The Stormont Executive has announced £15m worth of investment for a new 152-bed hotel in the Ebrington area of Londonderry.

The work will involve the refurbishment of the clocktower and five buildings in the former military base.

The first and deputy first ministers visited the development on Thursday to confirm the plans.

About £7m is coming from the executive office’s investment fund and almost £2m from Invest NI.

First Minister Paul Givan said it was “another step forward” for Ebrington and for the city.

“It continues to grow as a vibrant, modern city which is looking to the future with confidence – and there is a real sense of that optimism here today,” he said.

Mr Givan paid tribute to those involved in the redevelopment of the 29-acre site at Ebrington, which had been a military barracks until 2003.

Ebrington’s development is widely regarded as a key to Derry and the region’s wider economic growth.

“As today’s ideas become tomorrow’s opportunities, I will be watching with interest as potential turns into reality for Londonderry,” he said.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the start of work on the hotel “is a milestone day for Derry”.

“Together with the Grade A office space due to be completed soon, this new hotel will bring a renewed sense of vibrancy and a real boost to the regional economy,” she said.

“I offer my congratulations to the developers and all who have played a part in getting us to this point,” Ms O’Neill added.

Plans for the hotel were unveiled in 2017 and granted planning permission by Derry City and Strabane District Council the following year.

Ebrington is the largest regeneration site in Derry.

A former naval base that opened in 1841, it was known as HMS Sea Eagle during World War Two and was an important part of the North Atlantic Command.

Work is expected to be completed on the four-star hotel in the summer of 2023.

The Stormont Executive has announced £15m worth of investment for a new 152-bed hotel in the Ebrington area of Londonderry.

The work will involve the refurbishment of the clocktower and five buildings in the former military base. The first and deputy first ministers visited the development on Thursday to confirm the plans. About £7m is coming from the executive office’s investment fund and almost £2m from Invest NI. First Minister Paul Givan said it was “another step forward” for Ebrington and for the city.

“It continues to grow as a vibrant, modern city which is looking to the future with confidence – and there is a real sense of that optimism here today,” he said.

Mr Givan paid tribute to those involved in the redevelopment of the 29-acre site at Ebrington, which had been a military barracks until 2003.

Ebrington’s development is widely regarded as a key to Derry and the region’s wider economic growth.

“As today’s ideas become tomorrow’s opportunities, I will be watching with interest as potential turns into reality for Londonderry,” he said.

Artist Impression of Ebrington Hotel at Ebrington Square, Derry/Londonderry

‘Renewed sense of vibrancy’

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the start of work on the hotel “is a milestone day for Derry”.

“Together with the Grade A office space due to be completed soon, this new hotel will bring a renewed sense of vibrancy and a real boost to the regional economy,” she said.

“I offer my congratulations to the developers and all who have played a part in getting us to this point,” Ms O’Neill added.

Plans for the hotel were unveiled in 2017 and granted planning permission by Derry City and Strabane District Council the following year.

Ebrington is the largest regeneration site in Derry.

A former naval base that opened in 1841, it was known as HMS Sea Eagle during World War Two and was an important part of the North Atlantic Command.

Work is expected to be completed on the four-star hotel in the summer of 2023.

A new website listing arts and cultural events in the North West has been launched to provide a one-stop guide to the best family fun experiences in Derry, Strabane and Donegal.

The www.happydaysnw.com website, which covers the entire spectrum of arts and culture events and experiences across the region, is a joint initiative by Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council. The initiative, which is primarily aimed at engaging more families with arts and culture, is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and is part of the ongoing, cross border, North West Audience Development Project, supported by the North West Strategic Development Fund.

Visitors checking out Derry/Londonderry Tower Museum

The comprehensive ‘What’s On’ guide involves partnerships with hundreds of cultural partners across the North West. These include visitor centres, theatres, arts centres, entertainment venues, festival organisers and experience providers offering great family days out, ranging from unique and exciting instead adventures to more relaxing cultural activities. The initiative also fosters and encourages public engagement and participation with cultural partners through social media channels.

Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Councillor Jack Murray, said: “Our region offers among the best family-orientated arts and culture experiences available anywhere and happydaysnw.com gives everyone the opportunity to quickly find and explore the information needed to plan their perfect family day out.

“The Happy Days initiative is yet another example of the strong partnership approach that exists between our two local authorities and will play an important role in engaging many more families with our rich arts and culture scene.”

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, said the new initiative is designed to “simplify the planning of great family days out in the North West”.

“I’m delighted to launch this initiative which gives people instant access to the many fantastic arts and cultural events and experiences our region has to offer – all in a single online hub. The North West has a very rich calendar of arts and cultural events, boasts a great many wonderful destinations and offers some of the most fun-filled experiences on these islands.

“Happydaysnw.com brings all of these and more together in an online listing that makes discovering, planning, and enjoying family days out simple and convenient for all.”

Sharon Meenan, Arts and Culture Officer at Derry City and Strabane District Council, said: “Supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Challenge Fund, this initiative is part of the NW Audience Development Plan and is designed to enable everyone to easily access information about arts and culture in the North West.

“By providing all the practical information on one website, it’s easier for families to find out about cultural activities near them, connect with like-minded people online and plan their special days out across the Derry-Londonderry, Strabane, and Donegal areas.

“Whether it’s dancing, crafts, heritage, festivals, literature, theatre, visual arts, sport or learning activities you’re after; Happy Days offers a one-stop guide to what’s on, where and at what time. It also details all of the amazing spaces on our doorstep and highlights access-friendly spaces so you can plan great days out for everyone.”

A captivating new sculpture trail designed by the bestselling children’s author and artist Oliver Jeffers is coming to Derry this Spring.

Centred around an epic scale model of the solar system created by Jeffers with support from astrophysicist Professor Stephen Smartt, Our Place in Space combines a three-dimensional sculpture trail, interactive AR (augmented reality) app, and exciting learning and events programmes.

The sculpture trail will stretch over 10 kilometres and will travel from a riverside location in Derry in April/May, to Divis and Black Mountain in Belfast in June/July. It will then head to Cambridge in August before returning to Northern Ireland at the Transport Museum and North Down Coastal Path in September/October.

The team behind Our Place in Space is led by Derry’s Nerve Centre, with location partners including Derry City and Strabane District Council.

David Lewis, executive producer at the Nerve Centre, said: “From creating a star to writing a symphony for the universe, inventing a new form of transport, building a Minecraft planet or connecting with space watchers in Vietnam or Iraq, Our Place in Space invites participants to look at our solar system in a different way – exploring what it means to live on Earth in 2022, and how we might better share and protect our planet in future.”

Our Place in Space is Northern Ireland’s project for UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, commissioned by Belfast City Council.

To find out more and sign up to the mailing list, visit: www.ourplaceinspace.earth

The Carnival of Colours returned in September to brighten up Derry city centre with acrobatics, circus performers, graffiti art, live music and much more.

Check out the highlights:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p–gCDpsHWE

One of Ireland’s leading diaspora initiatives has launched a new network of regional partners to connect people of Irish heritage abroad with their places of origin.

Ireland Reaching Out is a volunteer-driven, non-profit organisation connecting people of Irish heritage with the local community in their place of origin in Ireland and online through its platform, www.IrelandXO.com.

It has established an Irish Partner Network to improve the service offered to diaspora as they visit Ireland, north and south. One of the first organisations to join the network is the Tower Museum, which will cover Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Down, Armagh and Antrim.

Ireland Reaching Out plans to build on the increase in people tracing their Irish roots during the lockdowns, and who wish to travel to Ireland as the country begins to reopen. As well as the Tower Museum, Visit Castlebar and Ballyhoura Development CLG, Ireland Reaching Out is now seeking other interested regional heritage and tourism groups to join.

Derry has been named “a perfect base for road tripping”, and praised for its fantastic festivals and historic walls, in a list of the UK’s most hidden gem cities.

Travel writer Monica Stott, of The Travel Hack blog, included Derry as one of 10 ‘underrated’ cities she believes do not get the attention they deserve.

