Derry-Londonderry has made the shortlist for Europe’s Leading Emerging Tourism Destination 2021 at The World Travel Awards.

The Walled City is one of eight emerging city destinations in with a chance of scooping the prize at the awards, nicknamed the ‘Oscars of Travel’.

Renowned as one of the finest examples of a Walled City in Europe and the primary destination for cultural and heritage experiences on the island, Derry is a worthy nominee and needs your votes to help scoop the top spot.

With international voting now open, people have been urged to get behind Derry.

Odhran Dunne, Chief Executive of Visit Derry commented: “We are delighted Derry has been nominated for Europe’s Leading Emerging Tourism Destination. Being a finalist in this prestigious award, puts us on a world stage as we begin to emerge from the covid crises and rebuild tourism. It strengthens our international appeal and rewards the commitment of all players in our local industry to position the city region as a must-visit destination. We have all the ingredients of a standout destination, centred on our historic City Walls, heritage, renowned lively cultural and events scene and strategic geographic location to be nominated for the award is fantastic. We look forward to the global industry and travel consumers recognising our emerging potential and giving us their vote!” You can cast your vote for the Maiden City as Leading Emerging Tourism Destination here. Voting closes on 14th July 2021.

Could the Walled City of Derry be the leading emerging tourism destination in Europe? Derry has made the shortlist at the prestigious World Travel Awards for Europe’s Leading Emerging Tourism Destination 2021. The winner will be the finalist who gains the most votes. To vote for Derry as Europe’s Leading Emerging Tourism Destination, visit www.visitderry.com/vote before 14th July. First to cast their vote is the Mayor Alderman Graham Warke with Visit Derry chair Michelle Simpson and Chief Executive Odhran Dunne. Supporting the voting are, Brenda Morgan, City of Derry Airport, Ethan Dunlop, City Cabs, Lawrence, Far and Wild, Carla McDevitt, Airporter, Kiera Duddy, The Pickled Duck, Bronagh Masoliber, Visit Derry. David Douglas, Derrie Danders and James Huey, Walled City Brewery, and

As part of the visual arts programme, from March 8th ‘Full Hoist Always’, delivered by the Void Gallery, will see roadside billboards transformed by artist Locky Morris, focusing on a positive message around care and support in the current times.As part of the Inside Out programme, UV Arts will deliver ‘The People’s Art Project’ which will take place from March 16th, looking at celebrating our local community and those who make the community what it is through portraits.The North West Carnival Initiative will deliver ‘Imagine That…’ – a combination of artist led creation, online content including tutorials, and neighbourhood focused activity.  Our city centre will be re-imagined with creative installations and pop up displays adorning areas including Shipquay Street and several quiet spaces within the Walls; fairy dwellings in​ Kilfennan, St Columb’s Park, Foyle Road, Brooke Park and the Fountain; a willow hare sculpture at Strabane Allotments, and the pig sculpture at the Alley Theatre being transformed into a seasonal leprechaun, and lots more.There will be a vast range of online content, including many events for Irish Language Week which is currently taking place and will finish on St Patrick’s Day.

. Included with Mayor Brian Tierney are Sha Gillespie and Jim Collins, NWCI, at front, and Margaret Crabtree, Keep her Knit, and Ann Millar, community participant.

In partnership with Donegal County Council, Irish Language Week aims to create opportunities for people to use and enjoy the Irish language, and this year Council have been working with partners in the Irish language community across the city and district to create a unique programme of online events which celebrate the Irish language as part of the shared heritage of the region.On March 16th, Council is working with partners on the virtual Destination Derry – Connecting with Home event which will see our diaspora living in all corners of the world come together to enjoy our shared history and love of this time of year, with conversation, music, culture and lots of entertainment.St Patrick’s Day will be marked by students from North West Regional College’s School of Performing Arts who will put together two celebratory traditional Irish music sessions. There will be range of talented artists and lots of great music for audiences to enjoy.Launching the programme,

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Brian Tierney, said it has something for everyone.”I’m delighted to launch our Spring and St Patrick’s Day programme which will be a much-needed boost to everyone locally and will bring some colour to our city and district as we move into a brighter season.”Like everything we have done over the past year, this programme has been put together with public health at the very forefront of our minds. Our Council officers have worked incredibly hard to organise a programme that strikes a balance between giving the public something to look forward to and celebrate, while also keeping everyone safe.”St Patrick’s Day and our Spring Carnival are terrific occasions in our annual calendar and while it is disappointing that we cannot celebrate with the usual gatherings and events, and our St Patrick’s Day parades, we have some very exciting online content as well as visual arts and creative outdoor installations and pop-up displays.”The Inside Out programme looks fantastic and we are once again working with the North West Carnival Initiative who have adapted their delivery of ‘Imagine That…’ festivities. It all comes together as one highly-anticipated programme.”

