Londonderry named as first UK City of Culture

LONDONDERRY (Reuters) - Londonderry celebrated on Thursday after it was named the first UK City of Culture, a role it will take on in 2013.

A man passes a mural in the bogside area of Londonderry June 10, 2010. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

The city in Northern Ireland beat off Sheffield, Birmingham and Norwich, the other three finalists shortlisted for the honour.

“This is a truly great moment for Derry/Londonderry,” said Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey.

“The panel were unanimous in their recommendation because of their compelling cultural programme, the way it seeks to address the city’s past and the enthusiasm and commitment of the city and its supporters.”

Huge celebrations got underway in Londonderry within minutes of the announcement amid predictions that the victory would bring up to 3,000 jobs to the area.

The party centred on the city’s municipal building, the Guildhall where a month ago a long-awaited report into the Bloody Sunday killings of unarmed Catholic civilians in 1972 by British troops in Londonderry concluded all the victims had all been innocent.

Hundreds of people inside and outside the Guildhall broke into ecstatic cheering and applause as the news was broadcast on a live television broadcast from Liverpool.

“This is a great, great night for the city. Good times are ahead with new economic investment and jobs and it is a precious prize for the peacemakers,” said Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Londonderry will spend a year in the national spotlight in 2013, and could host high-profile cultural events such as the Turner Prize for arts and the Brits pop music awards.

A wide range of organisations, including the BBC and English Heritage, are committed to helping the city prepare for its year as the UK’s cultural hub, a spokesman for the competition said.

The new programme was launched by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to try to replicate the success of Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture 2008.

The economic boost to Liverpool was estimated at 750 million pounds from urban redevelopment and a tourism surge, according to Liverpool City Council.

“I have no doubt that Derry/Londonderry will follow Liverpool and show what impact, what step change, a year in the media spotlight can bring about,” said Phil Redmond, Chairman of the Independent Advisory Panel which helped select the winning city.

Reporting by Alessandra Prentice in London and Ivan Little in Belfast; Editing by Michael Holden