are not born nor do they live in Britain?

    Both acts of Union, 1707 and 1800 were not put to the people, the people who agreed to them were bribed. The acts were not democratic, therefore are both illegal!

  • At the end of the day it’s paperwork and perception.
    This man was born in England and carries an Irish Passport.

    He’s a 1 off though…

  • Alias

    “A writer says there are 56 nations in China. If there is, is there 56 borders in China?. It would help if the writer would explain what a nation is. Did Chairman Mao see China as a territory of 56 nations? I don’t think so. In his statement on culture he saw it as one thing.”

    I skipped this part of your post in my earlier reply but I’ll now come back to it.

    I think you are confusing a nation with a sovereign state, and mistakenly assuming that every nation is sovereign within a nation-state. While you may not be able to identify a nation, those who are able to do so have identified over 7,500 of them. Counting the number of sovereign states in the world is less problematic: there are 194 of them. Since there are considerably more nations in the world than there are sovereign states it rather obviously follows that not all nations are sovereign.

    Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England are not counted as sovereign states, so you can again rather obviously conclude that there are more countries in the world than there are states. The English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish are all non-sovereign nations. Since those four non-sovereign nations all share one nationality, you can again rather obviously conclude that there more are nations than there are nationalities, and again rather obviously conclude that all of these terms are not interchangeable.

    So is there really any need to obfuscate, equivocate or pretend that you don’t know what a nation is or how there could be 56 official nations in China but only one sovereign state?

    Are those non-sovereign nations stateless? Some are stateless nations depending on the degree of nationalism present but most operate under the banner of a common nationality, e.g. those non-sovereign nations in China or in the UK are all sovereign under their common nationality of Chinese or British. So, again with rather obviously conclusions, a non-sovereign nation can be sovereign under its nationality but not, rather obviously, under its own nation.

    So if you want to label culture by the nationality of its author then it is you who needs to sort out what a nation or a nationality is, not others who do not share your confusion. There is a British culture because a constitutional entity called Great Britain exists. As for Chairman Mao: sorry but I just can’t see why his opinion has any relevance whatsoever.

    Incidentally, why do you use the ghastly politically correct term “these islands” as a euphemism for “the British isles” and then dispute that British culture even exists? The only reason a common British nationality exists is to create a common nationalism for the subjugated nations that comprise the UK. It is only in the later have of the 20th century that political devices such as “parity of esteem” were created to give equality to non-sovereign nations. The UK, as a political construct, doesn’t have any cultural output that it constituent parts would not have had independently of its creation. True, a lot of culture has been created lamenting its existence but that creativity would have been directed to other subjects. Indeed, the UK acted to suppress the cultural output of its subjugated nations, ridiculing such indigenous efforts, and in the case of Ireland, preventing the population from receiving an education. If the UK disappeared, it wouldn’t be lamented by the cultural world as a loss of a construct that generated art (but its shilling might).

  • skinbop

    I don’t live on the west bank if that’s what you’re wondering. Where exactly are you pulling your statistics (facts) from?

    Lets see some real figures otherwise they’re not facts – just figments of your imagination.

    I believe thousands are working their.

  • Battle of the Bogside

    They are not stats they are figures that say that if 1in40 people on the West Bank were Protestant that would be thousands. Are you really saying that this is not the case? How would you know the situation on the West bank when you don’t live here? I do and know hundreds of Protestants who do live here and have done so through out the ‘troubles’.

  • No mention of the local loyalists. Again.

    No mention of Britpop culture – the most outward display of a shared culture on these islands.

    No suprise though – Walker has consistently ignored any deviation from his political prerogative.

  • No mention of the local loyalists. Again.

    No mention of Britpop culture – the most outward display of a shared culture on these islands.

    No surprise though – Walker has consistently ignored any deviation from his political prerogative.

  • because British for the benefit of the pedants, can also refer to the isles…

  • Battle of the Bogside

    While you are correct, you are also incorrect. Britain is the territory of Great Britain and its islands. It does not include the island of Ireland and its islands!

