From Plantation to Peace: Derry/Londonderry as the UK's first City of Culture
This research project set out to unpack, investigate and problematise the implementation and impact of the UK’s inaugural City of Culture in Derry/ Londonderry, 2013. CoC was a hugely significant event not just for the city, but also the UK Government as it was the Labour Government’s flagship cultural initiative when it was created in 2010. It was inspired by the success of previous UK hosts of European Capitals of Culture, in particular the ‘Liverpool model’. Over time, the conceptualisation and operationalisation of culture has shifted significantly. In a European Capital of Culture context it has transformed from an opportunity for cultural engagement to a more instrumental ‘economic resource’.
The D/L case marks another important shift in the role that has been ascribed to culture. As with previous cities of culture, the UK CoC event in D/L aimed to bring substantial economic benefits, but arguably more importantly it also intended to help bring a divided society together. In this sense, it marks the transition of culture into a ‘resource for peace and reconciliation’. Given this new context, the research question for this project was as follows: “To what extent can culture become a transformative vehicle for peace-making and conflict resolution in D/L?” In support of the research question there were a number of research objectives: 1. The first investigated the conceptualisation of culture used by local stakeholders. This enabled the researchers to ascertain how culture was mobilised by different communities, groups and agencies in D/L, for what purposes, how this affected community identities, community relations and impacts on cityspaces. The second analysed how event organisers coped with competing demands for resources. There were numerous funding applications for various events so it was important to unpack the decision making processes involved and how such decisions affected community relations and perceptions of fairness and equality. 3. The third questioned how organisers managed the celebration of different cultural identities in D/L, and the processes and problems involved in developing shared and neutral cityspaces. 4. The final objective focused on the methods used to reconcile conflictual communities and, related to this, levels of community engagement and participation. This was particularly pertinent to the Protestant community given evidence of entrenched levels of cultural alienation.
PI: Dr Philip Boland, School of Natural and Built Environment Queen’s University Belfast
CI: Prof Brendan Murtagh, School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast
CI: Prof Peter Shirlow, Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool
Impact of Research
This findings from this research featured prominently, and informed, in internal debates within Derry City and Strabane District Council on the role of cultural planning in the economic development of the area. Evidence of this is the citation of our academic publications in the official evaluation of UK City of Culture (Derry City and Strabane District Council, 2016). On academic matters, our publications have contributed to ongoing debates, locally, nationally, and internationally, on the impact and legacy of cultural events. The researchers disseminate their findings at UK, European and international planning and geography conferences. Following the publications the PI was invited to join to the Cultural Policy Observatory Ireland, and AHRC Cities of Culture Network.
Major grants and funding
Leverhulme Trust, ID/Ref: RPG-2013-091, £197,819
Boland, P., Murtagh, B. & Shirlow, P. (2020) ‘Neoliberal place competition and culturephilia: explored through the lens of Derry~Londonderry’. Social & Cultural Geography, 21(6): 788-809.
Boland, P., Murtagh, B. & Shirlow, P. (2019) ‘Fashioning a City of Culture: ‘life and place changing’ or a ‘12-month party’. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 25(2): 246-265.
Boland, P., Mullan, L. & Murtagh, B. (2018) ‘Young people in a city of culture: ‘ultimate beneficiaries’ or ‘economic migrants’?’ Journal of Youth Studies, 21(2): 178-202.
Murtagh, B., Boland, P. & Shirlow, P. (2017) ‘Contested heritages and cultural tourism’. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 23(6): 506-520.
LEAD PROJECT INVESTIGATOR Phil Boland is a Reader at the School of Natural and Built Environment. His key research interests include Local and regional economic development; identity and place; culture-led regeneration; geography of the illegal drugs industry.
Sustainable Development Goals
This research links to SDG 8.9 concerning Local Tourism and Local Culture. A specific focus of the research concerned the impact and legacy of UK City of Culture and in particular the number, quality, longevity and distribution of jobs that were created prior to, during and after the event took place. We were also interested in how CoC promoted the local cultural economy, and the gave energy and visibility to the different (historically competing) cultural identities of the city, and how it stimulated cultural respect and exchange. In this sense, it dovetails with SDG 8.9 and its focus on “policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture”.
Find out more
Keywords associated with the Research
- Culture; economy; impact; legacy
Contact Details / Social Media
Dr Philip Boland
School of Natural and Built Environment
Queen’s University Belfast
028 9097 6564
Further relevant info
- PhD student: Ms Lindsay Mullan
- Research Assistant: Dr Siun Carden