Maria Miller 'too busy' so far to visit Derry City of Culture

Fireworks on river Foyle
Image caption UK City of Culture 2013 has seen spectacle, fun events, disagreement, engagement and frustration

Culture Secretary Maria Miller has said she has been "too busy" so far to visit Londonderry during its year as UK City of Culture.

Ms Miller revealed that 600,000 people have visited so far.

She said Derry's tenure was "encouraging economic growth, inspiring social change and bringing communities together".

It was announced on Wednesday that Hull will be the UK's next City of Culture in 2017.

"It's not been possible to go, it's always difficult to fit every single thing into the diary," she said.

"What I have been doing is making sure that we've been providing all the support we can and importantly I think, making sure Derry/Londonderry works with the new City of Culture, Hull, in transferring over what they've learnt.

'Prize'

"We've seen in Derry/Londonderry, who are currently the UK City of Culture, the incredible way that this award can put the city centre stage, being able to attract in Derry/Londonderry's case, internationally recognised cultural events.

"But also there's an economic benefit as well, with 600,000 extra tourists going into Derry/Londonderry. There's a real reason why cities have been hotly contesting this prize."

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture in London said: "The regional visits for the secretary of state have yet to be finalised."

Image caption Ms Miller said 600,000 people have visited Derry so far during its year as UK City of Culture

Sharon O'Connor, chief executive of Derry City Council, said she hoped the culture secretary would be able to visit in the "very near future".

"She has a wonderful opportunity because we have Lumiere starting on 28 November until 1 December, and I'm sure no-one will want to miss that because that's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she said.

Four cities were in the running to hold the title in 2017 - Leicester, Hull, Swansea Bay and Dundee.

'Deserving winners'

Ms O'Connor said the council was "thrilled" that Hull had been chosen.

"We're very disappointed for all the other bidding cities, we got to know them all along the way and we're just very excited on behalf of Hull and I'm sure they're very deserving winners and we'll do everything we can to help and assist them on their journey," she said.

The government set up the UK City of Culture competition after the success of Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture in 2008.

The city has managed to bring internationally recognised events since its year as UK City of Culture began in January 2013.

Tens of thousands of people attended BBC Radio One's Big Weekend, while hundreds of thousands travelled to the city for the Irish music festival, the all-Ireland fleadh. It was the first time the event had ever been hosted north of the Irish border.

The Turner Prize, which is taking place in the city, also marked a first. The Turner had never been held outside England before.

Legacy

Many smaller events have also been held.

Northern Ireland's Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín is due to outline her legacy plans for the city following its year as City of Culture on Wednesday.

The city council has also been looking ahead on how to mark the end of the city's tenure as City of Culture.

"We've had a year to develop our legacy plan," said Ms O'Connor.

"We have a legacy plan in place, we would like to see a continued high-level programme in terms of high-quality international reach type events and we'd also like to see a continuation of the very excellent level community level work that's been done."

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