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Brian Tierney, with Sha Gillespie and Jim Collins, North West Carnival Initiative, and Margaret Crabtree, Keep Her Knit, at the launch of the Spring programme.

Jacqueline Whoriskey, Council’s Festival and Events Manager, added: “We have come through perhaps one of the most challenging winters that many of us have ever faced, and as we put together this Spring programme we were very conscious of capturing the spirit of a new season, a new chapter, and a fresh, bright outlook.”We have really adapted how we deliver these programmes in the past year, and in line with that we have continued to put a big focus on online content through the likes of Irish Language Week, the Destination Derry event and the music session being delivered by North West Regional College.”While we will not be holding any public events or gatherings, we have focused in on how we can creatively bring the Spring spirit to our streets with artwork and installations, with fairy dwellings and artistic sculptures that can be enjoyed by everyone when out getting some fresh air and exercise.”We hope that this adapted programme can be enjoyed safely by everyone.”

The Inside Out Programme is organised by Derry City and Strabane District Council with funding through the Department of Communities’ Business Revitalisation and Recovery Programme. For more information, visit www.derrystrabane.com/insideout

Dr Taranjit Singh Rai (Lecturer in Cellular Ageing at Ulster University’s School of Biomedical Sciences at Magee, and Altnagelvin Hospital’s Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre (C-TRIC)

Dr Taranjit Singh Rai is a lecturer in Cellular Ageing at Ulster University’s School of Biomedical Sciences at Magee, and Altnagelvin Hospital’s Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre (C-TRIC). Born in India’s Punjab state, Dr Rai has more than a decade’s experience researching ageing, cancer and ageing-associated diseases. He received a PhD from the PGIMER institute, Chandigarh, studied entrepreneurship at Babson College Boston, and completed postdoctoral training at Glasgow’s Beatson Institute of Cancer Research before moving to Derry in 2018.

What attracted you to C-TRIC, and to Derry?

The appeal of working directly with patients at Altnagelvin Hospital, and the grant that Professor Tony Bjourson [UU Professor of Genomics and C-TRIC founding member] had secured, provided a good launch pad to do my age-associated diseases research. So it was the independence of doing what I want to do, and the funds that were available. The second thing was that, before I accepted the role, I stayed in the city centre and I really loved the people. I thought they were great, very friendly and helpful. Life in Glasgow is very fast-paced and I thought that overall, the work-life balance would be good here. 

The City Deal reached an important milestone recently with the signing of the Heads of Terms. What does the City Deal mean to C-TRIC?

It will be excellent. We have outgrown ourselves and we really need a new cutting-edge facility. The City Deal with the Thrive [health innovation] project will provide us with much-needed space. It will also provide us with so much capital to get the right equipment, hire the right people, and attract publicity, both locally and nationally. We really need to attract talent to Derry; that’s really, really important to execute the plan. The Medical School will also bring so many students. There will be several elite fields that will thrive because of the City Deal. 

What would you say to people thinking of moving to the North West?

I would say that if you are looking for a balanced life, in 15 minutes you can reach the city centre, all the good schools, facilities like Altnagelvin Hospital, Foyle Arena, your place of work. In half an hour, you can reach golden beaches, mountains, walking trails.

Your wife and three children also relocated to Derry. Do you have any advice for people moving with children?

I really wanted my son to go to a grammar school but I had significant challenges because he hadn’t moved over yet so was not living physically with me. Children who are resident in Northern Ireland get preference, so people who are moving with children, if their child is transitioning to secondary school, do need to understand this and prepare for how to deal with that. Thankfully, I’m a problem solver! Good sense prevailed and he received a conditional offer. I also had to fly back every Thursday to Glasgow to prepare him for the entrance exam then fly back Sunday evening. My kids do miss their old friends in Glasgow but football and sports have been excellent ways to make friends here.

What do you miss about Punjab?

