Thursday, June 17, 2010
If there hadn't already been enough happening around Ireland's North West coast, today, the good people behind the Derry-Londonderry UK City of Culture bid will be delivering their pitch in Liverpool. They're up against Sheffield, Norwich and Birmingham.
Now, with all due respect to them, these rivals will - I suspect - be handing in very managerialist bids. Ducks will be got in a row, business cases will be made and - who knows - this could result in the legacy of a new carrot-cake-and-coffee cinema!
Culture is where big important and exciting things happen. In Derry, they nearly fell out with each other over whether they should be bidding to be part of the UK City of Culture and then the usual squabbles went on quietly about the name and so on.
Derry has petty rivalries but sits, historically, on a gaping historical chasm that separates far more than just nationalists and unionists. It's a great little town and one that got into the souls of anyone who grew up in this country in the 1970s.
Our local Catholic church used to run schemes where kids of my age were brought over from Derry for a few quiet weeks away from carnage that was happening around them. Derry has stories to tell and narratives that need to be played out.
It's current iconography - whether it's Free Derry Corner or the murals showing kids in gas-masks priming up Molotov Cocktails, - is one that needs to be mashed up and worked over. One of the most stunning artifacts I've seen in a long time was the way that one of Anthony Gormley's manikins was necklaced (pdf) for some imagined sectarian transgression. It's one of the most stunning responses that I've ever seen to a work of art.
Any cultural focus that Derry gets over the next few years can make a huge difference to the city - and it could teach us all a few things we don't already know.
I hope the judges can get to understand this potential.