Can Londonderry emulate Liverpool's culture success?

Liverpool 08 logo during the city's European Capital of Culture celebrations Being European Capital of Culture 2008 gave Liverpool an economic boost of £800m

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If you were picking a list of UK cities with image problems, it would not be unfair to put down Londonderry.

Northern Ireland's second city was greatly affected by the Troubles that beset the region over 30 or so years; and whether right or wrong, that legacy can be a difficult one to shake off.

But behind an image where too much history can still loom large, Derry has made great strides in recent years, confirmed by the fact it has been chosen as the UK's first City of Culture for 2013.

A new honour designed to complement the existing European Capital of Culture (ECoC) prize that has come to the UK only twice in the past 20 years, the City of Culture crown will instead be awarded every four years.

And the principle of the new award is the same as the Europe-wide one - to enable the winning city to boost its image, profile and economy though a year-long series of cultural events.

As Liverpool says it is continuing to reap the benefits of being the UK's last holder of the ECoC title in 2008, what can Derry hope to achieve from winning the new UK-only crown?

More tourists

The first thing to point out is that, unlike the ECoC prize, the UK City of Culture title comes with no funds from the European Union or UK government.

But as the figures from Liverpool 2008 show, this should not concern Derry unduly.

It was Liverpool City Council itself that funded more than half of the cost of the city's year of events, spending £75m out of the total budget of £130m.

Direct funds from the European Union totalled just £809,000, while sponsorship reached £22m.

Start Quote

We have to be honest and say that Londonderry has far more problems than Liverpool had, and it is a much lesser prize”

End Quote Brian Morgan University of Wales Institute Cardiff

Derry taxpayers may gulp at having to foot most of the bill for 2013, but the boost to the city could be substantial - Liverpool estimates that it attracted 9.7 million additional tourists in 2008, which generated an economic impact of £800m.

Hosting 2008 also provided a major stimulus for Liverpool's continuing wider regeneration work.

And according to a joint report by the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, the image of the city across both the UK and Europe was substantially improved.

"In 2008, positive stories on the city's cultural assets dominated over the traditional emphasis on negative social issues," said the study.

It added that positive impressions of Liverpool increased among the UK population from 53% to 60%, while negative views dropped from 20% to 14%.

'Self-confidence boost'

Joe Anderson, leader of Liverpool City Council, says that hosting ECoC 2008 "has reshaped Liverpool - the way it looks, thinks and acts".

Paul McCartney Liverpool lad Paul McCartney held an open-air concert in the city in 2008

"Beyond the £800m impact of the year, 2008 also injected a huge amount of self-confidence," he adds.

"As well as bequeathing a legacy of pride and ambition, Liverpool set out a template for success which the rest of the UK can adapt and benefit from.

"The UK City of Culture is a great example of our legacy."

Glasgow, the only other UK city to have so far held the ECoC crown - in 1990 - also reaped the benefits.

"It generated a net economic return for the region of between £10.4m and £14m, with the creation of 6,000 full-time equivalent jobs," said a spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council.

"The number of overseas staying visitors jumped by 130,000 to 450,000, and the city received increased positive media coverage both at home and abroad.

"The events also touched the lives of four out of five city residents.

'Pull together'

For economist Brian Morgan, director of the University of Wales Institute Cardiff's Creative Leadership and Enterprise Centre, Derry has been handed a "huge opportunity".

The Free Derry mural in Londonderry Derry's troubled past still looms large

"However, we have to be honest and say that Londonderry has far more problems than Liverpool had, and it is a much lesser prize," he says.

"It can still be a major success for Londonderry, but only if the sections of Londonderry society pull together - the organisers have got to get everyone on board.

"There has been incredible change [for the better] in Northern Ireland in recent years, led by political leadership that has responded far more than anyone though.

"This has to now continue to drive Londonderry's big year in 2013."

Brand expert Jim Boulton, a partner at advertising agency Story Worldwide, says Londonderry has been given a great opportunity to improve its image.

"Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the award is to the self-esteem of Londonderry itself," he says.

"If as a result of this endorsement the people of Londonderry are given renewed confidence in their city, become evangelists, and collectively drive towards making 2013 the best possible experience, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy."

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