Suzanne Breen has written the first major sceptical (but not cynical) piece about UK City of Culture. Eamonn is quoted as verging on the negative but rescues himself with his own positive take.
“It must not become the bland leading the bland. There is a lot of darkness in Derry and that must be reflected – the death, the despair, the hatred and the grief. Great art can come out of war and conflict. I’m reminded of the quote: ‘In Switzerland, they had 500 years of peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock’.”
The quote was from a post war spiv profiteer played by Orson Welles, not necessarily an authority on Switzerland. The same point could be made about the new Free State when the Celtic revival went stone dead. But who would have swapped it for the civil war? History only repeats itself if we let it.
Many of the commenters in Suzanne’s overview stand back with arms folded, lips pursed waiting to be impressed, some of them privately hoping for failure. They are the sort of people who always wait for someone else to buy the next round. The better ones are victims of the Ulster disease, the curse of blogs and public opinion generally, for whom history tells an unrelieved bad story and who are gripped by the sad, often aggressive passivity we know so well. The worst are the inevitable detritus of the Troubles.
It’s one thing to be starry-eyed, another to welcome the kiss of death. UK City of Culture will I’m sure provide Eamonn with lots of material for a socialist analysis. The answer for most people will be to pitch in and help make the whole thing an even better show. By the will of the people, it is not going to fail.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London