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

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

A transatlantic conference hosted virtually in Derry’s Guildhall has attracted a record number of global participants.

The 12th Golden Bridges Conference and Awards ceremony saw political leaders, business and community representatives and education providers from the North West and Boston share their experiences of dealing with the COVID pandemic and preparing for Brexit.

The conference saw more than 500 registrations from all over the world and its influential delegates and speakers included Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Charlie McConalogue, and Seagate CEO Dave Mosley.

The challenge faced by the Ireland NW region in dealing with the pandemic was a predominate feature of the conference, with inputs and views from various community, cultural and commercial sector representatives from both sides of the Atlantic.

The annual Golden Bridges conference, usually held in Boston, aims to promote partnerships between Ireland Northwest and Boston, Massachusetts and highlight various community, business, and education initiatives in the two regions by bringing together influential business and political leaders.

You can watch the event back at www.aisling-events.com

Derry and Strabane’s fantastic eateries and artisan producers are taking centre stage with the unveiling of the LegenDerry food and drink brand.

The brand, launched by the local Food and Drink Network and supported by the Council, brings together our finest food-focused talent and puts the City and District firmly on the foodie map for locals and visitors alike.

Our innovative, authentic producers, growers, chefs, brewers and restaurateurs are celebrated on the new LegenDerry food website and in marketing material, including this video.

More than 50 online events took place in Derry and Strabane as part of the world’s first UNESCO Virtual Learning Festival.

(Photo – Tom Heaney, nwpresspics)

Derry City and Strabane District Council, alongside funding partners North West Regional College and Ulster University, held the world’s first Virtual Learning City  Festival on Wednesday and Thursday.

Over 50 online events took place during the two-day programme in the form of information sessions, live presentations, short films and live chats exploring key areas such as Jobs & Skills, Health & Well-Being, Arts& Culture and Technology & Science.

In total, there were 40,000 engagement views on Facebook and other social media platforms during the two days.  

In addition, there was over 9,500 visitors to the bespoke Learning Festival website, including views on Youtube coming  largely from the UK and Ireland, but also due to the nature event and associated global conference which launched the festival, recorded traffic also came from Europe, Ukraine and Japan and Brazil. 

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Brian Tierney joined speakers from Colombia, Seoul, Bangkok, Cork, Hamburg, USA and Derry to open the festival, and he said he was delighted to see so many had enjoyed the programme on offer.

“Achieving the UNESCO Learning City status for the Derry and Strabane region was an important moment for our district, it was brilliant to see it celebrated in virtual format.

“The wide variety of topics covered meant that there was something to attract everyone’s attention, and it really captured the essence of what learning is about – picking up new skills and information.

“Thanks to our Council team, to North West Regional College and Ulster University, and to all those who delivered workshops and interactive sessions across the two days  without this collaboration we could not have run  a virtual event.”

Malachy Ó Néill, Provost at Ulster University’s Magee campus said: “Ulster University has been privileged to collaborate once again with our neighbours Derry City and Strabane District Council and North West Regional College to acquire UNSECO Learning City status for our city and to host the inaugural Virtual Learning Festival. Well done and thank you to all involved.

“It has been inspirational to see and hear so many people come together to learn. As our thoughts turn to enabling the cultural and tourism sectors in the North West post COVID-19, we look forward to building on this initiative in the future for the good of the people of the city and region.”

Leo Murphy, Principal and Chief Executive of North West Regional College said: “This was a fantastic festival and all at NWRC were delighted to be part of such an innovative event in this new era of learning through a virtual format.

“We continue to support career ambitions across the region and look forward to continued collaboration with the partners of the festival in the future.”

Padraig Canavan, Chair Learning City said: “It was an honour for us to attract so many distinguished speakers from around the globe to our opening seminar.  

“With ‘Lockdown Learning’ as the theme we heard about individual, community and nationwide learning initiatives like ‘Classrooms without Walls’ and the new libraries – ‘Smart Learning Civic Centres’.  A great first for Learning Cities and for Derry and Strabane.”

If you missed the festival over the last few days you can watch all of the LIVE Zoom recordings and premiered events at the Learning Hub.  Learning City’s is delighted that this Learning hub can be now used and shared.  It is a valuable resource for people of all ages to enjoy at any time, over and over again available at https://www.derrystrabane.com/LearningFest. 