Stott said: “Derry is one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe and is the only intact walled city in Ireland. Derry’s Craft Village is a small but perfect ‘village’ within the walls with a quaint charm and boutique stores and creative crafters selling their wares.                 

“Keep an eye out for an array of festivals in the city, particularly the Halloween festival which was voted the best in the world by USA Today! Derry is also a perfect base for road tripping and from here you can explore the Wild Atlantic Way and the Causeway Coastal Route.”

Derry’s affordability and attractiveness as a place to live has been highlighted by two major surveys.

The Walled City was named the most affordable city in the UK to live in for the third year in a row, while a separate poll selected it as one of the Top 20 best places to live in Ireland.

Research by Halifax found that with the cost of an average city home in the UK now eight times earnings, Derry remains the UK’s most affordable city, with an average house price of £155,917 or less than five times earnings.

Meanwhile, the city also joins the top 20 contenders in the running to scoop the Irish Times’ Best Place to Live in Ireland title.

A total of 470 locations were nominated and whittled down to just 20 by a panel of judges, based on criteria including community spirit, local services and amenities, diversity, transport links, vibrancy of the local economy, cost of living, safety and the unique ‘X factor’.

The Irish Times judges said: “Derry offers a good quality of life and the ‘best of both worlds’ in there is access to the amenities and opportunities provided by a city but also beaches and countryside nearby. The people are often cited as one of the best things about the city. They are extremely proud of their city and loyal to it, but also friendly and welcoming to outsiders.”

In Your Space Circus (IYSC) is bringing its flagship Circus, Arts and Music Festival, Carnival of Colours to the City Centre for the 14th edition of one of Derry’s favourite headline events. Carnival of Colours, which usually takes place in St Columb’s Park, has up-rooted and relocated to Derry’s stunning City Centre. Taking place on the 4th and 5th September, the programme for the weekend will be jam-packed with circus-themed treats featuring the very best of International Street Theatre, IYSC’s own walkabout characters, workshops in circus and roller-skating, graffiti arts demos, portrait painting, music right across the city and much, much more! The headline shows will include acrobatics, juggling, diabolo, clowning, comedy, physical theatre and some crazy dance moves thrown in for good measure! Acts will include Mimbre (all-female acrobatic troupe), Nakupelle (world renowned clown), Jitterbug Jackson (Master of all things circus) and Tumble Circus (acrobats who achieve near impossible feats of gravity!).

Carnival of Colours, 4th – 5th September, Derry/Londonderry City Centre

Incredible local artists will also be showcasing their talents and bringing a weekend of pure joy to the people of the North-West and visitors to the City! Tying in with the Cathedral Quarter Weekend event, we will be breathing life into the Cathedral Quarter area of the City with a stage located at Society Street Carpark, and walkabout characters entertaining those who will be roaming the traffic-free streets around St Columb’s Cathedral.

Lots of other activity will be taking place in the area including ‘Sounds of the City’ a music and performance trail featuring the best of the best local musicians, programmed by Music Capital. Carny Corner, in the Garden of Reflection, will immerse you in the world of circus with IYSC Youth Circus shows, circus skills workshops, portrait painting and screen printing at the Derry Print Workshop.

The Festival attracts people of all ages from right across the Derry-Londonderry area and visitors to the city; it brings people together from all walks of life for a shared cultural experience. It also highlights Derry City as an exciting, beautiful and progressive destination for events and arts activity.  Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, said: “We are delighted to be working with In Your Space Circus on delivering the fantastic Carnival of Colours.”The Carnival puts smiles on lots of faces and adds such a fun, upbeat atmosphere to our city centre as we slowly return back to normal life. “There are loads of elements to the Carnival of Colours so there will be plenty of entertainment for both kids and adults alike. I would really encourage everyone to visit the city centre, check it out and support our local businesses in the process! “In 2021 the Festival is supported by Tourism NI, Derry City and Strabane District Council, and The Arts Council of Northern Ireland. A number of local cafes and restaurants are also supporting the event by feeding and watering our artists and volunteers!  

