Did someone forget to order the food: An examination of the UK City of Culture 2013 event programme and lessons for future hosts.

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As a cultural artefact food provides a medium for the expression of local culture (Getz, 2014). Timothy and Ron (2003) discuss how food is imbued with cultural meaning, experience and permeance and has matured into a highly sought-after niche market. To promote themselves as centers of gastronomy many destinations have organised food festivals and events as part of their cultural offering. The economic and social benefits of food-related events have been well documented and as an expression of cultural identity, one would expect them to have featured prominently in the inaugural UK City of Culture 2013 hosted by Derry-Londonderry. The aim of this study was to examine if this was the case, and if not did future hosts learn from Derry-Londonderry 2013.

The authors adopted a qualitative approach in the form of document analysis and compared bid related documents from the first three cities to host the UK City of Culture, namely Derry/Londonderry (2013), Hull (2017) and Coventry (2021). In the case of Derry/Londonderry, those involved in the bid and the Culture Company, which designed the event programme, failed to recognise the culture and economic value of food. In fact, the only mention of food in the 104-page event programme was a single paragraph on the Irish Food Heritage Project. Whilst commendable, the Irish Food Heritage Project was more educational than celebratory and although food stalls were present at signature events such as Lumiere and the Return of Colmcille, this was a missed opportunity to showcase local food. In its defence Derry /Londonderry’s was the inaugural UK City of Culture which meant it did not have a template to follow or an evaluation report to learn from. In contrast, Hull (2017) and Coventry (2021) did see food as a key ingredient in their UK City of Culture celebrations and included standalone food-related events in their event programmes. Going forward, those working and representing the industry in candidate cities must make their voice heard during the bid stage to ensure food gets its rightful place at the UK City of Culture table.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 11 Apr 2022


  • Keywords: UK City of Culture; Food-related events; Event programme; Derry-Londonderry


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