Page last updated at 12:59 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Famous names to be city champions

By Freya McClements
BBC News

Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney is one of three high-profile advocates for Derry's bid

Three of Londonderry's most famous names have thrown their weight behind the city's bid to be crowned UK City of Culture in 2013.

Seamus Heaney, Fergal Sharkey and Bronagh Gallagher were revealed as the city's "champions" on Wednesday.

Aideen McGinley, the chief executive of regeneration company, Ilex, who made the announcement, said the three had offered to "do what they can for their city".

"That's the one thing the city has a huge richness of talent that's internationally recognised.

"Seamus and Fergal and Bronagh are a huge endorsement," she said.

Ilex and Derry City Council, who are formulating the bid, also hope to secure the backing of other famous Derry names.

Their proposal has passed the first stage of the application process, and they must now submit a longer submission by 11 December.

If all goes well, judges will visit Derry in January, and the final shortlist of four or five potential capitals of culture will be revealed in February.

Ms McGinley said the feedback so far has been "extremely positive", and the judging panel was particularly impressed by things like Derry's cross-border connections and its links to the Irish diaspora abroad.

"What we want to do now is mobilise the talent of everyone in the city, and beyond, behind Derry's bid.

"We are confident that we can put on a really good programme which will be affordable and which will actually bring money in to the local economy.

"Already in the city there is £11.4m of an annual turnover from cultural venues.

"We have 39 companies operating in the city's digital economy, and this is something we think we can grow.

"The calibre of the arts and cultural organisations in this city are second to none, and we already have 300 people employed in cultural venues here," she said.

"This is just a small part of the creative industries sector, but we feel that different strands of investment - including £100m invested in public realm improvements over the last few years - are all coming together to create the ambience that does attract jobs to a city like Derry."

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