Northern Ireland

UK City of Culture: The first 100 days

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Media captionNadine Coyle was just one of many stars who have performed to date in UK City of Culture events

The first 100 days of Londonderry's year as UK City of Culture have given the city a much-needed economic boost with an influx of tourists.

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the 2013 Culture Company, said there had been a 20% increase in hotel occupancy and visitor numbers are expected to rise further in the summer months.

In spite of some problems behind the scenes, and the recent resignation of project director Dermot McLaughlin, the City of Culture events have all taken place on schedule.

Ms McCarthy said: "It's surpassing all expectations. We've had an incredible first three months.

"The audiences have been extraordinary. We've sold out on practically every event to date. We haven't even got to the big stuff yet and this city is already buzzing."

The multi-million-pound programme includes more than 200 events, ranging from music to dance to art to theatre to sport. The majority of events - about 75% - are free for the public to attend.

The decision by Dermot McLaughlin - one of the key players in the project - to quit last month took many people by surprise.

However, Ms McCarthy said: "I think he probably felt his job here was done. You know, these projects... people come and go... they do have kind of transient populations, but the core team at Culture Company here remains the same."

So what about reports of a power-struggle, clashes and tensions between the Culture Company and Derry City Council?

Image caption Dermot McLaughlin resigned in March as Derry City Council's City of Culture project director

She said: "If you ever read any of Bob Palmer's reports, and he is the global expert on cities of culture... they tell you that these projects are always political, there's always difficulties, there's always problems.

"And I'm not going to pretend that Derry-Londonderry is any different. It's exactly the same as any other city.

"But I think it's wrong to focus on those things because really what matters is that we are setting a precedent here, we're setting a benchmark for the first ever city to hold this title and we're doing it really well.

"And for the public out there, it doesn't matter what's going on behind the scenes, as long as the big concerts are happening, as long as there are benefits for the city ... then all of that stuff is just a distraction."

In a statement, a spokesperson for Derry City Council insisted there was a "strong partnership" between all those involved in organising the 2013 programme.

The events coming up include the Radio 1 Big Weekend pop extravaganza (May 24-26), The Return of Colmcille (June 7-8) and Fleadh Cheoil na h√Čireann 2013 (August 11-18).

The Turner Prize award is also being staged in the city.

Although the city has had economic lift in the first three months as City of Culture, the key challenge lies ahead - pulling in summer visitors, and making them want to come back.

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