My parents are still there and a lot of relatives and friends. Before the pandemic, we used to visit every year. Of course, this year we haven’t been able to go. People also ask if I mind the cold and wet weather here, but I can walk to Altnagelvin from my home and it’s just a drizzle. Back home in monsoon season streets will be flooded. In the summer it will be 45 degrees Celsius and in winters it will be -8 so Derry’s weather is not bad to be honest.

What tips do you have for ageing well or ageing healthily?

Studies have been done on a population clusters in Japan/Italy and many other countries where many, many people live to 100 years; they drink wine and smoke, no problem, the main thing is their life is centred around community – no issues whatsoever in Derry, everyone knows everyone! – but they also eat very healthily and walk a lot. So minor things can actually have a big impact on ageing. Mental health is very important too – I’ve now started to think in terms of emotional ‘hygiene’.

Can you tell us about what you’re working on at the moment?

I work on a process called cell senescence. Cells, when they encounter damage, stop dividing or they enter into a state we call cell senescence. It’s a stress response in a way. As we grow old, we start to accumulate these cells. These cells aren’t idle and quiet, they secrete proteins and they can cause many age associated diseases. We can detect these proteins several years in advance of development of disease, so one of the projects is predicting the risk of cardiovascular disease based upon the levels of these proteins. We are trying to predict who’s going to get a heart attack, just by looking at a combination of some of the proteins, then combining it with artificial intelligence and machine learning. With 99% accuracy, the algorithm is predicting the correct scenarios.

It’s not a good idea to have these cells accumulating in our body, so we also do high throughput drug screens that selectively kill these cells. We want to keep the healthy cells as they are, and if there are senescent cells, we want to target them, eliminate them, and study them. Studies are showing that senolytics [the branch of medicine that tackles these cells] works, even in the context of Alzheimer’s, motor neurone disease, many associated diseases.

You’re a weekend YouTuber too! Tell us about that.

I’ve started a YouTube channel teaching people about capital, labour, small investments, healthy eating and also responsible drinking. People think entrepreneurship is wealth-given, that is absolutely incorrect, entrepreneurialism can be taught. 88% of the world’s wealth creators are self-made. I’m always a big believer in whenever opportunity presents, you should take it. In 3 weeks since I started it, it has gone crazy with 2K subscribers so must be doing something correct.

A virtual event promoting the North West as a great place to learn, work and visit will be held on the eve of St Patrick’s Day.

The Destination Derry initiative is holding a free evening of celebrations to connect Derry diaspora from all over the world with their hometown on March 16.

The event will include entertainment from Ulster University students, conversations with people who have chosen Derry as the location for their business or place of work, and a photo and video exhibition of previous St Patrick’s Day events in the city.

There will also be the opportunity to network with others worldwide in breakout Zoom rooms, and Foyle Search and Rescue will share how people can help them in their vital work.

Destination Derry was created by homebuilder Taggart Homes and its website (www.destinationderry.com) includes business support information, a blog, and Live, Learn, Work and Visit sections.

Tickets for the free St Patrick’s event can be booked at https://buytickets.at/destinationderry

Allstate NI in the North West has added to its trophy cabinet after winning in three categories at the Contact Centre Network NI awards.

Allstate presentation of state of the art search drone to Strabane Local Community Rescue Service

The company’s largely Derry and Strabane-based Allstate Technology Support Centre (ATSC), which assists Allstate employees globally, received awards for Trainer of the Year and Contact Centre Manager of the Year at the annual celebration of excellence in the region’s contact centre industry.

Allstate, Northern Ireland’s largest IT company, also took home the Silver Award for Home Working Programme of the Year, recognising resilience in adapting to coronavirus challenges.

At the outset of the pandemic, around 30% of ATSC employees had home working capabilities. In just five days, the North West leadership ensured the entire ATSC workforce had the equipment needed to provide technical support remotely.

Allstate NI has also raised funds to provide a state-of-the-art search drone for Strabane’s local Community Rescue Service, via an employee fundraising appeal and Funding for Good application. The device will be used throughout Northern Ireland to assist vital lowland search and rescue operations.

Since 2018, Allstate NI’s Force for Good initiative has provided £173,896 to support community-focused projects across Northern Ireland.

There’s no place like home. But with many Derry and Strabane diaspora unable to travel back this Christmas, Jenni Doherty of Little Acorns Bookstore shares her pick of 2020’s local books to enjoy from wherever you are in the world.

