Derry in Context
The city of Doire Colmcille acquired the first part of its name from the oak trees native to the area surrounding it, and the second from the sixth century warrior monk (later Saint Columba), who reputedly laid the foundations for the modern conurbation by building a monastery there. More than a millennium later, in 1613, the same site was designated Londonderry by King James I, who enthusiastically supported the ‘plantation’ of Protestant settlers from England and Scotland on the basis that the city could provide a valuable source of income for the Crown and gainful employment for London’s surplus workforce. Thus, the colonial project was begun, along with the construction of walls around the city which held firm under siege from the Catholic armies of King James II in 1688–9. This created a ‘Protestant walled citadel perched on a hill overlooking the sprawling Catholic township of the Bogside which had grown up on marshy ground outside the walls’.1 It is here that an uncanny triangulation emerges between Derry and two British cities, as journalist and activist, Eamonn McCann, describes how, in the twentieth century, the annual 12 August commemoration of the Siege of Derry brought Protestants ‘from outside, from Belfast and Antrim, even Glasgow and Liverpool, leaning over the ramparts to look down at us. Some of them threw pennies’.2
The 1921 partition of Ireland – which resulted in six counties in the north (the precise number needed to secure a loyalist majority) being retained as part of the United Kingdom – had a dramatic effect on Derry. Having expected to become part of the 26-county Irish Free State (via a boundary review, agreed as part of the treaty negotiations between Sinn Féin and the British), Derry acquired a new status as a border town, sundered from its natural orientation towards Donegal, now in a separate state. At the same time, for the first time in over two centuries, the city’s Catholic and nationalist majority gained control of the Corporation (the local authority, housed in the central Guildhall), and promptly swore allegiance to the Irish Republic. Heightened confidence among the majority led to rioting on the streets, and provoked a brutal response from the paramilitary Royal Irish Constabulary, which fired into the crowds. In turn, this precipitated the first action in the city of the Irish Republican Army (IRA – formed out of the Irish Volunteers in Dublin two years earlier), which brought the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) out of hibernation to occupy the walled city and fire on the Catholics below, culminating in a vast number of British troops moving in to disarm the latter.
This set a pattern that would persist for almost eighty years throughout the six counties – of harsh, state-sponsored reprisals for nationalist dissent.3 In Derry, the deliberate gerrymandering of electoral wards restored the loyalist minority to power and prompted nationalists to withdraw from elections for a decade. While universal suffrage was being adopted for those over 21 in the rest of the UK, votes in the six counties were restricted (by the loyalist-dominated government at Stormont) to rate-payers and their wives, which discriminated against poorer (mainly Catholic) families. When voting was further restricted to home owners, ‘the Corporation was faced with the problem of either housing Catholics in other wards or not housing them at all. It opted for the latter’.4 At the same time, in an area of chronic unemployment, Protestant privilege was secured through the targeted allocation of jobs. This had the welcome side-effect (for the industrialists and businessmen making up the Stormont government) of militating against working-class solidarity, which was periodically consolidated by the Catholic Church’s condemnations of socialism and communism.
In economic terms, the 1964 National Plan, enacted by British Labour Party Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, decided to ‘accept as irreversible the decline of the North’s traditional industries and to concentrate on attracting new industry from outside to replace the lost jobs. The strategy of the £450 million plan was to create a modern economic infrastructure and a series of growth-centres which, together with even more lavish grants, would make the North a Mecca for foreign capitalists’.5While these proposals were largely welcomed and created some prosperity, this tended to be centred on Protestant areas. By contrast, Derry was left geographically isolated as new motorways failed to come anywhere near it, and the main train line connecting the city to the nationalist west was closed. When the plan was mooted to create a new economic centre in the North to rival Belfast, Derry was omitted from the list of seven potential growth centres, in favour of the Lurgan-Portadown conurbation. By the same token, the idea that University College in Derry might be developed to equal Queen’s University in Belfast was sabotaged from within, by a unionist faction fearing that this would swell the already unwieldy Catholic population.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Derry became the focal point of various social justice and civil rights campaigns which organised a series of symbolic marches that became centred on electoral, housing and employment reform. Determined to prevent the city walls from being breached by opposition forces, even for peaceful purposes, unionists rallied a disproportionate response from state-endorsed forces (renamed the Royal Ulster Constabulary – RUC – in 1922). On New Year’s Day 1969, around eighty members of a left-wing student-led group called the People’s Democracy (PD) left Belfast for Derry, in imitation of the US civil rights movement’s march to Montgomery. During the four days it took to walk from east to west, the march was heavily ambushed by loyalists, abetted by the RUC and accompanied by off-duty members of the infamous Ulster Special Constabulary. When drunken RUC reserve forces rampaged through the Bogside on the night of 4 January, damaging people and property in their path, local residents erected barricades to create a no-go area for the state. This action promoted local activist, John Casey, to daub a gable end wall with the message ‘You are now entering Free Derry’.
As members of the PD and civil rights campaign were elected to Stormont and Westminster, rioting intensified. In August 1969, a siege of the Bogside by the RUC – which prompted solidarity riots throughout the six counties in a bid to deplete police forces – ended only when British troops were deployed to the area. The IRA – caught off guard by the riots and manning the barricades of Free Derry – fractured into an Official and Provisional (Provo) wing. The former largely advocated a socialist approach, centred on a consideration of socio-economic conditions, while the latter – operating from a shop in Creggan under the command of Martin McGuinness – advocated a broader struggle, centred on national independence and liberation from unionist and British rule.
As the presence of British troops exacerbated the situation, gaining in strength from 2,500 before August 1969 to 14,000 two years later, the political mood shifted from reform of Stormont to a campaign for its dissolution. Matters notoriously came to a head in Derry on Sunday 30 January 1972, when a march was planned to travel from Creggan, through the Bogside, to the Guildhall. Despite receiving advice from local RUC officers that the march be allowed to go ahead, Stormont refused, and a battalion of the British army’s Parachute regiment was brought into the city with orders to target the long-haired, mainly unemployed ‘hooligans’. Opening fire on the unarmed marchers, soldiers killed thirteen men and fatally injured another. The British state accepted no responsibility for the massacre. Stormont was suspended in favour of direct rule from Westminster. Paramilitaries on both sides armed themselves in readiness for what would come next. On 7 July, six members of the Provisional IRA – including McGuinness – were flown to London to meet the Northern Ireland Minister, William Whitelaw, for secret talks. Apparently, this resolved little as the British Army moved in to retake the no-go areas on the last day of the month.
Bloody Sunday is widely regarded as a turning point. Violence escalated in its wake and continued for a further quarter century, with the idea of devolved government being sporadically resurrected. The early 1980s were characterised by hunger strikes enacted by republicans at Long Kesh (memorably recorded by artists from Richard Hamilton to Steve McQueen). Writing up the history of Derry in 1974, McCann presciently noted that ‘Britain seeks to lull and lure “moderate” Catholics and “moderate” Protestants into some sort of political structure which might, at a pinch, be projected as representative of both communities. […] Bringing the two sides together, jointly to protect British interests, remains by far the most rational strategy for the British ruling class’.6 The 1990s gave rise to all-party talks between representatives from the British and Irish governments and Sinn Féin, underwritten by IRA and loyalist ceasefires in 1994 and 1997 and largely boycotted by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement (or Belfast Agreement) was brokered, giving rise to the Northern Ireland Executive, in which power is shared between a First Minister (currently Peter Robinson, a unionist) and Deputy First Minister (currently Martin McGuinness, a republican) – collectively known as the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) – and ministries are allocated according to the number of seats held in Stormont.7 At a local level, Derry City Council – created in 1984 as the offspring of the old Corporation – is currently made up of thirty elected councillors, fourteen from the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), ten from Sinn Féin, five from the DUP and one representing the Ulster Unionist Party, entailing a significant nationalist majority.
