It’s April 2012. Along with Jude Law, Jeremy Gilley is in Derry-Londonderry to host the Peace One Day Concert. Jeremy is taking his first look around the concert’s venue, Ebrington Square. Jeremy likes what he sees. “You could not be in a better location!” He’s got a point. Ebrington, though, did not begin life as a concert venue: up until 10 years ago this was an army barracks. The Peace One Day Concert was the first day of its new life as a live venue.
On 1 January 2013, the entire city of Derry-Londonderry becomes a venue for culture. A brief look at planned events confirms the expected: music will play its part.
Other Voices defines the intimate concert. From the stone surrounds of small church in Dingle, County Kerry, this was live music stripped. No bells and whistles were needed, just good acoustics and perfect voices combining to create a magical music television programme. Sinead O’Connor, Florence and the Machine, Jose Gonzalez, Jarvis Cocker, Snow Patrol... The big names came, they saw and they sang. Beautifully. Until now, aside from a trip to New York, Other Voices has never been planned for anywhere outside Dingle. That changes at Derry-Londonderry in 2013.
Music will be a big theme for Derry-Londonderry 2013. Other Voices proves it. Another theme is firsts. To prove that, we have the Fleadh Cheoil.
Time for traditional
Think of the Fleadh Cheoil as the Olympics of traditional Irish music. It competitive, it’s hard fought. Most of all, it’s fun. Stages are erected mid-street, kids strain under the weight of bodhrans, fiddles and flutes and Irish dancing erupts on the sidewalk. A look down the list of Fleadh Cheoil since 1951 is telling: the event has never taken place in Northern Ireland.
So, what should Derry-Londonderry expect from the fleadh? Music Journalist Colin Irwin described it as “Wild and wonderful” in the UK’s Guardian newspaper. On the Fleadh Cheoil’s Facebook wall, David Mills was similarly impressed with 2012’s festival in Cavan:
“There were kids up to my knee playing accordions as if they’d been at it for 50 years! A little girl on one of the stages, she must have been no more than 7, had a better command of the fiddle than adults five times her age. Traditional music is alive and well”
Those who know Londonderry’s musical pedigree won’t be surprised to see music take centre stage for the city’s year as UK City of Culture. The list of Derry-Londonderry’s musical sons and daughters is a healthy one: Fergal Sharkey and the Undertones, singer-songwriter Phil Coulter, Girls Aloud's Nadine Coyle and Glee star Damian McGinty. The famous tear-jerker Danny Boy is also known as The Londonderry Air thanks to the place of its provenance. Music isn’t just in the air here, it’s in the blood.
Johnny McDaid, songwriter for groups such as Northern Ireland music maestros, Snow Patrol, is a Derry-Londonderry local, and proud of it. According to Johnny, 2013 can’t come soon enough:
"Derry is on the edge of the water, the edge of the country, and on the edge of Europe. City of Culture puts Derry where it deserves to be for its moment: at the centre, where a light can shine on the well of talent, creativity and spirit it is home to.”