The Liar’s Daughter, by Claire Allan (£7.99) – Derry journalist and author Claire Allan is back with another gripping thriller, this time about family, grief, and secrets.

Erin’s Diary: An Official Derry Girls Book, by Lisa McGee (£16.99) – This official tie-in with the hit Channel 4 sitcom contains newspaper clippings, poetry, school reports and more. A treat for Derry Girls fans awaiting a third series!

Tennis Lessons, by Susannah Dickey (£14.99) – Susannah Dickey, who grew up in Derry, has received excellent reviews for this funny and beautiful coming-of-age novel (which, unusually, is written in the second person).

Ulster Fairytales and Legends, by Nicola and Peter Heaney (£13.99) – Nicola Heaney and her father Peter, a retired schoolteacher, have joined forces to create this collection of legends from every country in Ulster. Illustrated by Conor Busuttil.

The Man They Couldn’t Ban: The John Crossan Story, by Richie Kelly (£15) – Former BBC sports broadcaster Richie Kelly documents the colourful career of local Man City and Sunderland star John ‘Jobby’ Crossan.

The Gap Baking Book – Favourite Recipes by the Bakers at Gap Coffee Co (£18) – Recreate the cosiest flavours of home – from scones and shortbread to Guinness bread – with this book from Bridgend’s Gap Coffee Co.

Considering a move home? Local experts share their advice

Returning to the North West to live, work or invest is an enticing prospect – and perhaps more than ever in 2020.

With the recent rise in remote working, the North West’s excellent broadband offering, and award-winning, homegrown and global firms located here, that long held dream could become a reality.

But where should you start when planning your relocation? We asked some local experts their tips for finding a job, choosing a new home, and making the move.

Lynn Jennings, founder and headhunter at talentsocial

Most of the software companies I work with in Derry and Donegal are expanding at the minute. If anything, the move to home working has increased the demand for their software, be it in the ecommerce, online recruitment or data protection industry.

There are countless opportunities for Software Engineers particularly, in the North West, but roles also come up within other departments: Sales, Marketing, Finance, Operations, Product/Project Management and HR. LinkedIn is the best place to find opportunities. Make sure your profile is complete and connect with headhunters in the area, and set up alerts for Derry and Strabane on job boards.

Some of the bigger companies do their own recruitment, so a direct application is the best bet. I’ll usually advise candidates of this and discuss clients I’d recommend we make an application together to. Most of the smaller software companies prefer to partner with an external recruiter. I usually start out partnering with small indigenous SaaS (software as a service) clients who are then bought by bigger global players and the partnership continues. I’m seeing a move back to cross border working again recently, and people returning from London, Belfast and Dublin in particular. COVID has prioritised proximity to family and nature as well as space, which the North West has in abundance.

Anaeleigh McCormick, company director, Locate Estate Agents

Social media makes the world a smaller place and allows you to choose your new home from anywhere in the world. I find that through my social media platforms I have made connections with many clients living abroad, who can keep up to date with what is available in the area via my daily stories.

If you have a family, it’s important to choose an area close to local schools as sometimes only certain postcodes can be allocated spaces in the schools. It’s also wise to be close to the family network, especially grandparents and other reliable babysitters.

You do not need your home to be in the city centre – for those who are a bit more open-minded and prepared to travel a short distance from the city, you will get a lot more house for your money. Those coming home will be pleasantly surprised at what’s available on their budget within Derry and Strabane!

Finally, welcome home. There is nowhere in the world better than Derry & Strabane.

Bernard McGowan, director and operations manager, Foyle International Removals and Storage

Derry is going through a renaissance at the moment. You’re making the right choice to move here – it is a great place to work and live. The upsurge in people who are moving home is absolutely astronomical. We’ve moved hundreds of people since the pandemic hit.

When moving, be boxed, packed and ready, and label everything for what room it goes in. Use larger boxes for lighter items, and small boxes for heavier items. Layer the box – heavy at the bottom, medium at the middle and light at the top. Notify all your new utilities suppliers, doctors and schools before you move so everything is lined up for you when you arrive. Always allow yourself ample time for travel and potential travel delays. If people opt to fly over, we can recommend people to transport your vehicle for you.

We also recommend packing a ‘bitz box’ to access easily when you arrive – all your TV remotes, kettle, toaster, important documents. We see people crying tears of happiness when they see the moving lorry arrive. It’s the beginning of their journey home.