While some administrative changes have been made, the material conditions that gave rise to the Troubles persist. By 2010, Derry City Council was facing a deficit of £1.1 billion,8 making a further loss of £3.6 million in the financial year ending March 2012.9 Estimates of live-work conditions in the city vary according to the number of citizens permitted into calculations, but the overall picture remains the same. A 2008 report on demographics claims a civic population of just under 80,000 with a total workforce of just over 35,000, 7,000 (20 percent) of whom are unemployed.10 This report was produced by Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Ireland, the agency responsible for attracting foreign direct investment into Ireland, the implicit expectation of which is that attracting investment will create jobs. While a potentially laudable aim in theory, this has had disastrous consequences in practice. Shortly after the signature of the Good Friday Agreement, with John Hume and David Trimble having been awarded Nobel Peace Prizes for their part in the process, it was announced that the US company, Raytheon, would be setting up operations in Derry, on the understanding that 150 jobs would be created. When it emerged that Raytheon, the world’s largest supplier of guided missiles, was implicated in the Israeli bombing of Lebanon, a sustained campaign was launched that resulted in several occupations of the factory, ultimately leading to its closure. Despite public subsidy having been disbursed to the company, only a fifth of the promised jobs had ever materialised.
In the opening years of the new millennium, two incisive reports were made public. The first, published in 2001, commissioned from the Social Disadvantage Research Centre at the University of Oxford by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, presented the results of an extensive review of deprivation in the six counties. This study – which became known as the Noble Index after its primary author – found the poorest parts of Derry, notably centred on Catholic areas, to be experiencing high levels of multiple deprivation.11 Four years later, Ilex Urban Regeneration Company published the results of a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis of Derry, undertaken by private consultants. This found the city to have an unemployment rate of a staggering 38.2 percent (compared to the provincial average of 28.3 percent), with the distribution of employment correlating closely with that of health.
Having traced the self-evident threats and weaknesses endemic in the city, the Ilex report grasped at a handful of opportunities thought to offer a brighter future. The two most significant to this account are the identification of a growing youth population, and the perceived ‘Existence of key scenic, cultural and historic assets [providing] strong tourism potential for Derry’.12 As the city accounted for only 6 percent of all the tourism generated on the island of Ireland, the report tentatively recommended ‘significant improvements in tourism product and marketing’.13 Building upon the conclusions of this report, Ilex developed a strategy for regenerating the city, which became known as the One Plan and took as its tagline ‘One City, One Plan, One Voice’. The plan was quick to reiterate that ‘A city population of 110,000, almost 40% of whom are under 25, and a market hinterland of 330,000, are evidence of the potential that the region offers to both external investors and indigenous entrepreneurs’.14 While framing Derry’s youthful population as a passive market for potential investors, the plan prioritised ‘Accelerating the growth of the tourism and cultural economy’ as a key part of the city’s employment and economic strategy.15
This is reminiscent of the ‘creative city’ rhetoric that has infested the UK in recent years. Considering culture solely in economic terms, this typically involves a focus ‘on the role of heritage in attracting tourism and tourist income; especially through the promotion of cultural tourism which targets upper income groups’ as part of a wider strategy to promote ‘economic development, place marketing and place-based competition’.16 Festivals are endemic to place-based economic strategies, with ‘the most significant impact [being] in relation to people’s perception of a place, both within and outside the community’.17 However, the task of changing external perceptions of Derry presents a significant challenge, as the main image in the public consciousness is not only of demonised ‘hooligans’ rampaging in the streets but also of their slaughter in cold blood by the British state.
Another element of creative city thinking creeps into the One Plan, via a focus on the creation of a digital city and an effort to encourage self-employment and digital start-ups, facilitated by Derry entering the second round of those UK cities qualifying for super-fast broadband. It is also here that culture’s ill-defined cousin, ‘creativity’, makes a predictable appearance, third on a list of four alliterative aspirations for the city after ‘competitive’ and ‘connected’. The city’s regeneration strategy will be considered in more depth shortly. For now, it is interesting to note parallels with the attempts made in Liverpool (around European Capital of Culture 2008) to gloss over previous socio-economic problems and disarm the populace, with the plan noting that Derry’s ‘key assets are its history, the resilience of the people and vibrancy of the place’.18 At the same time, the precise nature of the city’s history is minimised to the point of non-existence, with the Bogside mentioned only in the context of its formation, through the drying out of a bog.
Background to UK City of Culture
Between March and June 2009, a working group, convened by Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and chaired by Phil Redmond, met three times, having formally been invited to advise the Minister on ‘The vision for the UK City of Culture Programme including the benefits which will flow to the host City, to the nation and to the culture sector’.19 The fact that benefits would flow was never in question. Convictions surrounding the social value of culture had congealed into fact, and the working group’s final report is peppered with such maxims as ‘Participation in culture can increase social capital and well-being’.20 With regard to economic benefits, it was more tentatively argued that:
The UK City of Culture may also play a part in regenerating cities. The attention and reputation that can be gained by hosting the event may well encourage firms, workers and institutions to move to the area, creating a virtuous circle of further job creation, building renovation and social integration. However, the high risk and high cost associated with making the first move to a deprived area means that no individual firm or organisation will even consider doing it, and instead the Government needs to provide the momentum that starts the virtuous circle.21
Rather than dwelling on the implications of public funding being used to catalyse private investments, the working group was asked to give consideration to the potential core events of a possible UK City of Culture programme, the timetable for its implementation, indicative costings, criteria for determining the host city and options for managing the bidding and assessment process. Accompanying the revision of the title to include the whole of the UK, three representatives from the devolved administrations were added to the working group, ostensibly neutralising any bias in favour of English conurbations.22 At the same time, a start date of 2013 was posited as a symbolic handover from the Cultural Olympiad. During this process, a clear link was established not only with Liverpool 2008 and London 2012 but also with the Commonwealth Games to be hosted by Glasgow in 2014.
The working group agreed that no central government funding should be made available to the winning city, putting the onus on those responsible for the winning bid to raise all the revenue necessary to stage the awe-inspiring events that had been proposed. In this regard, it was envisaged that ‘existing funding streams would need to provide approximately £10 million to make a UK City of Culture viable’,23 of which an estimated £9.25 million was recommended for events and programme management. By contrast, the total cost to DCMS of administering the launch of UK City of Culture was estimated at a mere £250,000. But it would be wrong to assume that this represents the only central government contribution to the process as the working group estimated that the body was charged with administering City of Culture, at least for the first few years, would be paid £500,000.
The working group also took time to consider the main risks to the event’s success. In the governmental arena, the greatest perceived threat was that devolution from Westminster might damage the relationship of the devolved areas to the UK and its City of Culture. This would be mitigated by ensuring that ‘devolved administrations [were] involved in design of bidding process and content with proposals’.24 At the same time, it was considered highly likely that resources available to the winning city would be too small, that local authority funds initially committed to City of Culture would be reprioritised, that private sector sponsorship would not be forthcoming and/or the City of Culture ‘prize’ would fail to act as a catalyst for regeneration. This, it was suggested, could be militated against by ring-fencing public funding, by making partnership funding arrangements one of the criteria of the bids and by implementing precise evaluation mechanisms (which will be returned to in due course).
One particularly intriguing phrase from the working group report reads ‘Relevant industries – tourism, digital and creative – can also contribute to and benefit from the BERR [Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform] strategy for businesses, to come through stronger from the recession – industrial activism’.25 The final two words of this sentence are curious; they read as if someone forgot to delete an aide memoire once they had paraphrased it into political euphemism. This tell-tale couplet suggests that not only is culture being used to deflect attention from the crippling effects of unemployment but also that it is being harnessed to quash the dissent of those within employment. The British ruling class has long understood the power of culture in quelling social unrest. In the aftermath of the French Revolution, Robert Peel, the Conservative politician who became British Prime Minister in 1834, outlined how ‘In the present times of political excitement, the exacerbation of angry and unsocial feelings might be much softened by the effects which the fine arts had ever produced on the minds of men’. In this effort, he determined that the construction of the National Gallery in London ‘would not only contribute to the cultivation of the arts, but also to the cementing of the bonds of union between the richer and poorer orders of the state’.26
Following the final working group meeting and report, Regeneris Consulting was brought in to finesse the bidding guidelines, which were issued in August 2009. By this stage, the competition was firmly being framed as a UK-wide event that promised heightened publicity for those taking part. In particular, potential bidders were told that ‘The governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are closely interested in the City of Culture initiative and bids from cities in the devolved administrations are likely to receive significant local publicity’.27 Building upon Redmond’s vision statement, the guidance categorically stated that ‘The overall aim of the UK City of Culture programme is to encourage the use of culture as a catalyst of change. Bidding areas would need to spell out their own vision for UK City of Culture and how they will use that in making a step change in their area’.28 The successful city would need to deliver a high-quality programme, leading to lasting social regeneration and demonstrable economic impact in a way that maximised the legacy of the title. Competing cities were also asked to think about the role the City of Culture programme might play in regeneration, in the education and employment of young people and the enhancement of community cohesion. With a devolved administration, a 40 percent youth population and the most spectacularly divided communities in the UK, things were already boding well for Derry.
