Reflections on Derry/Londonderry's City of Culture year

As Derry/Londonderry approaches the end of its year as the first-ever UK City of Culture, some of the big names, artists and those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes reflect on its many highlights.

James Nesbitt - Actor and University of Ulster chancellor

Image caption The Sons and Daughters concert was the first major event of the year

"It was an incredible and sensational year. It was brilliant for the region and helped to spread the word about what a wonderful place it is. The Sons and Daughters concert was a fantastic kick-start to the year. I was one of the hosts, and it was a wonderful celebration. We had Snow Patrol, Phil Coulter and many more musicians involved.

"Unfortunately, I was away filming The Hobbit during the Return of Colmcille but I recorded a special introduction to the show. It seemed like a wonderful, colourful event. The year was just one success after another."

James Kee - Walled City Tattoo organiser

Image caption 600 people took part in the first-ever Walled City Tattoo in August

"My reflection on this City of Culture year is that it was based on the rich tapestry of cultural expression compiled from diverse areas and by diverse people from within and outside the city.

"I have no doubt this year has helped develop confidence in cultural identity.

"I have observed a plethora of events that exceeded the expectation of our audiences from right across the globe, plus the capacity of the hundreds of volunteers has to be commended.

"The Walled City Tattoo showcased local and international talent. A 500-strong cast, music, song, dance and theatre that displayed a vivid reflection of our colourful history to 14,000 spectators, of whom 2,000 came from outside Northern Ireland.

"I have seen in the city a change of attitude, a new pride in cultural identity and an acceptance not so evident before.

"This year's contributions need to continue to stimulate economic, cultural and social activity, while making a significant contribution to local and national identity and pride, and leave a legacy in the Maiden City for years to come."

Maggie Taggart - BBC Northern Ireland arts correspondent

Image caption Lumiere saw the city transformed with 17 light sculptures and other installations across buildings for four nights

"I have visited Derry/Londonderry quite a few times this year and really relished the opportunity to celebrate big events which would have been gems even as single events rather than part of a series of triumphs.

"Simply watching concerts and spectacles on television brought a tingle to the spine, in particular the Sons and Daughters gig on BBC. Radio One's Big Weekend was so impressive, it gave me goose-bumps listening to international music stars on the radio extolling the virtues of Derry, a place many of them probably had not heard of before.

"How brilliant to witness such a glossy, professional production in the Venue at Ebrington.

"I was privileged to be invited to, and to report on, the Turner Prize. I think maybe it took until the arrival of the exhibition for it to sink in the first time the awards had been held outside England was a huge coup for the city.

"The build up to the announcement was distinguished by the Lumiere festival. The crowds were amazing as people from the city and outside marched round checking out the wonderful light shows and installations.

"Mouths dropped open as they saw familiar buildings transformed by animations. Above all, the mood was light and smiles were on faces as they saw what the UK City of Culture could achieve."

Michael Bradley - Undertones bassist and BBC radio producer/presenter

Image caption Michael Bradley performed with the Undertones as part of the Sons and Daughters show

"If you drew a graph of my excitement level for our year as UK City of Culture, (y=thrill, x=month) you would see the line starting low in January, getting to a peak in June and August, a couple more peaks in the autumn, then a slow, graceful glide to normality at the end of December.

"The year started for me with the BBC's Sons and Daughters show, where I found myself in a tent at the bottom of my street with Dana, Phil Coulter and the Priests.

"Luckily I was only there to play bass with the Undertones. I like a show where I can walk home for tea and toast when it's over.

"My radio career as a cultural critter started with Pure Culture in May and that's given me (and Sarah Brett) a close up of many of the practitioners of the arts. From Grayson Perry, to Ralph McTell, Paul Greengrass to Mark Wallinger - they've all come to Derry and left with a great impression of the place.

"The great thing about Pure Culture is that it leaves whatever intrigue, policy problems and disagreements outside the studio door.

