– Claire McDermott
It was announced two years ago that the first UK City of Culture would be Derry in 2013. A spectacular fireworks display from the River Foyle and Peace Bridge kicked things off on New Year's Eve.
"It's strange to say that the fireworks were emotional, but they were. You could really sense the excitement of the people. They've had a long wait – but now is their moment to get involved," said Claire McDermott of the cultural programming team.
This year the city will play host to over 140 events along with a range of community and education initiatives. The Turner Prize will be presented outside England for the first time and other highlights include a new commission by the London Symphony Orchestra, the return of Field Day, a new play by American playwright Sam Shepard, local Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney and the first visit to the North of the Royal Ballet for more than 20 years.
One of the biggest goals organisers have set themselves is to change people's perceptions about the city. Chances are when you think of Derry you think of the Troubles, in particular the 1972 Bloody Sunday shootings.
"For a long time just one story was being told about Derry and the local people became very used to that story being about the Troubles – but for people living here, normal life was going on and we want to remind people of that," says Claire.
Grants ranging from £1,500 (€1,786) to £15,000 (€17,865) have been offered to artists for a wide variety of projects across a range of disciplines including sculpture, visual arts, music, film, photography, printing, quilting and dance.
Individual projects to receive funding under the Individual Artists' Award include a new music composition honouring World War One veterans from the city, a glass installation exploring the history of the shirt factories and a 3D digital printing project.
Looking ahead to next month, the organisers have persuaded the Other Voices music series to move from Kerry to Derry (February 8-10). "The hope is that people who are avid fans of it will make their way to Derry and see what we have to offer and will come back for some of the other events," says Claire.
Derry has a very young population – 40pc are under 25. The programming appears to have been well thought through in terms of legacy and sustainability.
"We didn't want to just bring some of the big-name artists into the city as a once off event, we wanted to engage artists who wouldn't only come to the city but would make a promise to the city," Claire tells me.
A promise? Yes, a promise, for example, to the young people to develop music opportunities. This could be as simple as donating a guitar or giving a master class in a school or working with somebody who is talented, it's up to the artist.
This year could be hugely significant for the city, so why not put Derry in your social and cultural calendar. And as announced last year, we look forward to Limerick being the first National City of Culture in 2014.
A programme for the Derry 2013 events is available at www.cityofculture2013.
Aedín Gormley presents Movies and Musicals (Sat 1-4pm) and Sunday Matinée (Sun 12-2pm) on RTÉ lyric fm