Those cities intending to bid were announced after a seminar on 10 September 2009, and each was invited to submit an outline proposal the following month. While this did not form part of the judging process, it allowed assessors to provide feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of draft proposals, and Regeneris gave Derry good initial feedback on its outline. Thereafter, the competition proper began, with initial proposals solicited by 11 December 2009 and final bids requested by 28 May 2010. Expert assessors made their thoughts known to an Independent Advisory Panel,29 which drew up a shortlist. Twenty-four initial expressions of interest were made from cities throughout the UK, which were whittled down to fourteen at the bidding stage. From these, four finalists were selected – three of which came from English conurbations of varying sizes (from Birmingham, with a population of more than 1 million, to Norwich, with a population of less than 200,000), making Derry unique in its un-Englishness.
Bidding for City of Culture
The last time Derry had hosted a major festival was Impact 92, almost two decades earlier. When the opportunity to bid for the title of UK City of Culture arose, the city decided to use 2013 as a starting point for exploring how communities, fractured by decades of conflict, could co-exist in an environment of social cohesion, civic pride and good relations. Redmond’s step change morphed into Seamus Heaney’s sea change, ‘On the far side of revenge’,30 which was made all the more poignant by the fourth centennial of the Plantation of Ulster.31
A City of Culture Steering Group was set up with representatives from Derry City Council, Ilex, the Strategic Investment Board, Londonderry Chamber of Commerce and various independent experts. The bid team took the long view, embracing a cultural history dating back to the sixth century. This meant that, while explicit acknowledgement was made of the city’s Troubles, no reason was given for their root cause. As had happened in Liverpool, a civic population ‘Famed for [its] warmth, wit and indomitable spirit’,32 was invoked, braced to react to the Westminster catalyst. The ‘year zero’ trope was also replayed for Derry, with reference being made to ‘Connecting our communities in innovative and ingenious ways giving them a voice, often for the first time’,33 with 2013 standing as ‘a mark of time from which the City will begin a new era’.34 Beyond this, the bid was characterised by the four themes of Unlocking Creativity, Creative Connections, Digital Dialogue and Creating a New Story, and by the buzz phrases ‘joyous celebration’ and ‘purposeful inquiry’. Adopting a strategy that had been honed in previous years, Derry also collected intelligence on its rivals and found Birmingham to be complacent in mobilising behind the bid – by virtue of its 1,200 Facebook supporters, compared with Derry’s 13,000.
DCMS wanted to see economic arguments being made, so the Derry team read up on the work that had been published by Demos (the think-tank responsible for introducing neoliberal logic into the Labour Party in Britain). In the minds of those spearheading the bid, a link was established between the city’s founding father, Colmcille, and the enforcement of intellectual property underwriting the creative industries. But this link is tenuous at best; when Colmcille had been challenged, in the sixth century, for surreptitiously copying a Latin translation of the bible, brought to Ireland from Rome by his former teacher, he slaughtered 3,000 men in defence of his right to freely disseminate knowledge, which renders him vehemently anti-copyright.
For a time, the technocratic approach triumphed over the lyrical one until the steering group presented the draft bid in Belfast. The audience included the US Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland, Declan Kelly, who became interested in the part City of Culture might play in the peace-building process and threw his weight behind the bid.35 Also at this meeting was Sir Roy McNulty (Chair of Ilex and Deputy Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority), who insisted that ideas and inspiration should be prioritised. It is this spirit which infuses the Voices video that was made to accompany the eventual bid.36 Prefaced by Seamus Heaney’s sentiment that ‘once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme’, this visual odyssey of Derry is set to Snow Patrol’s rousing anthem, Just Say Yes, in a curious inversion of Grange Hill’s Just Say No campaign. The charity shops and bargain basements of the city centre are as conspicuous by their absence in this audio-visual account as references to the divisions that persist in the city.
On 11 May 2010, the nominally multi-party British state lurched between two different flavours of neoliberalism. Seventeen days later, final bids were submitted by the four shortlisted cities. On 15 June 2010, the results of the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday were published, deeming that all those killed and wounded had been innocent and that all the shootings by British soldiers were unjustifiable. The families of those killed on that fateful day made a statement in Guildhall Square, which read: ‘When the state kills its citizens it is the interests of all that those responsible be held to account. It is not just Derry, or one section of the people of Derry, it is democracy itself which needs to know what happened here on 30 January 1972. The British people need to know. The Irish people need to know. The world now knows’.37
As the Bloody Sunday families were making their impassioned statement, the City of Culture team was preparing to leave the city to make its bid to the British establishment in Liverpool two days later. If a film is ever made about Derry’s journey to becoming City of Culture, it will be centred on the tense socio-political backdrop to the bid presentation, and the Voices video. The Advisory Panel did not visit any of the shortlisted cities, although it is likely that at least some of its seven members would have had a working knowledge of Birmingham and Sheffield. This meant that bidders had to bring their city to the panel, and Derry’s mode of introduction was to be the emotive DVD that had been produced. A strict ninety-minute window had been allocated in which the ten-person delegation was to make its case.38 Some of the members took too long making their representations, and the window of opportunity for screening the video began to swing shut. In the dying minutes of the meeting, the Derry delegation was asked if it would prefer to engage in a question and answer session or to show the video. The consensus was that the video should be shown. Following the meeting, the Advisory Panel made its recommendation to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, with whom the final decision about the winning city rested. One month to the day after Saville reported, Derry was awarded the title of UK City of Culture for 2013.
Bringing City of Culture Home
The One Plan – which incudes City of Culture as one of its eleven objectives – readily acknowledges Derry to sit at the bottom of urban league tables in the UK across a range of indicators. As such, all proposals developed in relation to the plan, including those pertaining to City of Culture, need to demonstrate how they will ‘bring about measurable improvements for those groups who have been identified as experiencing inequality in, for example, housing, education, employment and health’.39 Acknowledging worsening economic conditions brought about by the financial crisis, the plan emphasises the ‘absolute necessity of delivering a step-change. Without it, a generation of the City’s people will become poorer and face bleaker social and economic prospects’.40 To some extent, then, the One Plan seems well-meaning when measured against its comparators in other cities. What is horrifying is that the situation it describes is more reminiscent of Victorian than contemporary living conditions. Beneath the upbeat veneer of the regeneration plan, there lurks community devastation and demoralisation.
