It’s heart warming to see the Independent commissioning an essay about UK City of Culture 2013. The piece tells us much about the generation and background of Grainne Maguire, the young writer with a southern background and experience of living in London for whom the north is a strange and alien place. Grainne has real insight about the role of art in “telling what is was really like.” But only the fitfully interested young could believe that for many Bloody Sunday was the start of the Troubles. Still, it may go to show that obsessing over the history is becoming a minority sport and no bad thing.
The advantage art has over facts is that it tells you what it was really like, how it actually felt, what things are really all about. You may disagree with someone political beliefs but when faced with your shared humanity, it’s much harder to hate someone and dismiss their opinions as not worth listening to. Facts can tell us what happened but art tells us why and how it felt. It gives a community space to tell their truth, away from the reports, the spin and the prejudice
The shooting of thirteen unarmed civilians by the British army in Derry in 1972 is seen by many as the start of The Troubles. It’s fitting then that two years after an inquiry that finally revealed the truth about that awful day, that this city is given the chance to begin the next chapter in Northern Irish history.
It’s also fitting that it’s their local boy who offers in a poem the one prayer both sides can believe in, that at long last “The longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme” and finally offer a place with two names, the one future it deserves.
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