Illuminate is a bright spark for local economy despite the weather
25 February 2022
As Derry prepares to light up the City once again with a second instalment of the Illuminate Festival, local businesses were looking forward to another bumper weekend, after a successful first few days of the brand new festival experience.
Illuminate kicks off a year of major events for the City, and businesses have been enjoying the benefits of a surge in footfall as people took to the streets despite the weather to experience the Illuminate trail. The event is a first for the City and captures the history of Derry in a series of 3D animations projected onto some of the most iconic landmarks throughout the city centre.
Despite some extremely challenging weather conditions which saw the cancellation of Sunday and Thursday night's events, the festival attracted thousands of visitors who explored the story of the Walled City told through dramatic digital snapshots which transformed six sites including the Guildhall, the City Walls and St Columb's Cathedral.
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Alderman Graham Warke, said the festival had been extremely positive for the local economy and was a good indicator that the appetite for public events was definitely returning.
"If there is one thing that we do well, it's festivals and events, and it's something that has been a huge loss to the city over the past two years. We take great pride in our ability to bring people together to enjoy first class cultural experiences, whether that's at the Jazz festival, the Foyle Maritime Festival or Halloween.
"Illuminate has shown us that people are just waiting for the chance to get back out there, and with a packed programme of events planned for the city this year it's a really positive indicator that we have a bumper year ahead. The feedback from our businesses last weekend has been great – despite the challenges thrown at us by the weather. Bars, restaurants and hotels were still buzzing and we expect to see a repeat of that this weekend, and all the benefits that brings to the local economy."
On the busiest nights of the festival, which ran for six nights over two weekends Feb 17 – 19 and Feb 25-27, hotel occupancy ranged between 87.7% - 94.7%, which is significantly higher than usual for this time of year.
Chair of Council's Business and Culture Committee, Councillor Conor Heaney, said it was encouraging to see people back out on the streets. "This has been a real lift for the city as we see the ending of restrictions, and a gradual return to some normality. I want to acknowledge the work of all involved in the production of this brand new festival experience, and the innovation and creativity that has allowed us to adapt and successfully deliver events including Halloween and Illuminate.
"We understand the vital role of events in rebuilding the local economy and we will continue to work with our businesses to create opportunities that will boost trade and draw people to enjoy all that our beautiful City has to offer."
Odhran Dunne, Chief Executive of Visit Derry, said events such as Illuminate can act as a real catalyst to recovery for the local tourism sector.
"We are delighted to see the positive impacts Illuminate has delivered to support the recovery of our tourism and hospitality sector. We've seen a great start to the festival with our restaurants and bars reporting a busy weekend. Our hotel partners are seeing the same positive benefits with a significant rise in hotel occupancy over the course of the festival. It demonstrates the significant impact of large-scale events on the region's growth whilst supporting the extension of the tourist season.
"The events of this scale provide a wonderful platform to showcase the full spectrum of what we have to offer in the Walled City. With events back for 2022, there are exciting times ahead as the city and district continues to grow as a vibrant, must-see destination."
Illuminate will run until Sunday Feb 27th, with installations running from 6pm – 9pm each evening.