Maritime Festival shows 'the city has changed for the better'

Thousands of people were in Londonderry over the weekend for a celebration of the city’s seafaring heritage.

The Foyle Maritime Festival, which got under way on Thursday along the city's riverfront, closed on Sunday evening.

Lindsay Nelis and her family visited from Bangor in County Down.

Lindsay, whose husband is originally from Derry, said she couldn't believe how much the city had changed for the better over the years.

"We're having a lovely time, walking along, and just soaking up the atmosphere," she said.

A woman with blonde hair in the centre of the image, smiling at the camera, with her two young daughter either side of her
Lindsay Nelis with her daughters Annie and Connie, from Bangor [BBC]

Derry City and Strabane District Council's festival and events manager,Jacqueline Whoriskey, said more people has taken in the festival on Saturday than on any single day in the festival's history.

"Saturday was huge, there were throngs and throngs of people," she told BBC Radio Foyle's North West Today programme.

She added: "It (the festival site) is 1.5 miles long, it took people maybe two hours to get from top to bottom. People really enjoyed it".

The head of culture at the council, Aeidin McCarter, said the festival, last held in 2022, is one of the biggest events in Derry's calendar and has become a huge economic driver for the region.

An entertainer smiling at the Foyle Maritime Festival

The festival programme has included live performances, DJ sessions, watersport taster events, the Legenderry Food Village, a Carnival of Colours and vintage funfair, as well as boat viewings and ship tours.

There have been tall ships berthed along the quay while a pirate's pontoon is in place to entertain children during the four-day festival run.

The festival also includes a first look at the city's planned DNA Museum, which is due to open in 2026.

A woman, wearing sunglasses, standing in the middle of the photo, with a young boy with blonde hair standing in front of her
Paula McCallion and her grandson Fionn [BBC]

Paula McCallion, who was there with her grandson Fionn, said the festival was an opportunity for the city to come together.

"It's been fantastic to see the crowds again in Derry," she said.

"The buzz about it - it's been fantastic."

She and her family watched a fireworks display on the riverfront on Saturday night and a light show that saw the tall ships sail along the river to music.

"It was just fantastic to see the lights going up and down the Foyle," she said.

"It was great for everybody just to be out and about - even though it got a bit wet!"

A man, on the left, and a woman, on the right, both looking at the camera and wearing pirate costumes
Many people dressed up in costumes for the festival [BBC]

The festival’s flagship finale – Beyond Blue – took place on Saturday night.

During the showcase, the tall ships were illuminated by Visual Spectrum Studio.

This was followed by a choreographed lights show and a fireworks display.

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race has been a key feature of the Foyle Maritime Festival over the years, including in 2022.

However, Derry did not play host to the festival this year.

A man and woman standing close to each other in the centre of the photo. The man has brown hair and glasses and the woman has blonde hair.
Colm Quigley and Sophie Curran from Derry [BBC]

"The city needs it," said Colm Quigley.

"We need more things like this. Any other city that has a waterfront like this, they would be utilising it. It's only good for the city."

He and Sophie Curran were among those on Sunday soaking up the final of the four-day Foyle Maritime Festival.

"Oh it's brilliant, I'm really happy to have it back," said Sophie of the event, which was last held in 2022.