There is a growing sense of optimism among Derry City fans after Declan Devine’s return to the Brandywell hot seat yielded a fourth place League of Ireland Premier Division finish last month and with it European football for 2020.

The club were at one of their lowest ever ebbs when the former goalkeeper returned for a second spell in charge at the end of the 2018 season having narrowly avoided relegation with an eighth place finish in the ten team league.

With a limited budget, the persuasive Creggan man made some shrewd pre-season signings including UCD midfielder Greg Slockett and the return of Ramelton man Barry McNamee.

They were expected to struggle though following Aaron McEneff’s switch to Shamrock Rovers and the departure of long term custodian and club captain Gerard Doherty.

The new look side rallied however and, playing a high tempo brand of possession football, they got their fight back, conceding just 34 goals in 36 games and netting 56 with striker Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe bagging 34 goals in 34 games.

The lure of bigger wages from clubs south of the border, and indeed the Irish League, means it has been a losing battle to keep the best local players at the club and it is hard to see them challenging for a league title until they can offer local talent a competitive remuneration.

Last month’s FAI Cup Final between Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk was a case in point where North West players McEneff, Danny Lafferty, Michael Duffy and Georgie Kelly all had pivitol roles.

What City can offer however is a proven gateway for younger players to move to full time football in England and Scotland and the chance to emulate the likes of James McClean, Stephen McLaughlin and Ronan Curtis.

With participation numbers strong in the Youth Leagues of Derry and Donegal and Devine’s experience in nurturing emerging young talent, a higher league position and a group stage win in Europe is within their grasp in 2020.

We’ve made a list (and checked it twice) of some of the finest things to enjoy in Derry and Strabane this festive season. Whether you’re returning from overseas or based here, we’ve got Christmas wrapped up for you.

To buy

Made Here – You’ll find beautiful creations from some of the district’s most innovative designers in Made Here on Shipquay Street, Derry-Londonderry, including In Chlomo, from Strabane’s Chloe McColgan.

Velveteen Handmade – Rachel Kelly’s beautiful embroideries – from storybook-inspired pictures to appliqued cotton purses – make excellent Christmas gifts. View her pieces at the Craft Village’s Walled City Crafters.

Little Acorns Bookstore – Jenni Doherty’s independent book shop in Derry-Londonderry’s Society Street is a treasure trove of new and old books. You’ll also find local arts and crafts, literary gifts and must-have Derry Girls mugs.

To eat

With Love Recipes – Overindulged this festive season? Strabane woman Sharron McCormick’s range of guilt-free desserts, sauces and more are a delicious, healthier way to continue the celebrations.

Dart Mountain Cheese – Julie and Kevin Hickey’s award-winning range of artisan cheeses are handcrafted in the Sperrins and include the Banagher Bold local ale washed cheese and the creamy, flavoursome Sperrin Blue.

Grainola Goddess granola – Made using upcycled spent grain from the Walled City Brewery, Grainola Goddess’ delectable range includes Bountiful Berry (with dried cranberries, apricots and cherries), Scrumptious Spice, and Gorgeous Gluten Free.

Ukulele Chocolate – This Derry-based chocolate, from husband and wife team Donal and Sinead, is organic, melt-in-the-mouth, and oh so moreish. Even better, it’s made from sustainable, planet-friendly ingredients. Guilt-free chocolate… What’s not to love?

To drink

Foyster – This creamy new oyster stout showcases our native, sought after, Lough Foyle Irish Flat Oyster. A collaboration between the LegenDerry Food and Drink Network’s Walled City Brewery and Sippy Fest, it uses leftover oyster shells to make a delicious, old-style stout with a hint of saltiness.

Quiet Man Irish Whiskey – This award-winning, Derry-Londonderry based craft whiskey is expertly distilled in small batches and the ideal tipple to relax with on a cold winter’s night.

Rough Brothers – This handmade beer is brewed in Derry-Londonderry and the product range includes pale ale and red ale. You can also try its specially created Mekong Street Beer at Mekong Street Food (and a Beer 57, for Pyke ‘N’ Pommes, is also in the pipeline).

