Londonderry turns swords into ploughshares

With Bloody Sunday report imminent, barracks at the centre of the shootings takes key role in bid to become UK City of Culture

Londonderry will try to lay part of its unquiet history to rest later this month when two events coincide: the city's final representation in its attempt to be named UK City of Culture and the report of the Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday.

Poignantly, a central part of the city's bid will be the £6m conversion of what was formerly Ebrington Barracks into a multi-venue arts centre. In its previous incarnation this was the military headquarters that co-ordinated British paratroopers alleged to have killed 13 young Irish men, five of them teenagers, during a civil rights demonstration in the Catholic Bogside area in 1972.

The Saville report will be published on 15 June; and the bid – which points the way to a hopeful future – will be made a day later.

For the three decades after Bloody Sunday – 30 January 1972 – the 1,000 British troops garrisoned in Ebrington were, in effect, under siege.

But by summer 2011, Ebrington, ceded to the Office of the First Minister of Northern Ireland in 2004 when the Army finally left, will be an arts centre. The former parade ground, today still with its helicopter landing markings, will become an open-air performance space bigger than Trafalgar Square. On its east side, the main Clocktower GHQ building will be a major contemporary art gallery, extended with a naturally lit gallery at its rear; negotiations with the Tate for a long-term collaboration are near completion. On the square's north side, the former military hospital will be a museum and archive centre. On the south side will be studios, cafés, bars and a sports centre.

On Ebrington's western edge a new £13.4m footbridge, paid for by the EU's Shared Space Programme, is being erected across the Foyle. It will open at the end of this year as the Peace Bridge, in defiance of the area's long history of division.

As a 12-year-old in 1971, living in Waterside, Brendan McMenamin could wander in and out of Ebrington, where he was taught how to use a Lee Enfield rifle by friendly soldiers, but within a few months that neighbourliness ended.

Mr McMenamin is now Londonderry's arts officer. "This is a small city of little more than 100,000 people, and it's also Ireland's youngest," he says. "Thirty-seven per cent of the population are under 35 and it has become diverse, with over 100 different communities. Most of Derry weren't born on Bloody Sunday or have come to live here since. We want Saville to put all that behind us."

The Museum of Free Derry opened three years ago in the Bogside with objects from those involved in the civil rights movement of the Sixties and Seventies. It is run by volunteers, including John Kelly, whose brother Michael was, at 17, the youngest casualty on Bloody Sunday. "I see my brother's death as a human rights issue, not sectarian," Mr Kelly says. "Saville is about setting the truth free and we want a declaration of innocence for our people. I'm a Derry man, never left the place and I love it, but it's a major city and we want it to be City of Culture, not for the old history but for the new."

There is no longer a need for reprisal or revenge, he says, quoting Bobby Sands, the republican MP who died in the Maze prison on hunger strike in 1981: "Our revenge will be the laughter of our children."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links