As had been the case in Liverpool, the Northern Ireland Executive’s Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) noted that, in Derry, ‘A growing economically inactive core of the labour force had developed, this group have become disengaged from the labour market and have become reliant on benefits making them particularly difficult to reach via traditional labour market initiatives’.41 The much-vaunted step change was presumed to rely, therefore, on the creation of 12,900 jobs and on the training of people to take them up. In turn, this was premised on the fashionable principles of sustainability and equality, with sustainability taken to rely upon the creation of a vibrant arts and culture infrastructure and equality presuming the creation of integrated and settled communities. While, to many, this latter ambition would seem to be an absolute precondition for Derry’s peaceful future, the stated motives for this are somewhat spurious: ‘The future development of Tourism […], a key driver of our local economy, will be constrained unless we can show potential visitors that we have a stable, attractive place that is safe to visit’.42 Embedding tourism, culture and the arts in Derry’s communities was presumed to increase accessibility and relevance while offering opportunities for self employment and enterprise, in particular to the most disadvantaged. In concrete terms, this translated into the creation of 1,300 tourism jobs by 2013 (2,800 by 2020), in addition to 1,200 creative/new media jobs and the generation of 290,000 extra tourist nights per year. On the day the City of Culture title was granted, the BBC deliriously referred to £300 million being brought into the city as a result.43
The authors of the evidence base underlying the DCMS policy document, Culture at the Heart of Regeneration, note that ‘Studies that look beyond the [cultural] project itself traditionally use one (and seldom more than one) of the following fields of impact’44 – environmental, economic, social or (more recently) cultural. The One Plan combines at least three predicted impacts – the economic (through tourism and job creation), the social (through the formation of integrated and settled communities) and the cultural (through considerations of sustainability). We are told that ‘Culture has emerged as a transformative engine that can deliver jobs, improve life chances, build new audiences, unleash talent, instill confidence and address issues of identity and equality’.45 This is reinforced by the sweeping claim – made in an introductory statement for the official City of Culture programme by Caral Ni Chuilin, Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure – that ‘Culture and arts have a huge role to play in empowering citizens, in tackling the long-term structural inequalities faced by Derry and in helping build a sustainable economic development model for the future’.46
Clearly, much work needs to be done, but the idea that even single impact factors are attainable within culture-led regeneration agendas remains to be proven. Even those involved in the production of the City of Culture bid and the One Plan confess to having little hope that any of the targets will be reached. To give a banal example, one section of the regeneration plan is dedicated to the implementation of an integrated transport strategy, presumably taking account of the DCMS maxim that ‘Provision of good transport links is essential to successful regeneration’.47 There is a disused train line that runs between City of Derry Airport and the City of Culture hub. Reactivation of this line was considered, to deliver the anticipated cultural visitors to their destination, but, by the end of 2012, this had been dismissed as a realistic expectation.
Two early advocates of the creative city formula, Charles Landry and Franco Bianchini, observed in 1995 that:
The key actors in those places which have exhibited growth share certain qualities: open-mindedness and a willingness to take risks; a clear focus on long-term aims with an understanding of strategy; a capacity to work with local distinctiveness and to find a strength in apparent weakness; and a willingness to listen and learn. These are some of the characteristics that make people, projects, organizations and, ultimately, cities creative.48
Richard Florida, apostle of the ‘creative class’, identified the inverse of this approach in ‘those political, business, and civic leaders who divert and derail human creative energy by posing roadblocks, acting as gatekeepers, and saying “no” to new ideas, regardless of their merit’.49 In the same vein, DCMS’s evidence-seekers assert that the impact of culture in regeneration depends not only on tangible outcomes but also on the ways in which projects are planned and executed. This posits the following as key to success:
• The participation of a ‘champion’ of culture in regeneration (this may be an individual such as a ‘social entrepreneur’, activist, or a group, e.g. of artists)
• Integration of culture at the strategic planning stage of a project
• Establishment of a multi-disciplinary project team
• Provision for formative evaluation from the planning stage
• The flexibility to change course if necessary
• Consideration for environmental quality and accessibility – design of facilities and public realm, and integration with services (e.g. transport)
• Genuine consultation with residents, businesses and other stakeholders
• Continued involvement and ‘ownership’ of all stakeholders in the project (management, governance, delivery and evaluation) and acknowledgement of their contribution.50
UK City of Culture – Beyond Semantics
Since 2012, visitors arriving into City of Derry Airport have been greeted by a banner featuring one of the multifarious logos that have been designed for 2013, which reads ‘City of Culture 2013’. For some, this may conjure the suspicion that the city is deliberately obfuscating the difference between itself and European Capitals of Culture status such as Liverpool and Glasgow. However, the omission of ‘UK’ from this variant of the brand is underpinned by the aforementioned antipathy of the majority of the city’s population to being considered part of the United Kingdom.
For the past four centuries, Derry’s struggle with its involuntary link with London has been reflected in its nomenclature. Since the local authority changed its name to Derry City Council, nationalist/republican politicians have periodically attempted to have the city’s name shortened accordingly, to no avail. In recent times, the moniker ‘stroke city’ was flippantly introduced, on account of the forward slash punctuating the official title of Derry/Londonderry. But, around the time of the bid for City of Culture, a significant shift happened. In English-language literature relating to 2013, the conjunction Derry~Londonderry began to be used. When Context Gallery changed its name to the Centre for Contemporary Art Derry Londonderry, its directors felt compelled to insert a curlicue between the two parts of the city’s name, as part of a consensus-led move towards perceived moderation. In much the same way, public figures, required to pronounce the name aloud during the course of their work, have succumbed to this linguistic shift when previously Derry would have sufficed. Word on the ground is that this move was spearheaded by Nelson McCausland of the DUP, who was Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure at the time the City of Culture bid was being put together and continues to occupy a key role as Minister for Social Development.
What this means is that the either/or option of Derry/Londonderry (in which the majority chose the former) has been replaced by a both/and option (in which the minority impose the latter). To outside observers, this appears to be a victory for the loyalist/unionist minority, an impression compounded by the UK associations of the City of Culture title and its inevitable links to London. That those who had taken up arms to permanently sever links with Britain would travel to the mainland to bid for the honour remains unfathomable. The only clue is to be found in Daniel Jewesbury’s evocation that ‘Both the DUP and Sinn Féin have become adept at facing in two different directions at once: towards their electoral base, and (jointly) towards the market and its demands’.51
City of Culture Infrastructure
Derry City Council is the licence holder for City of Culture, in partnership with Ilex and the Strategic Investment Board, an arm’s length organisation created by the Northern Ireland Executive to ‘bring high calibre investment skills into the public sector in order to accelerate the delivery of major infrastructure programmes and to ensure a good deal for the public purse’.52 Once granted the title, Derry City Council replicated Liverpool’s delivery model by incorporating Culture Company 2013 Ltd.53 A board was appointed, made up of representatives from partner organisations, including a handful of councillors from across the sectarian spectrum. It also included arts administrators, notably Claire McColgan MBE, who had worked on Liverpool’s 2008 bid, going on to oversee the £11 million Creative Communities programme for the Liverpool Culture Company (of which she was Executive Producer) and managing the legacy of 2008 as Director of Culture for Liverpool City Council. Closer to home, Declan McGonagle took up a seat on the interim board of the Culture Company, and served as its chair. Known to everyone in the cultural field from Derry to Dublin, McGonagle set up the now LegenDerry Orchard Gallery, which played host to artists from Antony Gormley to Ilya Kabakov.
In the first issue of an historic co-publication between the Derry Journal and Londonderry Sentinel, McGonagle argues that a new European ecology is needed, which combines economic, social and cultural capital. Bypassing the negative connotations allocated to such terms by the French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, McGonagle posits Derry as the key locus in developing such an ecology. He urges the transformation of individuals and communities from passive consumers into active participants (in culture and society) in the process of becoming citizens.54 Whether he is aware of it or not, this coincides with the emancipatory project that was attempted after the Cuban Revolution, with Fidel Castro advocating the transition from spectators to creators.55 Perhaps unsurprisingly, this did not sit well with the framing of Derry’s youth population as passive consumers, and McGonagle resigned from the board of the Culture Company in October 2012.56 Nonetheless, his name – and the kudos it confers – remained on the Culture Company website for several months.
As had been the case in Liverpool, confusion arose about the respective roles of the Culture Company and Derry City Council, with a ‘lack of liaison’ between the two bodies being noted by the latter.57 Accordingly, a memorandum of understanding was drawn up between both parties and between this new entity and OFMDFM, DCAL and various other partners. Two Project Principals were nominated within the council – the Town Clerk and Chief Executive, Sharon O’Connor, and the City Treasurer, Joe Campbell. At the same time, the Chief Executive of the Culture Company, Shona McCarthy, was nominated Project Manager and charged with the responsibility of keeping the council, in general, and O’Connor, in particular, advised about the governability and accountability of the Culture Company.