  • Michael Gillespie

    Nothing in the replies to my article in Slugger on culture changes my view that Britishness is bound up with political power and economic strength and is apart from culture. The poem Cargoes by John Masefield quoted by Mr Walker reinforces my stance on Britishness. There is a contrast of the cargoes (culture) in the poem. There are the sophisticated glamorous cargoes (cultures) of the Quinquireme of Nineveh and of the stately Spanish Galleon. These cargoes (culture) are contrasted with the Cargo (culture) of the dirty British coaster. Its cargo (culture) consists of articles of trade, items of commerce and economic goods. So Masefield’s view of British culture is much the same as mine. So Mr Walker in quoting this poem has shot himself in the foot.

    Mr Walker also noted that Britishness is bound up with war. So it is. Sticking with poetry as a true expression of culture, the English poet Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem for the Irish Guards in W.W.1.because his son fought with the Irish Guards and was killed in action. The poem is long but I’ll give an extract to show its quality

    “ Ah France did we stand by you.
    Then life was made splendid with gifts and rewards
    Ah France will we deny you
    IN the hour of your agony Mother of Swords
    Old days – the wild geese are flighting
    Head to the storm as they faced it before
    For where there’s Irish there’s loving and fighting
    And when we stop either – It’s Ireland no more
    Ireland no more.”

    And also

    After one hundred and seventy years of fighting
    We’re fighting for France again.

    While The Irish Guards are a regiment of the British army the word British isn’t used in the poem The Irish Guards aren’t fighting for Britain but for France and Ireland. The poem gives the Guards a strong robust Irish culture not a British culture whatever that is. This can be contrasted with The Ulster Volunteer Force in W.W.1 What poet or poetry expresses their orange culture. I don’t know of any. There is the play –Observe the Loyal Sons of Ulster Marching towards the Somme. This is an anti war play that highlights the emptiness of the Ulstermen’s mission their wrong headedness and their lack of education. It depicts their culture as a thin veneer of Irishness. But the play underscores the folly of war for the U.V.F. in W.W.1

    Alias has written another spiel about the distinction between a nation and a sovereign state. I would point to Alias that the well-known song is – A Nation Once Again—Not a Sovereign State Once Again. Americans call their country a Nation not a sovereign state. Instead of setting himself up as a self appointed authority on Nations and Sovereign States the person should look up the dictionary understanding of a nation. I quote: –
    A nation is an aggregate of people usually the inhabitants of a specified territory who share common customs, origins, history and frequently a common language with a single government and an agreed constitution.
    In that understanding of a nation the six county state doesn’t fit the bill. The people don’t share a common origin. The customs of orange parades aren’t shared but are contentious and are resisted. But above all else the people have been at loggerheads over the U. K. Constitution since its inception. The constitution was imposed in an undemocratic manner in 1801. In the six county state it is still imposed on a significant portion of the population. The current election comes across as another referendum on the constitution showing a people split over it as they have been in every election since 1921. But while the B.B.C hype calls the six county state, a nation, that doesn’t stand up to rational scrutiny.

    How ever I don’t wish to get dragged into dispute over an imposed undemocratic constitution with U.K. zealots. What puzzles me is British culture. In my understanding, for a culture to be a culture it must be expressed by poets in poetry. That is a sine qua non of all cultures. What poets or poetry express British culture? Can we lump Shakespeare W B Yeats Robert Burns and Dylan Thomas together and call them British poets expressing an homogeneous British Culture? Surely not. This is false fake phoney bogus and politically stage-managed.

