Sharon O’Connor explains Derry City Council’s plans for 2013 to agendaNi.
Derry City Council’s Town Clerk and Chief Executive, Sharon O’Connor, says Derry~Londonderry is ready to tell its new story to the world, thanks to over £100 million investment in city infrastructure, that will bring new opportunities for business and tourism economies for the region. One of the city’s strengths is the positive city-wide partnership to deliver the One Plan, which is included in Programme for Government for 2011-2015 and will see significant investment in regeneration in the city at key sites such as Fort George and Ebrington, as well as investment in the city’s railway links.
The Council CEO said that the ongoing support of all government departments in getting behind the city as it prepares to host a line-up of world class events in 2012 ahead of countdown preparations for City of Culture 2013, was essential to the city’s success.
O’Connor commented: “This year will see over £100 million invested in city infrastructure, economic and profile gain by welcoming thousands of visitors to our shores through NI 2012 events and the opportunity to accelerate the transformation of the city through a world class City of Culture 2013 year. Earlier this month OFMDFM and DCAL announced funding of £12.6 millon to help us unlock the full creative potential for our City of Culture celebrations.”
From public realm improvements, the opening of new event and community spaces, business skills programmes, volunteer initiatives and public and private sector partnerships the city is counting down to world class events in 2012 and 2013. Some of the new events added to the City’s calendar this year include the Celtic Film and Media Festival, Olympic Torch arrival on 4 June, Peace One Day Concert (21 June), North Atlantic Fiddle Festival and Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 11-12 (29 June to 8 July).
The Town Clerk said that the city is looking forward to the growth opportunities for tourism, creative industries and for indigenous business growth. Counting down to 2013 she said: “There is an opportunity to capitalise on the potential for events and how the city’s transformation can ensure the local and visitor experience is world class.”
In terms of the tourism infrastructure, O’Connor added that investment in many of the built heritage projects such as the Guildhall, the Apprentice Boys of Derry Museum and Aras Colmcille ensure that the city’s heritage and cultural offering is constantly progressing.
“Tourism currently generates approximately £30 million into the local economy, encourages 165,700 overnights visitors and supports 616,500 bed nights for the city and region and the City Walls are ranked fourth in the top ten visitor attractions in Northern Ireland, she commented. The capacity for hotel growth is demonstrated by a growing interest in the private sector for expansion and readiness for 2013. This is supported by a new opportunity in the areas of camping and motor home locations. New business start-ups in relation to the tourism product such as the Legenderry Road Train and the Blue Boat Tours on the River Foyle show that entrepreneurial spirit is alive in the city.
“The continued growth in the conference market is expected to add £2 million to the city’s business tourism economy in 2012 in addition to the increasing interest from conference business for 2013,” she commented.
Outlining the city’s strong focus on the digital sector, O’Connor said that the Digital Derry initiative seeks to grow and expand the creative industry companies. “From software to moving image there is an opportunity to maximize the potential of this sector throughout 2012 and 2013. As a switched-on city, the telecoms infrastructure has expanded as Derry~Londonderry becomes the first city to become super fast broadband enabled with over £3 million investment from BT. This builds upon the lower cost and greater connectivity speeds through the realisation of Project Kelvin and the transatlantic broadband connection that is available.
“There are also business capacity funds to growth the skills of local business for export and business growth for 2012 and 2013. This is also supported by the city’s international road show to San Francisco, New York and Halifax during the months of April to July 2012 as part of the Clipper 11-12 and City of Culture 2013 programme,” she said.
O’Connor, referring to the investment in physical infrastructure and how significant investment has already been made in the city in preparation for 2013, said: “This will help grow the economy and leave a lasting creative, social and cultural legacy for all communities. It’s the start of a significant countdown to 2013 and the partnership and support to make the city a successful destination for business and tourism is better than ever.”
Among the projects outlined was the Guildhall and how the first phase of the restoration building has been completed and phase two of the works, which will see the interior of the building transformed, set to commence in the coming weeks.
She said the completion of the public realm improvements has transformed the city centre into an urban landscape and helped create a real buzz in the heart of the city. “It has helped create an attractive and welcoming space for people to enjoy and has successfully generated tangible economic benefits. The Department for Social Development continue to improve the built environment through a number of schemes and public realm improvements along the quayside and schemes will also vastly improve the appearance of the commercial businesses within the city centre.”
One of the main focuses of the Council’s work is to tell the story of how the city is preparing to host a series of world class events in 2012. The Town Clerk outlined how the Olympic Festival at St Columb’s Park 1-4 June, will see the arrival of the Olympic Flame to the region, followed by the Peace One Day concert on 21 June. “This concert will mark the start of the Olympiad celebrations and offer music lovers from across Northern Ireland to get involved in the Olympic celebrations, enjoy some live music and see Derry’s latest concert space at the former Ebrington Parade Ground which is now linked to the city centre thanks to the recently opened Peace Bridge across the River Foyle.”
O’Connor said the River Foyle will be the focus of activity during the month of July as the city will be an official host port to welcome teams from the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race to the city (29 June-8 July). “There is significant investment in marine infrastructure coming into place with the new Clipper Marina funded by Interreg IV programme of the European funding. It is a partnership programme between Loughs Agency and Londonderry Port. The new events marina will create a legacy for marine events in the heart of the city. The city is also experiencing a resurgence of interest from cruise ships with nine scheduled to visit in 2012, the largest number of visits since 1998.”
Concluding, the Town Clerk said the pace of change enables us to tell a confident story locally and internationally. “The city team is working closely to grow a new confidence locally as well as creating new international connections with business, tourism, culture and Diaspora. Through a road show to USA, Canada and Holland, we will be following the Clipper teams to international shores to share this story of change. Whether it is cultural, trade or tourism connections, 2012 is a new opportunity to be positive about the future and send out a global invite to come home for two great years of celebrations and change.”