Posted on Thursday 17 January 2013 by Ulster Business

Derry Chamber

Philip Gilliland is confident City of Culture will be a success

Derry-Londonderry has an opportunity like no other in 2013. 

It will be the UK’s first ever City of Culture. It has a calendar of cultural events that will be unrivalled outside, perhaps,London or Dublin, with some events that even the capital cities cannot match.

Lonely Planet has designated Derry as one of the four ‘must see’ global city destinations of 2013. We have never before had so many visitors in one year as will come during the City of Culture celebrations.

We can now be confident that 2013 will be a great year. Our challenge is to ensure the highest standards of excellence throughout the year and also to cement a legacy that makes City of Culture more than just a one-off wonderful party.

The overarching objective for the City of Culture is in making Derry a must-go-to city for talented people – whether they want to study, live, work or start a business. 

As part of achieving this, the business community under the leadership of the Chamber of Commerce is working closely with Derry City Council and government departments to create an animated city centre.

It is essential that we have a city centre that is both vibrant and viable. That means creating and retaining a mix of good shops and entertaining attractions, for the day time and to sustain a healthy night time economy. A great start has been achieved, with a range of excellent new cafes and restaurants opening. Streets that had been blighted by retail closures are again seeing new commercial activity.

Northern Ireland’s Executive deserves praise for helping to kick-start this process with investment of around £100m in preparation for City of Culture year. Recent investments have included the Peace Bridge, the Ebrington Barracks public space, the Vital Venue that accommodates 4,000 people and new riverside paths. 

In the coming months, the rail line between Belfast and Derry– described by Michael Palin as “one of the great railway journeys” – will reopen. So, too, will the refurbished Guildhall. 

Culturally, 2013 will be fabulous. For the first time, the Fleadh Cheoilnah Eireann will take place in the North, and it will also be the first time it is held in a city. That will be a great party and a wonderful celebration of Irish culture – and is expected to attract about a third of a million visitors.

Other highlights will include the Turner Prize exhibition and at the end of the year the Lumiere will show off the city in a literally different light.

For businesses, one objective is to marry together the cultural ambitions with the right commercial outcomes. That means making a profit from our welcomed visitors, but it also means bringing together cultural activities with entrepreneurship to produce viable businesses of the future. The prime example is the Chamber’s CultureTECH, which is a week of digital entertainment that helps showcase and support local new technology enterprises.

City of Culture will be a success. It will be the basis for making Derry a go-to city for the long term, as a tourism destination, to live in, to run a business in and as a proper university city in which to study in. 

We recognise this is a substantial agenda – but nothing less than achieving it is acceptable to the city’s business community.

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