Folow us on social media

Sign up to our mailing list

Peter Pan Lyric Theatre

Homecoming and Belfast One City Conference: The sessions

By Staff Reporter

‘Ring the Bells which still can Ring: Building a Capital of Culture’


Gerry Ó hEara (Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, Host Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, Derry)

“In Derry we have a community that has been through 25-30 years of the most vicious internal conflict. There is a sense that we are recovering from collective post traumatic stress disorder – for 10 years after conflict you are in survival mode. With regards to Protestants, we had loyalist bands – 26 representatives from bands – and we offered them a stage to come and play at the Fleadh. Five bands eventually took up that invitation and came to play in a nationalist area in the Waterside where thousands came to watch and people applauded. People in Celtic tops and from across Ireland applauded. The band played in full uniform and with a sign behind them saying Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. Some of those loyalists have joined up to Irish language classes and are conducting shared tin whistle classes.”


Xabier Paya (Director Donostia-San Sebastian City of Culture 2016)

“European City of Culture for Donostia was not just a cultural celebration but about social cohesion. Arts and culture are vehicles for social cohesion – to break down walls and barriers. Donostia is the most Basque city in the Basque Country and thus we faced similar challenges to Derry with identity and being the ‘Spanish’ capital of culture. The cultural programme was based on three main ideas: promote social cohesion; find a new European identity – connections with other artists and networks; and promote creativity and innovation in the cultural sector. We are looking for a behavioral change.”


n Boardroom Dialogue Sessions: ‘Rebranding Belfast’


David Lyle (MD Lyle-Bailie International)

“What is a brand? The brand exists as a neural network of memories and these memories are activated by the brand name. Positive associations are important – we need to start with this very simple principle: what memories the brain has and what associations it has when it comes to Belfast. Not all brand associations are positive. If they are negative our journey is to move from negative to positive. It is an evolutionary process Perhaps we want ‘refresh’ not ‘rebrand’.”


John Keane (MD Ardmore Advertising)

“Belfast’s strength is its humour, which is sometimes black or gritty. Exit polls in tourism studies focus on humour: taxi-drivers, hoteliers. The brand that is Belfast is the people of Belfast. A brand can change, and dynamism is important. It’s not about where we’re from but where we’re going. You can also acknowledge the conflict and make it part of tourism. Unfortunately we’re still struggling with narrative, which is often bigger than Belfast itself and takes on regional and national dimensions.”


n ‘Forging a New Alliance Between Dublin and Belfast’


Michael Black (General Manager Intel Belfast)

“At Intel we started an all-Ireland leadership group in order to collaborate. We may wear a blue Intel shirt on top but we have a green shirt for Ireland underneath. A lot of work has been done in Ireland and Belfast and Dublin, but more work needs to be done. For example education and skills are crucial: create the skills and the businesses will follow. This means not just science and engineering skills but also marketing. Half of all revenue should be invested in engineering and the other half in marketing.”


Peter Finnegan (Director of External Relations, Dublin City Council)

“At Dublin City Council we see ourselves as a gateway into wider Ireland. And we see that gateway benefiting the entire island. Ireland has very little in terms of mega-cities. We need to develop the urban area between Belfast and Dublin. Our creativity stems from our literary tradition. We need to have global attitudes.”


John McGrillen (Director of Development, Belfast City Council)

“Fewer people are locked into the north-south mental-ity and the connectivity that Dublin offers to the north is huge. It’s growing in terms of flights to the States and Middle East. We found in our experience as consultants that the alliances with southern and Dublin-based groups was natural and we would build together.”


n ‘Future Cities’


Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon

“I want a better Belfast for everyone. Better employ-ment, environment, and enjoyment. This conference represents a great oppor-tunity to make this a reality. To be more successful we need a more successful core. This is why we’re working with Canadian company Urban Strategies and have developed the Berridge Report. We need to build international networks and the diaspora is crucial to that. We have goals in job creation, social justice, the arts – we want international and local actors to partner in order to follow those goals.”


Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston

“We need to forge inter-city partnerships. In Boston we are looking to regenerate neglected areas – there’s a historic building boom in Boston. We are bringing economic development to formerly deprived neigh-bourhoods. We are reaching out to new technology entrepreneurs but balancing that with old industry. Our city government is a partner in innovation. Growth brings challenges – we need more middle class housing and we need a civic voice.”


