UK – Nessie vanquished as Saint Colmcille makes a spectacular return to his hometown

UK – Nessie vanquished as Saint Colmcille makes a spectacular return to his hometown

Friday saw the dramatic arrival of a precious cargo, which had travelled by traditional curragh from the remote Scottish Isle of Iona – the home of Colmcille’s most famous monastery. The following morning crowds flocked in Guildhall Square as the contents of this mysterious box where unveiled, rapidly transforming the city into ColmVille – telling stories of the city’s past and present in Colmcille’s honour. Key landmarks formed the canvas for a tribute to Derry-Londonderry’s history, from The Undertones playing in the Gas Yard to a 100-strong flash-mob for Dopey Dick, the disorientated killer whale who famously got stuck in the River Foyle in the 1970s.

As evening drew in, The People’s Procession weaved through the city, starring a cast of hundreds of local residents in an extravagant costume parade – bringing the stories that Colmcille had missed in his 1500 year absence to life with astonishing creativity.

The event culminated in a spectacular showdown on the Foyle as Colmcille emerged to face down his arch nemesis, the Loch Ness Monster. The 70-metre long, 18-metre high, technicolour beast wowed the crowds assembled on the quay. The monster’s head alone weighed over a tonne and half, and jets of flame spilled from its from its mouth and nostrils as roars shook the quay.

Fireworks poured from the beast and danced across the water, as beams of light shone from the Peace Bridge, where a choir assembled above a spectacular pyrotechnic waterfall. In the Pure Derry finale, the beast was once again vanquished by St Colmcille as he was over 1,500 years ago on the River Ness. Retreating into the depths, it was replaced by three beautiful swans. The event drew to a stunning crescendo with over a tonne of pyrotechnic material lighting up the city sky.

Frank Cottrell Boyce said: “I set out to create the idea that people were on holiday in their own city and we have to thank St Colmcille for delivering spectacular weather for us. Historically this has been a divided city with two strong traditions, Catholic and Protestant, Colmcille very firmly belongs to both of these traditions. Through the friendships the participants and audience have made, I hope the spirit of ColmVille will live on within the people of Derry.”

Creative Producer, Walk The Plank / The Return of Colmcille John Wassell commented: “Storytelling is vital to culture – it helps us to understand who we are, and more importantly who we can be. It’s been brilliant working with a writing talent like Frank – someone who not only realises that life can – and more importantly should – reach beyond the norm.
“For us both, the importance of the arts extends beyond economic impact to the expanding of people’s horizons. The inspiration people will take from this event will be incredible. We’ve seen the impact of our work on a grand scale before, but even for us this is a whole other level.”