The fuzziness between the council and the Culture Company created resentment on the part of local government employees in relation to their private sector counterparts, partly due to disparities in salaries. Accounts submitted by the Culture Company up to 31 March 2012 show 75 percent of the £1.1 million income to have flowed into the City of Culture account to have been spent on operational costs, with £590,542 committed to employing/seconding a thirteen-strong team (far exceeding the predictions of the original DCMS working group that only £350,000 would be spent in developing the programme by the end of the 2012 financial year). In October 2012, the Culture Company hit back with a claim by Director of Communications, Garbhan Downey, that O’Connor had diverted £1.6 million of City of Culture funding (double the amount the council had released during the 2011–12 financial year) to the 2012 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, which played no part in the programme for 2013.58 This led to the suspension of Downey and the rather unprecedented step of O’Connor resigning from the board of the Culture Company and assimilating the marketing function of City of Culture into the council.59 O’Connor had earlier expressed a determination to retain control of marketing for 2013. At a meeting of the City of Culture Oversight Committee – which included representatives from OFMDFM and its various departments, Derry City Council and the Culture Company – it was agreed that a city-wide strategy was needed to show the city as a ‘good place to live, study, invest and work in as well as a great place to visit in 2013’. At the time, O’Connor ‘confirmed that the council will be the lead partner with responsibility to deliver this’.60 In an email to Susie McCullough at the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) a couple of weeks later, she expressed concern that the Culture Company did not seem to understand the need to focus on ‘place/destination marketing’, rather than just specific events.61
In terms of broader financing for City of Culture, the ‘overall cost of the Cultural Programme, excluding the running costs of the Culture Company, is estimated to be £23.25 million’.62 Of this, Derry City Council committed £3.8 million in revenue funding, having secured the necessary legislation to release £22 million from the city’s capital reserve budget. In recognising ‘the creative industries as the future of our economic development’,63 the Executive pledged £10.6 million to City of Culture, through DCAL, on the understanding that this represented no more than 75 percent of project budgets. Other funding comes from creative industries and tourism sources throughout the island of Ireland, including Arts Council Northern Ireland (ACNI) and NITB, alongside Arts Council England and the British Council. A target of £5.2 million was set for sponsorship, merchandising and (limited) ticket sales and £2 million for trusts and foundations. Large commercial sponsors were approached to contribute £1 million each, but this failed to materialise, leaving the programming budget short. The Letter of Offer, in which DCAL outlined its contribution to Derry City Council, specifies that government is to be thought of as a ‘funder of last resort’, meaning that any surplus funding attracted by City of Culture would be used to diminish the DCAL contribution. Conversely, in the event of an over-spend, a £2 million contingency might be made available, at the discretion of the DCAL Accounting Officer, but this would only cover unforeseen costs, such as changes in legislation, rather than ‘costs arising as a result of poor planning by the Council or Culture Company’.64 Beyond this, the Letter of Offer unequivocally states that failure to raise the funding necessary to carry out the cultural programme would result in said programme being scaled back.
Aside from the programming budget, Derry City Council agreed to cover all the running costs of the Culture Company, variously estimated at £3.2 million and £3.8 million, with the latter figure allegedly breaking down into ‘running costs of the Culture Company (£2.6 million) and Clipper 2012 (£1.2 million)’.65 At a meeting of the Oversight Committee on 17 May 2012, O’Connor raised concern about a £1 million shortfall being faced by the council in relation to the running costs of the Culture Company, and various strategies for reducing these were discussed, including the shortening of employment contracts from June to January 2014. Three months later, this shortfall had been reduced to £320,000.
Festival-type cultural projects are typically ‘dominated by hard infrastructure […] funding is skewed towards short-term, or one-off, capital projects, and not on recurrent spending’,66 and Derry has proven no exception. In response to the One Plan, £23 million was invested in the city by OFMDFM and the Department for Social Development (DSD), alongside Ilex and other agencies, for the period 2011–15. A further £10 million City of Culture capital fund was established for 2011–12. The flagship capital project for 2013 is centred on the former Ebrington Barracks, scene of a daring weapons heist by the IRA in 1951, which is now conceived of as an ‘Arts and Culture Cluster’ (another key tenet of creative city rhetoric).67 This includes a venue for the 2013 Turner Prize, and a £4.6 million temporary pavillion known as The Venue. Nationally, plans are afoot to create a flagship venue ‘to house the best twentieth century holdings in Northern Ireland and mount international touring exhibitions’,68 and it may be that this is sited in Derry.
It will be remembered that, in seeking to safeguard City of Culture, the DCMS working group had compelled cities competing for the title to budget not only for planning and executing a year-long programme but also for evaluating it. In relation to this, DCAL specified the following targets:
- An additional £98 million in wages and profits (Gross Value Added) will be realised by 2020, with 2,800 net additional jobs, including 1,000 from the bottom half of most deprived wards.
- Significant improvements will be delivered in community relations, perceptions of the City, equality and social cohesion.
- Overnight visitors to the City will have increased by 223,000 by 2013 (double 2010 level).
- Overnight visitor spend will have increased by £39.8 million by 2013 from 2005 baseline.
- Day trip visitors to the City will have increased by 339,000 by 2013, which equates to additional spend of £16 million.
- The percentage of those living in the 10% most deprived areas who never attend cultural events will be reduced from 33% to 25%.
- The percentage of citizens who are very satisfied with living in the City will have risen from 17% to 30% by 2020.
- Derry~Londonderry will move up the urban benchmark rank of cultural and tourist employment concentration, to a position alongside Nottingham and York (around 20th in UK) from current position of 49th.69
Concerned citizens are invited to test these claims at the end of 2013 and 2020, using the democratic tools at their disposal. It should not be difficult to monitor overnight stays. Compared to the twenty-eight hotels listed on the European Capital of Culture map in Liverpool, there are just eight viable hotels in and around Derry, with a finite number of rooms as follows:
City Hotel 146 rooms
Ramada Da Vinci Hotel 65 rooms
Waterfoot Hotel 44 rooms
Everglades Hotel 64 rooms
Beech Hill Country House Hotel 32 rooms
Tower Hotel 90 rooms
Best Western White Horse Hotel 57 rooms
Travelodge 44 rooms
Assuming that each of these rooms holds an average of two people, this means a total of 1,084 overnight stays are available for rent on any given night, which can easily be compared with pre- and post-2013 figures and extended into less formal accommodation. Job creation may be harder to measure, but it is clear that the 2,800 net additional jobs specified by DCAL map exclusively onto those in the tourist sector predicted in the One Plan, and Derry already has a higher proportion of workers in the service sector than the NI average.70 In Glasgow, the paradigmatic creative city, it is said that nine out of ten jobs are in the service sector, ‘with even the City Council acknowledging that these jobs are in “lower paid and lower skilled services”’.71
The success of City of Culture in meeting its various targets will be adjudged by the so-called Independent Assessment Panel.72 The panel visited Derry on 27 February 2012 and recommended that Derry City Council allocate a £2 million contingency above and beyond that already earmarked by DCAL. Not having the resources to do this, the council set aside £500,000 from savings in other areas (including waste management) over three financial years. The overall budget for City of Culture should be monitored closely, as should its consequences for the city beyond 2013. Likewise, any potential avenues of corruption should be scrupulously guarded. Monies relating to City of Culture are paid into the council’s account, and a detailed financial report is due to be submitted at Companies House by the Culture Company on 31 December 2013. Readers are encouraged to check the figures carefully at the end of the year, with particular attention being paid to operational costs and conditions for release of the DCAL contingency, and make any anomalies widely known.
City of Culture and the Cultural Partnership Forum
Early uncertainties around the role of the Culture Company have quickly bled into a sense of disconnection between this entity and the cultural field. This has been compounded by two main factors, the first of which is the physical displacement of the Culture Company headquarters – across the River Foyle at Ebrington Barracks – which has led to the absence of Culture Company representatives at key meetings to have taken place within the city. The second has been the treatment of artists and cultural organisations within the city, without which there would be no City of Culture.
Towards the end of 2012, £280,000 was set aside for Individual Artists’ Awards. From this tiny fraction of the overall budget, a total of 152 artists took the time to apply for grants of up to £15,000. Only one third of applications were successful, and the remaining 105 artists received letters addressed ‘Dear Individual Artist’, an impersonal response that would be hugely damaging in a city of any size. With rumours circulating about the nepotism of the panel and the lack of strategy in reaching decisions, detailed feedback was requested about the criteria used to assess applications and demands were made for explanations about why certain proposals were unsuccessful. At a time when ACNI has reduced the grants available to individual artists from £5,000 to £1,500, the valid point was made that grants for artists need to be established as part of the legacy of 2013 if the creative lifeblood of the city is to be sustained.
