You want to know what the difference is between Belfast and Derry? Listen to Stephen Nolan in the mornings, and then listen to Mark Patterson on Radio Foyle in the afternoon. Belfast is represented by all the punters ringing Angry Steve to give off about what a bloody awful city Belfast is. By contrast, the Patterson show – and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anything else like it – consists mainly of Derry people, who naturally all know each other, slapping each other on the back and talking about what a brilliant place Derry is.
Some people say Derry has a great community spirit, although that might be more convincing if it was safe to go out after eight. What’s undisputable is that Derry has an uncanny gift for civic boosterism. The Americans call Chicago the Windy City, but it’s got nothing on Derry.
So it wasn’t a suprise to see 13,000 people in Santa suits crammed within Derry’s walls in a bid to set a new world record for the number of Santas in one place at one time. This is exactly the sort of thing Derry does well. Everybody got in on the act. Local MLAs Mark Durkan and Martina Anderson were wearing Santa suits. There was a Santa hat on Free Derry Corner. I don’t know if Eamonn McCann was dressed as Santa, but I wouldn’t put it past him.
Cue plenty more backslapping for what seems to be a successful record attempt. And I was much taken with the organiser who gave out on the news that Derry was now Santa Town. It strikes me that this would be a great way to resolve the controversy over the city’s name.