Mayor Joe Anderson of Liverpool

“Belfast and Liverpool are in similar situations. I remember the security during the Troubles and things have moved on massively. I was talking to a taxi driver and we talked about growth in the Titanic Quarter – we agreed Belfast has to keep pushing on the accelerator. This is for our children and grandchildren. We have lost public sector funding but that means we need to operate around that.”


n ‘Putting Belfast to work’


Trevor Annan (MD Mount Charles)

“Job creation in a knowledge-based society has to be our orientation. We all see the fancy blue chip companies that are on the front of the Belfast Telegraph – but those companies need catering, cleaning and service bodies like us. We have low wages but we do a lot of public service work – we gain those contracts because of low wages and yet others are calling for contracts to be awarded on an ethical basis. There seems to be a contradiction there.”


Cllr John Kyle (PUP)

“I’m aware of long-term problems linked to illness and unemployment that I see as a GP in East Belfast. All should contribute and be included in the growth and new direction of Belfast – that means even those furthest from the labour market have to be included. Incentivising work has to be a priority – all young people should have the opportunity to get into meaningful and well-paid work. That’s not happening in Belfast – which is partly historic, and partly to do with failures in education and business. There are massive educational inequalities in Belfast – we need to make school more rewarding for young people and link it more comprehensively to a career.”


James McGlennon (EVP & CIO Liberty IT, Boston)

“I’ve seen dramatic change since I began to come to Belfast in the late 80s. 10 per cent of our global technology employment is in Belfast – our team in Belfast is right in the lead of forging new capabilities for our customer base. There’s more vibrancy in the city today even than there was a decade ago.”


n ‘Moving up a gear: business growth in a connected world’


Liam Lynch (, New York)

“New ideas must be relevant to a geographic area – diver-sification and areas of expertise must be identified. We’ve seen a transformation of the city with Game of Thrones and all the rest. With the diaspora there are big connections we can draw on. For example in Israel, with Tel Aviv and New York, there are big Jewish companies linking up with a big Jewish community. So Ireland should learn from that, should learn to facilitate diaspora.”


Jimmy Deenihan (Irish Minister for the Diaspora)

“I can see Belfast growing more than any part of Ireland in the next ten years. Political stability is crucial to that.”


n A call for action to the Diaspora

Rachael McGuickin (Visit Belfast)

“Conferences are a simple way to bring investors and connected people to Belfast. They are a huge benefit to the city as on average each conference brings in millions. It increases revenue by up to 30 per cent on a given weekend. We’re after industry events, and company events and all we’re looking for is an email to tell us who we should be speaking to.”


Geoff Fenlon (Manager, Waterfront Hall)

“Conferences are more than just support services or hotels or pubs. They’re more than just greater revenue. When you bring a conference centre into a city you create a place where people want to gather round. Regeneration in Melbourne was driven by the installation of the conference centre on the docks there.”


n In the frame: the cultural and commercial case for a new civic art gallery


Marguerite Nugent (Curator, Wolverhampton Art Gallery)

“Wolverhampton Art Gall-ery’s Troubles’ collection grew out of our American and British pop art collection. We value our partnership with the contemporary art centre. Any building needs a unique identity and it should fill gaps. In our collection we’re interested in the human impact of conflict.”


Peter Crawford (Director Crawford Art Gallery, Cork)

“Our gallery in Cork is located in the centre of the city, which helps with footfall. We have re-used our custom house, and the re-purposing of old buildings is a great innovation. In cultural terms Belfast needs an ‘institution’, it needs to enfranchise people culturally.”


n Partnering the Diaspora to our mutual benefit


Tim Brundle (UU)

“NI has transformed incredibly, our knowledge economy has changed beyond all recognition. The software industry is growing by around 3,500 jobs per year. University of Ulster is the biggest university in Ireland – it prides itself on applied knowledge, it helps startups, and influences social policy. The thing that has benefited the university most is the diaspora – we have alumni all around the world – who are key to our philanthropy.”


Ed Lynch (Attorney, New Jersey)

“After the trauma of the Troubles, the peace process came into effect but it’s a very fragile peace. Today I think that the business community and business success depends upon the inclusion of all members of the community. Jobs are the key to securing the peace. Two people I admire are Bill Shaw and Des Wilson.”


Carol Fitzsimons (Young Enterprise)

“Young Enterprise and Junior Achievement wants to develop the entrepreneurial skill of young people. Our work has never been more needed because there are huge opportunities for our young people to succeed.”


Dolores O’Reilly (Chair, Ciste)

“Ciste infhestíochta Gailege is about the re-birth of Irish: its goal is to provide development, business planning and financial assistance for the physical infrastructure for the rapidly growing Irish language community that is springing up across the North. We have embarked on a million dollar challenge for three iconic projects – a cultural hub in Armagh; an after-school group in Belfast; and a secondary school in Derry.”


Barry Fennell (Co-operation Ireland)

“People may be cynical about the peace process but we have come from impossible to possible. Our goal is to try and sustain peace, in which there are a number of phases.”


Please follow and like us: