Summer in the City of Culture in Derry~Londonderry has been extraordinary. We have just witnessed the success of the first Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Northern Ireland, a celebration of Irish culture attended by 430,000 people. This week we are looking forward to the city's first Tattoo (not the Cheryl Cole kind, we have plenty of those) while in early August the annual parade by the city's loyalist Apprentice Boys was celebrated. While the tackling of division in Derry is more complex and historical than the above headline suggests, culture as a whole has flourished this year and the city is growing in confidence.
Perhaps confidence is embodied best among the city's galleries and visual artists which will light up the city as the dark nights set in. Derry~Londonderry is justifiably proud of its visual arts community and heritage and in 2013 it can boast an art programme which is as exciting as any on these islands. Spearheaded by the first edition of the prestigious Turner Prize outside England on the site of a former army barracks, the City of Culture year has provided the catalyst for a surge of activity and creativity in our galleries, in reimagined venues and on our streets. Two new galleries and a suite of artists studios have opened this year and the energy released by Derry artists and their international peers is having a disproportionately positive impact on a city so small.
Highlights include a major exhibition including new works from one of Derry's most celebrated sons, Willie Doherty, Rita Duffy's site specific works which are resuscitating the city's industrial heritage through installations in an old shirt factory, a four day festival of light installations by world class artists during Lumiere in November, and outstanding programmes curated by the twin pillars of our arts community - VOID and CCA galleries.
Johann Lund Aileen Burns of the CCA gallery are looking forward to a bright future,
"The City of Culture has been a catalyst for CCA. The excitement around the arts has allowed us create our first independent space, to meet new audiences from near and far in unprecedented numbers, to build meaningful international partnerships, and work with artists to deliver ambitious projects. We hope that the energy of this year sparks a long-term passion for the arts."
The word culture derives its meaning from the Latin 'cultura' which is 'the tilling of land for seed'. This City of Culture year is preparing very fertile ground.
For now, though, we implore anyone with an interest in the visual arts to make a journey to the very edgiest edge of Europe this year. There will never be a better time to visit Derry and you will not be disappointed.