The Maiden City Festival just gets bigger and bigger and shows what can be done with a once controversial event.  There are several websites of importance.  Discover Northern Ireland ( ) & the Derry Visitor ( ) sites promote the event as a `flagship celebration of diversity in Northern Ireland`. The News Letter carries an informative article today by William Allen looks at the festival.

The Official Festival website with full itinerary is at:

With the accompanying tourist oriented Siege Heroes Trail website at:-

Along with the connected Apprentice Boys of Derry website at:

They also have all the usual social media sites on the go:-

Maiden City Festival is ‘a symbol of hope’ Published Date: 12 May 2010 By William Allen

THE Maiden City Festival in Londonderry seems to get better every year and, while its success in tackling misperceptions about the Apprentice Boys of Derry may be difficult to quantify, it is nevertheless without question. There is a belief that the lack of major confrontation and organised protests during Apprentice Boys parades these days is not just due to a process of negotiations under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce, but to the proactive steps taken by the Loyal Order to promote itself and its history.

Current Assembly Speaker, William Hay is one of those who has played a part in securing successive agreements on parades in Londonderry and he is in no doubt that the Maiden City Festival has had an impact.
“It’s been a hugely successful initiative, and one that deserves more funding to ensure it keeps growing, funding that will allow the organisers to plan further ahead.

“What the Maiden City Festival has done is help educate the wider community on the culture and history of the Apprentice Boys; it’s led to a better understanding of what the organisation is about. It’s a symbol of hope in this city in terms of parading,” said the Foyle MLA, who is himself a prominent member of the Apprentice Boys.

The Maiden City Festival is described on its website as “a showcase for Protestant culture of tolerance and openness, and for the heritage that is entrusted to the Apprentice Boys of Derry. The Maiden City Festival is the way in which the Protestant community of Londonderry, a minority community, is able to make a contribution to the life of the City and to the diversity of cultural expression”.

That contribution has so far been considerable, and what makes it even more impressive is that it has worked so well despite limited funding.

While funding has sometimes been an issue, with the festival having to rely on obtaining funds from one year to the next, it’s safe to say that it delivers terrific value and has grown considerably since it was first mooted as a way of correcting misperceptions that Protestant culture was all about parading. William Hay is not the only person to believe that it’s been a significant success story, as more and more local organisations see a dividend from participation.

Highlights have included Bluegrass on the Walls, and a tribute to William Love, performed by the Black Skull Corps of Fife and Drums. And one of the other initiatives that has proved popular – and is therefore being expanded – is Culture Bite, a diverse range of lunchtime performances in cafés and lunch spots; another aspect deemed worthy of expansion is the Siege Story, which offers a way of more fully exploiting the historic backdrop of the city’s walls.

One of the organisers, David Hoey said: “We are looking to expand the diversity section in terms of growing our Culture Bite cafe/ lunch programme.

And with the Siege Story we are hoping to provide short performances around the walls, enhancing the attractiveness of the walls as a tourist feature.”

He said the thinking behind the festival was to show how much Protestant culture could contribute to civic life and, despite changes in funding, it was working.

Mr Hoey said: “When we started it was the height of the parades issue and one of the important things we believed was that we needed to get away from the notion that Protestant culture was only parading. We wanted to show the Protestant community had something very positive to contribute to civic life.

Commemorations are an important part of the week but the festival itself is part of the cultural footprint of Londonderry.

“We had around £10,000 from the Community Relations Council the first year and around that from the city council, and funding has gone up and down, but we have a festival that’s three or four times bigger.
“We also have learned to extract cultural value from the resources that are already there. Also, in 1998 we were on our own, but now there is much more collaboration and we are hoping to work on building on that in future years. We always wanted it to be the foundation of something we could grow.”

Growth is measurable – while sections are expanding, the number of visitors going to the Memorial Hall, with its exceptional museum, grew considerably last year.

Hopes are high of even greater success this year, as the Maiden City Festival organisers have embraced modern media, with a website, a Youtube channel, a weblog, and a presence on Facebook and Flickr.

While the main events take place over a one-week period in August, work goes on in the background pretty much all year round, not least recently in terms of making the most of high tech developments and the social networking opportunities afforded by the internet.

“We have developed a substantial web presence and have launched a podcast,” added Mr Hoey.

“It’s a matter of progression. If you include the Apprentice Boys of Derry, our web presence is getting 120,000 visits a year. Our Youtube site has had 30,000 views in the past year. We have 25,000 visitors engaging during the festival week but the number has been expanding. This has been our first big year of a web presence, and we will be tracking the impact of that,” explained Mr Hoey.

The hopes are that people will now know much more about the history of the Apprentice Boys or the Maiden City Festival and will see that Londonderry is worth visiting in August, with the promise of excitement, entertainment and spectacle over that week in August, leading up to August 14 when the Relief of Derry parade gets under way.

Asked whether the festival had achieved everything hoped of it when it was first envisaged, Mr Hoey said its contribution has been “significant”.
He added: “People are more prepared to take a look.

I think demonisation has gone, and we are moving into better understanding.”

2013 has become an important date in Londonderry, due to the bid to become UK City of Culture and the Maiden City Festival is developing ambitious plans, that can be more fully explored once this year’s event has passed. And those plans will hopefully be developed whether or not Londonderry wins the UK title.

Mr Hoey concluded: “We have 2013 in our sights…we have an exciting project on our hands for 2013. We are always trying to plan ahead and change the shape of things – a festival needs to be constantly changing. We are always looking at what offers potential, and then making it reality.”