In order to fully understand the relationship between the Culture Company and artists and cultural organisations in the city, it is necessary to refer back to 2004, when employees from Derry City Council attended the Universal Forum of Cultures in Barcelona. From this UNESCO-sponsored event – looking at cultural diversity and conditions for peace – emerged Agenda 21, which took culture to be the fourth pillar of sustainable development. With this in mind, a generational opportunity was written into Derry’s City of Culture bid, according to which those working in the city’s cultural field will jointly develop a cultural strategy that will be operational from 2014 to 2020. On this basis, a Cultural Partnership Forum was set up – with membership open to anyone active in the cultural life in the city – and a memorandum of understanding drawn up with the council, conferring a specific remit upon the forum for agreeing terms of reference for the future cultural strategy.
At a meeting of the Cultural Partnership Forum on 7 December 2012, little fondness was expressed for the Culture Company. After a massive rush on the part of the latter to confirm the programme for 2013, communication had been reduced to one-way traffic, with phone calls and emails going unreturned and invitations to meetings not being taken up. Part of the presumed rationale for creating the Culture Company had been that it could function with a lighter bureaucracy than the council, but it quickly became clear that – as an agent of the state – the company would have to abide by the same procurement regulations constraining its public sector counterparts, with decisions being passed through the Central Procurement Directorate at the Department of Finance and Personnel. Less than a month before the official programme was launched, no funding criteria had been approved and no partnership documents signed, resulting in productions being lost and events cancelled. This misery was compounded by the programme being leaked, in the Londonderry Sentinel, weeks before it was finalised.73
The potential contained within the City of Culture bid was not fully reflected at the December meeting of the Cultural Partnership Forum. Instead, there was a sense that the forum had been deliberately marginalised, and that individuals with money and influence had stepped off it on account of the potential to make trouble. At one point, a murmur went around the room that Brendan McMenamin – from the Arts and Culture unit at Derry City Council, who had been central to bringing City of Culture to Derry – was working on a strategy, based on a number of pre-existing templates. Another rumour was that a private company was being considered to work on the festival and events part of the strategy, and a consultant involved with the Edinburgh Festival was mentioned. The latest development is that an independent consultant, with knowledge of policy, will be sought, to work with the forum on developing an enlightened strategy for the city’s culture.
Culture in the Community
In unambiguously prescribing a model of development led by the private sector, the British government was keen to emphasise that ‘Cultural regeneration programmes need to ensure that the economic benefit is not limited to a minority of the community. Safeguards should be considered to ensure that existing communities are not displaced by increased property values and that meaningful job and training opportunities are created’. As a way of ensuring this, the first of three priority areas was identified as ‘Building partnerships – across central, local and regional government, the private and voluntary sectors and culture and regeneration practitioners; identifying effective methods of involving local people as partners in the process’.74 As has been attempted by Susan Fitzpatrick in relation to Liverpool, it is vital to assess the ways in which the divided communities of Derry have been involved as partners in City of Culture.
In much of the rhetoric surrounding 2013, the city’s diverse communities are deemed to have a central part. As seen above, the One Plan advocated community-focused tourism as a precursor to the creation of integrated and settled communities, the bid document explicitly referred to the engendering of social cohesion, civic pride and good relations and DCAL specified significant improvements in community relations, perceptions of the city, equality and social cohesion. Under the theme of Creative Connections (which was also the name of the ACNI strategy from 2008 to 2012), Derry’s bid document echoed Declan McGonagle by speaking of ‘maximising the direct involvement of people in the City and beyond as active makers and shapers and not just as passive audiences and consumers’.75
In 2004, DCMS stated that ‘Cultural activities can be highly effective in improving the skills and confidence of individuals and improving the quality of life and the capacity of communities to solve their own problems’.76 It was further recognised that ‘Such activities can contribute to the physical, economic and social regeneration of an area if they are meaningful to and “owned” by the local community’.77 In his 2009 book, Arts Development in Community Health, Mike White concurs that, ‘when cultural activities […] can clearly show that the people involved in them are valued, they stimulate a reciprocity that other kinds of public-sector intervention struggle to achieve’.78 However, in winter 2010–11, after the title had been awarded, Derry City Council conducted (and documented) around forty interviews with community groups around the city and found that people felt isolated and detached from City of Culture.
Despite this palpable sense of disenfrachisement, community initiatives have only been allocated a fraction of the overall budget for 2013 (described by one commentator as ‘crumbs from the colonial table’),79 with the Culture Company allegedly using its failure to attract sponsorship as a reason for keeping such budgets to a minimum. By the time the main programme was published, the community focus had translated into a strand called Culture Connecting Communities, intended to be staged between January and June 2013. Replicated twice in adjacent columns of the brochure, a generic text explained that this programme aimed to:
[…] enable communities across the city to examine the synergies and legacies of their cultural and historical heritage, building their capacity to celebrate their cultural identity on an individual basis as well as a collaborative one. A range of young people will work with their peers, facilitators and artists over a five month period to realize and create expressions of both their single and collective cultural identity within a traditional and contemporary context.80
This city-wide initiative apparently intended to use ‘gateway centres’ for a re-engagement process funded by the European Union’s Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland. Beyond this, we were told that a community fund had been established to support communities in realising their own vision, but the results of this process did not find their way into the official programme.
Early in 2013, an Engaging Communities Strategy was produced by the Culture Company, which stated an aim to ‘bring those on the edge of the city’s cultural life to the heart of it’.81 Continuing the consultation process initiated by Derry City Council, the Culture Company reported a ‘widespread desire within local communities across the city to fully engage with City of Culture 2013’,82 underwritten by a lack of knowledge and confidence about how to do so. This led to the conclusion that the ‘Culture Company needs to provide leadership on the ground and to actively support communities with the development and delivery of cultural programmes that will lead to a measurable improvement in people’s lives’.83 The latest plan is to form alliances with existing community organisations, such as the city’s four Neighbourhood Renewal Partnership Boards, which work in the most disadvantaged areas and are cognisant of the arts being used as a tool for regeneration.84
Within the Outer North area, Greater Shantallow features prominently in the community strategy for 2013.85 Shantallow West ward is a 93.6 percent Catholic area with a high proportion of young people (42.7 percent) suffering from economic and health deprivation.86 Operating within this ward, Greater Shantallow Community Arts (GSCA) embraces the ACNI mission to ‘place the arts at the heart of our social, economic and creative life’,87 by staging high-quality cultural productions for a constituency that extends beyond its immediate area. GSCA director, Oliver Green, also chairs the Cultural Partnership Forum. For eight years, the organisation’s core running costs and the post of Youth Intervention Officer were funded by the DSD, via the Outer North Youth Arts and Culture programme, an initiative delivering direct and youth intervention and engagement programmes through artistic media. In advance of this funding coming to an end on 31 March 2013, GSCA was informed that it would not be renewed, which meant that core costs would not be covered and a crucial post would be lost. In June 2012, the organisation was invited to apply for funding from the Outer North Neighbourhood Renewal Board. Accordingly, a joint application was made with Greater Shantallow Area Partnership (GSAP) and the backing of twenty-eight organisations in the area, dovetailing with certain aspirations of a strategic action plan that had recently endorsed by the whole community. In January 2013, this application collapsed, and the DSD asked the neighbourhood renewal boards to turn their attention to a new city-wide Community Engagement programme which involves the creation of four DSD-funded ‘community animateur’ posts. GSAP has been asked to co-ordinate this programme, overseen by a steering committee made up of representatives from the neighbourhood renewal boards, DSD, Derry City Council and the Culture Company, and one of the animateurs will be placed at GSCA, but this implies no programme or running costs. At the same time, GSCA’s youth intervention role has been delegated to the DSD-funded Western Education and Library Board (WELB). This compelled the former organisation to establish a Service Level Agreement with the latter’s Youth Services, in order to continue delivering a youth programme.
