City of Culture: badge of authority around which people can gather to work collectively?

I’ve always assumed there was more than a passing similarity between Liverpool and Derry. Neither is quite what they were, both have a long history as a major deep water port, with propensity to look outwards rather than inwards. As I passed through my old haunts in the English city the other day, I came across this piece by Phil Redmond on Liverpool, Derry and the evolution of the UK City of Culture:

Principally, it is merely the badge of authority around which people can gather to work collectively and collaboratively. That badge then allows each city to define it’s own culture, how it sees itself, not how others label them. Thirdly, it empowers them to use that culture to bring about a step change in their own city. What they want to achieve. Not what others think they should achieve.

The fourth idea, taking on even more significance over the last couple of years, is that the badge should come with no extra funding, encouraging people to collaborate with what they have, not what they would wish for.

The principle beneath it all is to get people actually talking to each other, rather than have conversations around pre-set agendas, which leads to the understanding that “culture”, in its widest sense, includes but is not restricted to the arts and heritage. It is the result of our shared creativity.

It is about ideas and principle and things and events that bring us together as much as push us apart, at times. In Derry-Londonderry, one big gain so far is that very name, now in common usage. Yet before the award in 2010, which side of the hyphen you used defined your sectarian beliefs.

And more specifically, on the Derry bid:

In Derry-Londonderry, one big gain so far is that very name, now in common usage. Yet before the award in 2010, which side of the hyphen you used defined your sectarian beliefs.

There is a small minority that still struggles with the UK element of the title, but 400 years of history will not be displaced easily. It will take time, perhaps a generation or two, but for the overwhelming majority there is now at least recognition that there is life beyond the divide.

Hmmmm… I should think that, with a few exceptions that hyphen continues to do just that… but since the name can’t change without the Queen getting involved, maybe the city of culture year will be an invitation to put away such arguments?

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  • The Northwest version of BT often has banners underneath it’s masthead claiming to support the city’s culture title, but insists on the single ‘derry in it’s use of the name, throughout it’s news stories.

  • Having lived in Brighton in the early 90s, I thought it resembled Derry more with all the steep streets and the old Lanes area.