  • God help anyone trying to be individual, innovative and rebellious then!
    Culture from this part of the world in 2010 should be gauged by the people who create it. The danger of over scrutiny and arm chair critique is that it becomes detached from the pulse of what’s happening right now: Progression – that is the most important thing. Romanticising and trying to poetically or specifically categorise culture by Irish/British branding often loses the intended spirit of what was created. I know at least 20 creative people from Derry who wouldn’t put any sort of flag on their creations. There’s more truth in Culture than there is in Politics. I’d rather promote what people are creating than what they are fighting about…

  • Michael Gillespie

    I agree with Paul that there is truth in culture but not in politics. There are of course lots of creative people in Derry; a visit to Mc Gilloway’s Gallery will confirm that. The gallery is strong in landscapes of a high order some of Derry but are mostly of Donegal. For that reason the art in the gallery is best classified as Irish art, but in the classification it’s immaterial if the artist flies the Union Jack, The Irish Tricolour, The Hammer And The Sickle or no flag or how the artist votes. How ever if one calls Mc Gilloway’s Gallery, Mc Gilloway’s U.K. Gallery the art therein is being politicized. That is artistically unacceptable. But in the name Derry, U.K. City of Culture, culture is being politicized and if one politicizes culture one politicizes art.

  • I’m out with this quote by Charlie Brooker
    ‘There’s no point debating anything online. You might as well hurl shoe in the air to knock clouds from the sky. It provides scant room for debate and infinite opportunities for fruitless point scoin:the heady combination of percieved anonymity, gestated responses, random heckling and a notational ‘live audience’ quickly conspire to create a ‘perfect storm’ of perpetual bickering. Eventually on side gets bored, comes to it’s senses, or dies and the row fizzles out: just another needles belch in the swirling online guffstorm.’ Perhaps Mr Brooker’s cultural outlook is more concise than all of us…

  • skinbop

    Just point me to the reference which shows that BOB – otherwise you have nothing to say. Where exactly do these hundreds of people live – you hang out in the Fountain a lot do you? And I thought you said there were thousands – maybe you only know 1 in 40 of the West Bank Protestants?

  • Battle of the Bogside

    I do not have to prove anything about where I live to someone who does not live here nor does not know the facts on the ground. I know many Protestant families who live on the Westbank. I do not know everyone who lives on the Westbank but if 1in40 were protestant, then they would represent thousands. Your bigoted views do not allow you to deviate from the unionist rhetoric that is ingrained in your head by the sectarian socialisation accustomed to people like you!!!

  • skinbop

    BOB – so asking you to back up your wild claims with facts and references makes me a sectarian unionist bigot? how so?

    I think we all know who the real bigot is here – I think we’ve all seen your type running about the town.

  • Battle of the Bogside

    How would you know your a unionist, according to you, you can’t go ‘over the town’. I’m no bigot, as I have said I know hundreds of Protestant people, I socialise with Protestant people, I live next door to Protestant people, I have no problem with Protestant people. What I don’t like is the propaganda spewed out by people like you and Gregory Campbell, who mis-represent the City and its Catholic/nationalist people and their attitudes towards Protestants. A little question for you. Nationalist taxi’s in the city are attacked every weekend. Who is it that attacks them, loyalist hoods egged on by loyalist bigots in the Fountain and Bond St/Nelson Drive – Fact!!!

    Derry’s loyalist bigots need to do what their decent Protestant neighbours do and integrate into the city and end the siege mentality!!!

  • Just to be hypocritical again. This track is perhaps a better conclusion.
    My spelling and grammar is awful in parts & at times I may be off the mark but I cant help thinking this track is related to Stroke City in some way… STRANGE OVERTONES

    “You are strong and you are tough but a heart is not enough”

    I think that sums up the cultural outlook in the north west…

  • Anonymous
  • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. British culture was always about manipulating non – English people to act for England’s profit.

  • Battle of the Bogside

    Which Union country has profited and grown from the Union?

    Which three countries’ growth has not been any were near the dominant nation?

    Which Union country got all the motorways while the other three got one each?

    Which country gets the most investment in rail infrastructure?

    Which Union country, which gets an unfair slice of the pie, draws people to work its industry and commerce?

    Which three Union countries, which suffer from massive unemployment, do they mostly come from?