Friday, July 30, 2010

A City of Culture for All?

Very recently, it was cheers all round for the Derry, Londonderry, Legenderry victory in the UK City of Culture awards for 2013. The people of the city had combined to present a unified front, recognising divisions, yet also the shared space with its cultural richness. A great success for the Maiden City, and one that bodes well for 2013 with an influx of visitors anticipated as well as premier cultural and social events being held in the city. A fitting marking of the 400th anniversary of the charter to begin the building of the city by The Honourable, The Irish Society in 1613.

Yet there were always unspoken concerns that not all cultures are equally welcomed within and without the famous Derry's walls. Just last August, there was an attempt to burn a Protestant Bishop's portrait on a bonfire.

Burning the Bishop?

Today the BBC are reporting that the minority culture is again being attacked in the city, in the run up to the Maiden City Festival. Another historical figure has been targeted, this time the (remains) of the statue of Rev George Walker, one of the joint governors of the city during the siege of 1688-89.


The BBC NI website has a picture from today, with one arm completely off following the attack. So what message does this send out from the UK City of Culture? That some cultures are less welcomed? Even one of the central cultures within the city itself?

It could, of course, be the work of a small group of 'activists' wanting to be seen to strike a blow against the Protestant community. Regardless of how many were involved, though, the message is loud and clear - will this be the theme of the City of Culture year?

It's good to see that Pat Ramsey of the SDLP has condemned the attack, as he said: "The people of Derry will be appalled to learn of this act of wanton vandalism.

"Respect for different cultures and traditions are essential as we strive to build a shared society and promote Derry as a shared city," he said.

"This type of reckless and thoughtless behaviour sends out the wrong message especially at this time of year when the streets of our city are packed with tourists from all over the globe.

"Derry has been in the media spotlight for so many good reasons lately we will not let anyone drag us back to the past," Mr Ramsey added.

Let's hope that all cultures are respected and welcomed in the run up to 2013.

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