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added, “It’s truly heart-warming to see the Carnival of Colours back for 2021, spreading amazement and joy across the city.  Once again the IYSC team have curated a fabulously fun programme with something to suit all tastes, from the very young, to the very young at heart!  I would encourage everyone to get outdoors this September and enjoy everything that this terrific celebration of circus has to offer.” IYSC is particularly proud to be bringing the Festival back to the city after an extremely challenging 18-months for the arts and events industry. The organisation and local artists, who rely on the Company for income, have suffered great losses due to the pandemic. All activity will be delivered in line with Covid guidelines and every precaution will be taken to keep audiences and participants safe.

Carnival of Colours is a showcase and celebration of In Your Space Circus’s year-round work including the Circus School and its street theatre and performance work delivered across Northern Ireland. Cath McBride, IYSC’s Company Director said: “We are thrilled to be back and at it this year. We have so greatly appreciated the support of our funders and the general public in helping us to recover and bring this unique event back to its audience. We aim to ensure that the 2021 Carnival of Colours is a celebration of the city, of our artists and participants, of circus, and of our wonderful audiences. We are confident that there is something in the programme for everyone and that it will give families a fabulous opportunity to spend some quality time together!”   

For the full Carnival of Colours programme visit: www.inyourspaceni.org/carnivalFor more information on events happening on 4th & 5th September, visit summernorthwest.com

Families looking for activities to do together in Derry and Donegal can now access a specific section of the recently launched Summer in the North West website and app where a host of fun options have been added.
The Family Fun section aims to offer visitors and locals a convenient and joined up way to get active together. Whether it’s tours, dancing or water sports you’re after, the website and app offers a one stop shop where you can see where is open and what’s happening and plan your days out. From outdoor adventure, “pop up” shows, summer clubs, local festivals and cultural experiences to online activities for a rainy day at home or in the caravan, there’s no shortage of fun to be had.

Hosted by Derry City and Strabane District Council with partners in Donegal County Council, Summer in the North West brings together what’s happening across the North West to make it easy for locals and visitors to access.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, launched the service earlier this month. “Summer in the North West aims to offer a joined up platform to make it easier for families and friends to try something different, go somewhere new or see something different in the region,” he said. “We are one of the most diverse regions on the island boasting a host of outstanding natural escapes and vibrant cultural experiences.”With the Walled City of Derry, Sperrins, Wild Atlantic Way and the Causeway Coastal Route all on our doorstep, you’ll never be short of an epic view or a tranquil spot to get away from it all.”Maybe you’ll find yourself trekking with alpacas at the Wild Alpaca Way, kayaking at midnight, wandering the Cathedral Quarter Antiques and Vintage Trail or taking in a leisurely lunch after a gallery visit.”As part of the Summer in the North West programme, local arts and festival groups are offering a broad range of outdoor activity including four new outdoor shows from In Your Space Circus and Echo Echo which will tour the NW through August.

Rachel Melaugh from In Your Space Circus explained more: “In Your Space Circus are delighted to be getting out and about this summer and bringing some socially distanced, safe and fun street theatre to local audiences.”We’ll be popping up with some of the best of Irish Circus, spreading the love with our Trippy Hippies and our Olympic goddesses – The Land Syncro Swim team will be back with their brand new show ‘The Big Splash’ – making serious concrete waves.”You won’t want to miss it, we are thrilled and so grateful to have been given the opportunity to develop new work in such a challenging time for the arts and we are so looking forward to taking to the streets again.”

John Kerr, Arts and Culture Officer at Derry City and Strabane District Council, added:”These summer commissions are an initiative of the NW Audience Development project delivered in partnership by Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council and approved for delivery by the North West Regional Development Group (NWRDG) in conjunction with and supported by the Executive Office and the Irish Government.” This promises to be a lot of fun and supports our aim of supporting delivery across wider areas and connecting with new audiences”


For more details and links to individual programmes, opening times, booking and access information to make your summer story visit www.summernorthwest.com​ and go to the Family Fun section. 

Why not download our App for your handy guide, available now by searching What’s On Derry Strabane in the Apple or Google Play store. Follow @WhatsOnDS on social media and share your #SummerStories.