A novel view of Stroke City
Northern Ireland’s second city is generally agreed to have made a triumphantly confident job of being City of Culture for 2013 – even if it’s still not entirely confident about its own name. How much longer were all the introductions and presentations and interviews made by the insistence on that formula “Derry, Londonderry” or “Derry stroke Londonderry”? Proceedings could have been conducted at a much faster clip if the arts bureaucrats had agreed to follow the lead of the veteran broadcaster Gerry Anderson. Years ago, he rechristened the place “Stroke City”.
Mind you, Derry has long been a puzzle even to many people who live in Northern Ireland, especially residents of Belfast. For them, if the Republic of Ireland (“down south”) was Mexico, then Derry, in the far north, was Canada. In an essay for Radio 3, the novelist Glenn Patterson recalled how his view of the city when he was a boy had been distorted by the border: “I used to look at Derry on the TV weather map and wonder how it survived way up there, so far away from Belfast, and with a great big black line behind it cutting it off from everywhere else.”