To do

Christmas Winterland Markets – Soak up the atmosphere, meet artisan traders selling local arts and crafts, taste seasonal delights and relax over a mulled wine at these markets in Derry-Londonderry’s Guildhall Square. Dec 12th to Dec 15th.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs pantomime – Enjoy the classic fairytale with some modern local twists – and plenty of gags for the grown-ups – at the Millennium Forum from December 4th to 29th.

The Snowman and Other Christmas favourites – Join the Allegri choirs and the recently formed Orchestra North West symphony orchestra as they present The Snowman and a host of Christmas classics. The Guildhall, December 15th.

Far and Wild Adventures – Treat yourself or an adventurous loved one to a moonlight kayak tour, archery, a foodie cycling tour, boom board adventure or urban mountain biking with Derry-Londonderry’s Far and Wild Adventures. Gift vouchers are also available.

Christmas Day dips – Feeling brave? Why not unpeel yourself from the sofa (and get out of Christmas dinner duties) and take part in one of the Christmas Day charity swims taking place on beaches around the North West.

A Women in Tech-themed event and startup pitching competition have been announced as part of the upcoming Derry-Strabane Enterprise Week 2020.

The 5th March event, hosted by leading startup community and platform Startacus, will focus on the wider themes of diversity and inclusion, and aims to inspire and motivate attendees through discussions, key-note speakers, workshops, a women in tech startup pitch competition and an evening social and networking event.

The pitch competition will invite shortlisted female-led tech startups from across Ireland to the stage to pitch their businesses to a panel of industry leaders and enterprise experts. The overall winner will be announced at the evening social event and the winning startup will receive a prize package.

Alastair Cameron, Startacus co-founder, said: “As well as inspiring and empowering attendees, we see this as a great opportunity to showcase innovative startups in the local area, bring standout keynote speakers to the city, and in turn encourage more people to embark on their own entrepreneurial journeys.”

Enterprise Week 2020 runs from 2nd March to 6th March. For full programme details, go to www.derrystrabane.com/enterpriseweek

If you are interested in getting involved or sponsoring the Women in Tech event, please contact Alastair@startacus.net

The North West region’s unique strategic cross-border location and pipeline of talent were the key messages to potential US investors during a recent trade mission to Philadelphia and Boston.

A number of focused engagements with industry specialists, foreign direct investment executives and venture capitalists took place during the weeklong Ireland North West trade and investment mission, led jointly by Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council to showcase the northwest city region’s compelling investment proposition.

Potential investors heard how they could take advantage of the unique combination of benefits the region has to offer, including an accessible, connected and business-friendly gateway region (with a foothold in both EU and UK markets) and a compelling vision for greater international impact, a talented and educated workforce, superb quality of life and a supportive business environment.

The delegation also met with the Mayors of Philadelphia and Boston who outlined their commitment and support for the work being done by the two Councils.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh spoke about his ties with the North West and outlined his commitment to build on the positive work being done to promote strong communities and shared prosperity, while Philadelphia Mayor Senator Jim Kenney vowed to continue to work to celebrate our connections and build on the existing relationship.

The delegation included Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Michaela Boyle, An Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council Cllr Nicholas Crossan, and local businesses from a range of sectors who met with potential clients and business partners.

The trade and investment mission also involved engagement with educational institutions from across the region, and saw the launch of a research project with Harvard Graduate School of Design, exploring how the cross-border northwest city region could be shaped in light of the economic, political and social realities of Brexit.

For more information on the trade mission visit www.irelandNW.com

North West Regional College (NWRC) has secured a huge €1.6 million of Erasmus+ funding, giving staff and students opportunities to study and work across Europe during the next 24 months.

The funding will be used for staff and students from many of the college’s curriculum areas to travel to partner countries including Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, France, Italy and even Reunion Island, and undertake training and development programmes designed around specific curriculum, entrepreneurship, leadership, innovation and creativity.

Staff will also participate in strategic partnership projects collaborating on innovative practices for vocational training and education with a number of key European partners.

Bronagh Fikri, NWRC European and International Projects Officer, said the college was also pleased to announce its success in obtaining the Erasmus+ VET Mobility Charter. Currently held by just 14 organisations in the UK, the charter is awarded to organisations with a track record in organising and delivering high-quality mobility projects.

The €1.6 funding boost was revealed at a special event celebrating the success of the college’s Erasmus+ training mobilities and collaborations across European networks in 2018/2019.

During the event, students who have taken part in a range of different mobilities across the world received awards recognising their various achievements.