School of Natural and Built Environment

Curing Qualities of Culture: A Comparative Analysis of Northern Ireland and Cyprus

Research Theme: Cities, Communities and Contested Urbanism
Supervisors: Dr Phil Boland ( and Dr. Brendan Murtagh (

The most recent and fascinating debate in cultural studies concerns the purported ‘curing qualities’ of culture. This relates to the claim that cultural planning, and more specifically cultural events, are not only an ‘economic resource’ (i.e. jobs, tourism, and investment) but also a resource enabling peace and reconciliation to occur within divided societies. This was most evident in Northern Ireland when Derry-Londonderry became the UK’s first City of Culture in 2013; CoC aimed to deliver economic improvement to a depressed local economy and also bring the conflictual communities (Catholic-Nationalist and Protestant-Unionist) closer together through cultural activity, exchange and enactment. In 2017 Pafos will be European Capital of Culture, and like Derry-Londonderry, Pafos is part of a territory that is divided (between Greek and Turkish Cypriots). This project seeks to analyse the curing qualities of culture in both cities and the role of culture in divided territories. Recent research on Derry-Londonderry (Boland, Murtagh and Shirlow, 2016) reveals positive impacts in terms of culture as a peace resource but less effectiveness on the economy. Given this, important research questions emerge for future cities of culture more generally and Pafos in particular: What are the long term legacies of Derry-Londonderry?; What lessons can Pafos, and other cities of culture, learn from Derry-Londonderry?; Is there too much importance attached to the curing qualities of culture?; Should policy makers be more realistic about culture as an economic resource?

The research design will involve the adoption of both qualitative and quantitative techniques, including participant observer at events, documentary analysis, semi-structured interviews with elite stakeholders supplemented by focus groups with a range of community activists and local residents. The intention is to excavate the different understandings and experiences of the legacy of CoC in Derry-Londonderry. In terms of quantitative data acquisition the research will employ an extensive survey in Pafos to test local attitudes and experiences. This aims to make a significant contribution to contemporary theoretical debates and empirical studies on cultural planning and cities of culture. It also aims to facilitate more marginal groups in society to have an input into how major cultural events are understood and authenticated. The project also has potential policy impacts in that is may facilitate a more effective and democratic policy approach to cultural planning.

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