First 2013 UK City of Culture event held in Derry

About 1,000 people took part in the tea dance
Image caption About 1,000 people took part in the tea dance

The first event for the UK City of Culture celebrations has been held in Londonderry.

About 1,000 people gathered at The Venue at the former Ebrington Barracks site on Saturday for the city's largest ever tea dance.

Tickets were allocated through community groups.

It was the first time The Venue, which was specially constructed to host City of Culture events, was open to the public.

The tea dance harked back to the city's once booming ballroom era.

Margaret Danes is a regular tea dance goer.

"It's great to be here. I didn't imagine The Venue would be like this. I've been looking forward to some dancing," she said.

Katherine Gamble, from the Bonds Street community group in the Waterside, was dressed for the part in sequins.

"This is our first tea dance. It's a beautiful place. I've been watching it being built from my bedroom window so it's good to be here now," she said.

The Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, said the culture year was an opportunity the city cannot afford to miss.

"The City of Culture year is a great opportunity to project a possible image of a forward looking Northern Ireland.

"Emphasising that this city is a great place to visit.

"I hope it is going to be a very successful year and will leave a real legacy in terms of visitor numbers and putting Derry-Londonderry on the map internationally in a way that it perhaps hasn't been up to now.

"It is a beautiful city, a great one to visit.

Images from a City of Culture project 'Portrait Of A City' were shown on large screens on either side of the stage and brought many memories back for those there.

The aim of the initiative is to create one of the largest community archives ever compiled for the people of the city.

The tea dance was the first of 140 events that will be hosted during the City of Culture year.

Cultural programmer with the Culture Company Claire McDermott said it was the perfect way to kick off the celebrations.

"You wouldn't believe the number of requests we got for tickets," she said.

"The tickets were free and distributed through community groups because we thought that was the fairest way to ensure everyone from communities across the city were involved."

The Mayor's Tea Dance is a monthly initiative and will take place in different communities across the city all year.

Mayor Kevin Campbell said the first one had a "fantastic atmosphere".

Image caption The event was held at The Venue

"The whole idea is to create that atmosphere of the 1950s and 1960s - bring people back to that ballroom era," he said.

"The minute the band played the first song, people hit the floor."

The chief executive of the Culture Company, Shona McCarthy, said the event was a great start to 2013.

"It's a pure dream come true," she said.

"There's been challenges for everyone over the last year and a half, but to see this fantastic space, the programme, the mayor and the senior citizens of the city who have opened this for us, that's the whole city working together and that's what it's all about".

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