These combined developments suggest an initial strategic void being filled by an additional layer of bureaucracy. The enforced compliance this implies has caused the neighbourhood renewal boards to become known as the ‘community mafia’. In turn, this suggests a one-size-fits-all approach to communities and a potentially damaging refocusing of priorities away from the expertise embedded within them. With communities perceived as the heartland of particular allegiances, it is possible that certain political gatekeepers still cannot bring themselves to permit resources to these areas in such a way that secures their effectiveness. The Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland, has been kept abreast of City of Culture programming decisions during meetings with the Culture Company.88An idea of the success of McCausland’s community approaches may be gleaned from the fact that the only active business interest he has registered at Companies House is a directorship of the Community Convention and Development Company Ltd. Operating out of the Shankill Road, this company describes itself as a ‘A social capital initiative to promote cohesion and positive engagement in three protestant/unionist loyalist communities’.89 The Community Convention approved the moribund Greater Shankill Neighbourhood Renewal Area Action Plan.90
Fortunately, the ostensibly non-partisan ACNI acknowledges a ‘thriving community arts sector in Northern Ireland, widely recognised as [being] at the cutting edge of practice internationally’; working flexibly to build ‘networks of trust that develop social capital, it helps tackle economic, racial and ethnic divides as well as engaging with the most disenfranchised members of our community’.91 This spring, Greater Shantallow Community Arts was successful in its application for core funding from the arts council.
The Legacy of 2013
In considering the future impact of 2013, Derry City Council’s Town Clerk and Chief Executive, Sharon O’Connor, who is Senior Responsible Officer for City of Culture, observed that ‘It was important that City of Culture created a legacy for the city rather than an aftermath’.92 At the December 2012 meeting of the Cultural Partnership Forum, Oonagh McGillon – seconded from the council to serve as Legacy Director for City of Culture – outlined that this endeavour would rest upon four priorities:
1. Culture-led regeneration
2. The transformation of economic prosperity (centred on jobs and skills) and of the external experience of the city (creating a desire to return)
3. Better connections within the city, with cultural activities being extended into communities
4. Having a new story to tell the world
Those arts practitioners and professionals present were asked to consider how their activities would match up to these priorities.
In 2004, DCMS had couched its bold claims about culture-led regeneration in the caveat that ‘Hard evidence of economic regeneration as a result of cultural activity has been largely limited to job and visitor numbers. There is a shortage of subsequent evidence and a need for a stronger and more sophisticated longitudinal evidence base’.93 At the December meeting, the Cultural Partnership Forum was informed that DCMS had asked Derry to report on its experiences as a model for the next incarnation of UK City of Culture in 2017. All eyes, it seems, are on Derry when it comes to gauging the success (or otherwise) of culture-led regeneration. At the same time, the city’s cultural organisations were encouraged to advocate the activities that should be carried forward into the cultural strategy being developed by the forum, with the legacy officer explaining that this strategy would be required to show how a step change has been achieved. Since the December meeting of the Cultural Partnership Forum, speculations have darkened into a fear that the forum will be blamed for any perceived failures in relation to achieving the desired step change.
Cultural policy is determined by two main factors – the relationship between culture and the state, and the socio-economic framework provided for culture by the state. These two factors are interdependent, inasmuch as a society that values the arts and culture will establish and maintain the socio-economic framework necessary to support creative activity. Conversely, if a society only values culture according to its perceived contribution to the economy (through tourism, job creation, the creative industries, etc.), it will respond accordingly. In spring 2013, ACNI put out a new five-year strategy for consultation, which unsurprisingly revels in the presumed successes of the 2012 Belfast-based festival known as Our Time Our Place and UK City of Culture. This document offers no explanation for investing in expensive spectacles during times of austerity, and it is equally unquestioning about the economically derived dogma of the creative industries and the maxims of culture-led regeneration. Nonetheless, the strategy does acknowledge the role of artists in ‘making us question our preconceptions and assumptions and opening us up to possibilities [that enable] us to see things differently, reaching beyond polarised cultures and politics’.94 This would seem to map onto the intention, stated in Derry’s bid document, of stimulating ‘purposeful culture-led inquiry which will allow for alternative views and ideas to be absorbed and considered’.95 In much the same way, other commentators point to the arts as a vehicle for questioning the unacceptable and pointing towards the possible, by catalysing reflections on individual and collective identity and giving voice to under-represented communities.96 In recognition of this ethos, ACNI operates a project funding scheme, entitled ‘Building Peace through the Arts: Re-Imaging Communities’, which enables professional artists to make high-quality art with local communities.
A new cultural strategy for Derry must address the ways in which the arts and culture can play a part in a post-conflict future. In the process, account must be taken of research that shows inequality to be the main determinant of society’s ills.97 It will be remembered that the One Plan specified that all regeneration proposals (including cultural ones) need to demonstrate that they ‘will bring about measurable improvements for those groups who have been identified as experiencing inequality in, for example, housing, education, employment and health’. As a result of hosting City of Culture, Derry can emerge as a new model of cultural engagement, but this can only be achieved by holistically addressing the systemic inequities upon which the city has foundered. This process must begin with a consideration of the needs of the city’s diverse communities, accompanied by coordinated action and comprehensive redistribution. In a bid to ensure that the cultural programme following 2013 is both high-quality and community-owned, this has to be underwritten by open discussion. If successful, such approaches would enable Derry to serve as an exemplar to policy-makers, demonstrating how engagement with the arts and culture can enable communities, fractured by decades of conflict, to form bonds within them and bridges between them. In this way, the arts might become more than a mask for economic and social problems. Only then will Derry have a new story to tell the world.
1. See Michael Farrell, Northern Ireland: The Orange State (London: Pluto Press, 1980 ), p. 25, from which much of this history is distilled.
2. Eamonn McCann, War and an Irish Town (London: Pluto Press, 1980 ), p. 21.
3. The 1922 Special Powers Act, introduced on the Ides of March 1922, was used to intern nationalist and republicans in every decade from the 1920s to the 1970s. Additional legislation criminalised non-violent resistance to the state, as well as cultural expressions of Irishness.
4. McCann, op cit., p. 24.
5. Farrell, op cit., p. 229.
6. McCann, op cit., pp. 135–6.
7. The current composition is DUP (4), SF (3), Alliance (2), SDLP (1) and UUP (1).
8. This figure is given in Cracking the Cultural Code: Derry~Londonderry Proposal for UK City of Culture 2013 and Ilex Urban Regeneration Company, One Plan (Derry: Ilex Urban Regeneration Company, 2011).
9. Derry City Council accounts to 31 March 2012, held at Companies House.
10. IDA Ireland/Demographics Ireland, Demographic Profile Londonderry/Derry, January 2008.
11. Mike Noble, et al, The Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure 2001 (Belfast: Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, 2001). See The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure, 2005.
12. Indecon/London Economics, ‘SWOT’ Analysis of Derry City Council Area, September 2005, p. 20.
13. Ibid, p. 34.
14. One Plan, op cit., p. 6.
15. Ibid, p. 25.
16. Andy Pratt, ‘Creative Cities: Tensions within and between social, cultural and economic development’, City, Culture and Society, issue 1, 2010, p. 15.
17. Graeme Evans and Phyllida Shaw, The Contribution of Culture to Regeneration in the UK: A Review of the Evidence. Report to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (London: London Metropolitan University, 2004), p. 26.
18. One Plan, op cit., p. 14.
19. Department for Culture, Media and Sport, UK City of Culture Working Group: Terms of Reference, March 2009, p. 4.
20. Ibid, p. 8.
21. Ibid, p. 9.
22. The working group was initially made up of Phil Redmond (Chair); Keith Bartlett, Director of Engagement (North), Museums, Libraries and Archives Council; Steven Bee, Director of Planning and Development, English Heritage; Caroline Collier, Director, Tate National; Sandie Dawe, Deputy
Chief Executive, VisitBritain; George Entwistle, Controller of Knowledge Commissioning, BBC; Bryan Gray, Chairman, North West RDA; Charles Knevitt, Director, RIBA Trust (or Paul Davis, architect and RIBA Council Member); Louise Lane, Director of Communications, Heritage Lottery Fund; Aileen McEvoy, Interim Executive Director, Arts Council North West; Bill Morris, Director for Culture, Ceremonies and Education, LOCOG; Mark Prescott, Head of Cultural Campaigns, Greater London Authority; Chris White, Chair, Culture, Tourism and Sports Board, Local Government Association; John Woodward, Chief Executive, UK Film Council; Jan Younghusband, Commissioning Editor for Arts, Channel 4. This was later supplemented with: Gwilym Evans, Head of Policy, Strategy and Finance, Welsh Assembly Government; Sarah Morrell, Head of Cultural Strategy and Diplomacy in Culture, External Affairs, Culture and Tourism Directorate, Scottish Government and Linda Wilson, Director of Culture, Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Northern Ireland.
23. Department for Culture, Media and Sport, UK City of Culture Working Group Report, June 2009, p.15.
24. Ibid, p. 24.
25. Ibid, p. 8.
26. Cited in Colin Trodd, ‘Culture, Class, City: The National Gallery, London and the Spaces of Education, 1822–57’ in Marcia Pointon (ed.), Art Apart: Art Institutions and Ideology across England and North America (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994), p. 33.
27. Regeneris Consulting, UK City of Culture: Bidding Guidance, August 2009, p. 2.
28. Ibid, p. 1.
29. This panel included representatives from DCMS and Regeneris and other cultural and media figures. Originally comprised of eight members, the television presenter, Lauren Levine, withdrew.
30. Taken from the poem/chorus spoken on the steps of the Guildhall in 1990, the stanza reads:
So hope for a great sea change
On the far side of revenge
Believe that a farther shore
Is reachable from here
Cited in Cracking the Cultural Code, op cit., p. 2.
31. See Seamus Heaney, Foreword to Executive Summary of Cracking the Cultural Code: Derry~Londonderry Proposal for UK City of Culture 2013, 17 November 2009.
32. Cracking the Cultural Code, op. cit., p. 7.
33. Ibid, p. 6.
34. Ibid, p. 7.
35. See ‘Office of the U.S. Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland Provides Embedded Support to Derry-Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 Bid’ available at the US Embassy website.
36. See Voices video available on YouTube.
37. Bloody Sunday Families, Innocent: Remembering 15 June 2010, reactions to the Saville Report on Bloody Sunday.
38. The delegation included Robin Newton, representing the First Minister of Northern Ireland; the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness; the Mayor of Derry, Councillor Colum Eastwood; Chief Executive of Ilex, Aideen McGinley; US Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland, Declan Kelly; Chief Executive of Derry City Council, Valerie Watts; Advisor to the Strategic Investment Board, Michael Donnelly; Arts and Culture Officer at Derry City Council, Brendan McMenamin; and two economists.
39. One Plan, op. cit., p. 6.
40. Loc cit.
41. DCAL, Assessment of Need carried out in relation to the funding of City of Culture, p. 6, released in response to a Freedom of Information request.
42. Ibid, p. 12.
43. ‘Londonderry is Named UK City of Culture’, BBC News, 15 July 2010.
44. Evans and Shaw, op cit., p. 6.
45. One Plan, op. cit., p. 28.
46. Derry~Londonderry 2013 (Derry: Culture Company, 2012) p. 4.
47. Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Culture at the Heart of Regeneration (London: Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2004), p. 28.
48. Charles Landry and Franco Bianchini, ‘Rediscovering Urban Creativity: Why are Some Cities Successful?’ in The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators (London: Demos, 1995), p. 4.
49. Richard Florida, Cities and the Creative Class (London and New York: Routledge, 2005), p. 21.
50. Evans and Shaw, op cit., p. 33.
51. Daniel Jewesbury, ‘Our Time, Our Place’, Conflict, Community, Culture.
52. Taken from the Strategic Investment Board website.
53. Registered at Companies House on 7 March 2011.
54. 2013 magazine, issue 1, December 2012–January 2013, pp. 44–5.
55. Fidel Castro Ruz, ‘Words to the Intellectuals’  in The Revolution and Cultural Problems in Cuba (Havana: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1962).
56. According to records held at Companies House, Declan McGonagle’s directorship of the Culture Company began on 29 March 2012 and was terminated on 31 October of the same year.
57. Risk Management, Extracted from the Town Clerk and Chief Executive’s Report, 18 July 2012, released in response to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act.
58. Eamonn McCann, ‘Direct Rule at the Culture Company’, Derry Journal, 24 October 2012.
59. According to records held at Companies House, Sharon O’Connor’s directorship of the Culture Company began on 26 March 2012 and was terminated on 7 November of the same year.
60. Minutes of Meeting of City of Culture Oversight Committee, 21 June 2012, released by OFMDFM under the Freedom of Information Act.
61. Email sent on 3 July 2012, released by Derry City Council under the Freedom of Information Act.
62. UK City of Culture 2013, DCAL Funding – Letter of Offer, Extracted from Town Clerk and Chief Executive’s Report of 31 May 2012, released under the Freedom of Information Act.
63. Derry~Londonderry 2013, op cit., p. 100.
64. DCAL Funding – Letter of Offer, op cit. This offer was negotiated by DCAL Head of Arts, Joanna McConway, following an Aessment of Need.
65. Special Council meeting held on 8 October 2010, minutes released under the Freedom of Information Act.
66. Pratt, op cit., p. 18.
67. One Plan, op. cit., p. 28.
68. Arts Council Northern Ireland, Ambitions for the Arts: a Five Year Strategic Plan for the Arts in Northern Ireland 2013–2018, open for consultation March– April 2013, p. 14.
69. DCAL Funding – Letter of Offer, op cit.
70. 86.2 percent compared to 82.8 percent, according to figures supplied by DCAL in response to a Freedom of Information request.
71. See Neil Gray, ‘CG 2014: Formulary for a Skewed Urbanism’, Mute, Vol. 2, issue 12, 2009, p. 30.
72. The Independent Assessment Panel is made up of Prof. Phil Redmond CBE (Chair); Derrick Anderson CBE (CEO Lambeth Council); Prof John Ashton CBE (Joint Director Public Health Cumbria); Anna Carragher (retired BBC NI Controller); Margaret Evans (retired Director of Culture, Welsh Language & Sport Welsh Assembly); Rotha Johnston CBE (Pro-Chancellor Queen’s University Belfast); Robert Palmer (Director of Culture, Council of Europe Strasbourg). Taken from Clerk and Chief Executive’s Report of 31 May 2012, op cit.
73. This is mentioned by Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Culture Company, in a Progress Report to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure, 26 June 2012.
74. Culture at the Heart of Regeneration, op cit., p. 6.
75. Cracking the Cultural Code, op. cit., p. 5.
76. Ibid, p. 31.
77. Culture at the Heart of Regeneration, op cit., p. 31.
78. Mike White, Arts Development in Community Health: A Social Tonic (Oxford and New York: Radcliffe Publishing, 2009), p. 35.
79. In summer 2012, £250,000 was allocated to the four Neighbourhood Renewal Boards, with a further £50,000 for projects in rural areas, with community groups being able to bid for grants of between £1,000 and £3,000. In addition to this, £600,000 has been donated to community groups through the programme known as ‘What’s the Big Idea?’. Culture Company, Engaging Communities Strategy 2013.
80. Derry~Londonderry 2013, op cit., p. 83.
81. Engaging Communities Strategy 2013, op cit., p. 1.
82. Loc cit.
83. Ibid, p. 2.
84. These are Outer North, Outer West, Waterside and Triax, the latter of which includes the Creggan, Bogside, Brandywell, Bishop Street and Fountain communities.
85. This is the first organisation to be mentioned by name in the Culture Company’s Engaging Communities Strategy, and a request to the Culture Company for its community strategy elicited four documents, one of which was Greater Shantallow Arts and Culture Strategic Plan and Five Year Action Plan 2012–17.
86. The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure, 2005.
87. See Greater Shantallow Community Arts website.
88. At a meeting of the City of Culture Oversight Committee on 21 June 2012 (op cit), Shona McCarthy reported having met McCausland, with future meetings planned.
89. Taken from the Community Convention and Development Company website.
90. Jewesbury, op cit.
91. Ambitions for the Arts, op cit., p. 12.
92. Taken from Clerk and Chief Executive’s Report of 31 May 2012, op cit.
93. Culture at the Heart of Regeneration, op cit., p. 5.
94. Ambitions for the Arts, op cit., p. 2.
95. Cracking the Cultural Code, op. cit., p. 7.
96. Clive Parkinson, ‘Fur Coat No Knickers’, report for ixia the public art think tank, March 2012.
97. See, for example, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone (London: Penguin, 2010).