"Like the majority of the city, the show only has eyes and ears for the art, the entertainment and the talent.

"We've had a great time, we've had our horizons broadened and I sometimes get a feeling that we're all better off for being here in 2013."

Rita Duffy - artist who ran the Shirt Factory Project

Image caption The art project took inspiration from the shirt factories of Derry

"It was a socially engaged project exploring the legacy of shirt making and female labour in the city as a contemporary art experience.

"Working across art forms, this year-long project has worked with various individuals, stitching together a range of themes; history, politics, gender roles, collective lived experience, economics etc, presenting what we came up with in various ways in the environment of a pop-up museum.

"Right away I want to express my heartfelt thanks for the opportunity to make this project happen and to everyone who worked with me, assisted and supported.

"It turned out not quite as I initially intended - but then that's a big part of the art process. We had lots of difficulties in the beginning but we got started, we kept going, and got started again and again.

"I always make drawings as my first point of reference in the artistic process, using symbols that identify the city and imagery unique to Derry.

"Many of the drawings capture subliminal and oblique thoughts, fusing memories of historical events, familiar mundane objects, and an association with stitching and 'repair' - an intuitive urge to heal, make good and mend the damage.

"While I was making this work the poet, Paul Muldoon, and I decided to do a collaborative book At Sixes and Sevens.

"Stoney Road Press rolled in behind the idea and the resulting book was presented in New York, London and Dublin. The Shirt Factory project has generated considerable interest in Derry and beyond, and I look forward to getting back to work in 2014 on my planned developments for the project."

Labhras Ó Murchú - Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann director-general

Image caption About 430,000 people attended the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann

"I was very pleased to have been part of the the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. It was the first time that the Fleadh had been north of the border.

"I was absolutely delighted with the warm welcome that we received in Derry. It was the largest gathering in the history of the event with around 430,000 people who attended.

"The previous highest number was around 300,000 people in Cavan. The co-operation between both traditions in Derry was inspirational. The welcome we received in the Waterside area of the city will be spoken about for years to come.

"Derry is a beautiful city and the people opened their hearts and doors to people who had travelled from all around the world to be part of the celebration.

"Lasting friendships will be developed over the coming years. The Fleadh Cheoil is about people, friendship, reconciliation and common purpose. We would like to return to Derry for the Fleadh on some future occasion."

Shona McCarthy - Culture Company chief executive

Image caption Hofesh Schecter's Political Mother saw over 20 young musicians from the city take part alongside international artists and dancers

"There were so many outstanding events - Lumiere, the Return of Colmcille, Music City, the Turner Prize, the list goes on and on - that makes it almost impossible to pick just one or two. But I will always remember the tea dance, the very first event in the Venue when 1,000 of the city's senior citizens came out to dance on a rainy Saturday afternoon in January, and dance they did.

"Hofesh Schecter's Political Mother stands out for me as one of the best things I have ever seen - loud and visceral and moving and energizing. It was a real 'wow' moment."

Neil Cowley - City of Culture's musician-in-residence

Image caption Music City started at dawn when the city woke to the sounds of the Sky Orchestra, a specially composed piece of music streaming from seven hot air balloons floating high above the city

"For me, one of the highlights was Music City Day on 21 June.

"That was the day that I was part of a collaborative concert with a newly formed choir.

"There were about 10-15 members. They performed some of our tunes. A brand new choir formed by the YMCA also performed at the end of the concert.

"They got a standing ovation from the crowd. I got to meet them during a workshop and they all had really sad stories to tell. I made some really fantastic friendships along the way."

Gemma Cairney - BBC Radio 1 DJ

Image caption Scottish DJ Calvin Harris was one of many artists who performed at the three day event

"I remember flying in to Derry on the Friday night for BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend and you could see Calvin Harris' set from the plane, the town centre was alive with colour from mad projections and dance music.

"It felt like an extravaganza of the new generation."

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