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Seamus Heaney Heads Londonderry's UK City Of Culture Plans

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Northern Irish Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney will be among an array of international and local talent featured during Londonderry's year as the first UK City of Culture in 2013.

The Royal Ballet will visit Northern Ireland for the first time in more than 12 years and there will be a new commission by the London Symphony Orchestra, while the All-Ireland fleadh will be the largest festival of Irish culture anywhere in the world - part of a programme drawing from the best in British, Irish and international creativity.

A new play by American playwright Sam Shepard, the return of Brian Friel's celebrated Field Day theatre company to the city and the first presentation outside England of the Turner Prize for art are among other highlights.

derry
Celebrations following Londonderry's success

Despite a peace process which has helped transform a city once blighted by violence, Derry has been targeted by dissident republicans for bombings and shootings multiple times in recent years - including an incident where explosives were planted outside the company which is organising next year's festivities - and security is expected to be tight.

Traditionally divided by the River Foyle between nationalists and unionists, it was dubbed one of the best cities in the world to visit next year by the Lonely Planet travel company.

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Culture Company 2013, said: "We hope that Derry/Londonderry's City of Culture year brings a sense of joy, a sense of ambition, a sense of pride in our community, a sense of being part of a global community, and in the end a sense of achievement - that we all did this together and it meant something. A huge success for a small city."

Derry triumphed over stiff opposition to win the title for 2013 - the first time it has ever been awarded.

Hundreds of events are planned, covering genres of theatre, music, dance, visual arts, architecture and film.

The programme will arrive by speedboat, before a marathon runner will then run with it over the Peace Bridge spanning the river dividing the mainly nationalist west from the mainly unionist east, and then deliver it to the mayor of Derry.

First Citizen Kevin Campbell said: "The City of Culture year will transform our city and region. The range of contemporary music, dance, theatre, arts and performance events will link our diverse communities in programmes of celebration."

Elsewhere this week in Culture...

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