Let Them Speak: Listening to Our Young Leaders – Diocese of Down and Connor

02 Feb 2016

The Legacy of The Good Friday Agreement Continues With Belfast’s Young Leaders

The 4 Corners Festival and Ulster University Belfast Campus are proud to host Let Them Speak: Listening to Our Young Leaders on Friday, 5 February, 2016. This event will welcome 90 sixth form students from more than 23 schools across Belfast to meet each other, exchange views, and present their ideas for Belfast’s future to community leaders. As The Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998, this event is a unique opportunity for these 90 young leaders, many of whom were born that year, to meet in one room, discuss their hopes and aspirations for their respective futures and Belfast, and present their ideas. Likewise, the invited panel of community leaders will have a unique opportunity to listen and respond to Belfast’s young leaders, and describe how these ideas may impact their civic work moving forward.

Hosted at Ulster University’s Belfast campus, Listening to Our Young Leaders will include a presentation by Ms. Maggie Swarbrick, Ulster University Course Director for Journalism on best practices for youth-led media campaigns. Using what they learn in the presentation, the young leaders will later pitch their ideas to a panel of seven “Keynote Listeners,” including the Belfast Deputy Lord Mayor Alderman Guy Spence, Chief Commissioner for the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland Dr. Michael Wardlow, and Reverend Cheryl Meban. After listening to the presentations, the keynote listeners will provide feedback on what they heard, as well as discuss how they might do things differently, influence others, and review policies based on what the young leaders said.

Though the 4 Corners Festival was co-founded by Fr. Martin Magill of Sacred Heart Parish and Rev. Steve Stockman of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church four years ago, Listening to Our Young Leaders is the first event in the Festival’s history to partner so closely with Ulster University and include this level of youth engagement and participation. Fr. Magill pointed out the significance of bringing together so many of Belfast’s young leaders from across the city. He said:

“This year’s festival, which has been about listening, will include listening to young people speaking about their hopes for Belfast in the future and what they would like to see our politicians deal with in the Assembly. All speakers were born after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, so what they have to say will be all the more poignant.“

Ulster University Pro Vice Chancellor for Development and Provost of the Belfast and Jordanstown Campuses Prof. Alastair Adair also highlighted the importance of engaging with and listening to Belfast’s young leaders, and is looking forward to bringing the students together at Ulster University’s new Belfast Campus. He said:

“Ulster University is delighted to host the 4 Corners Festival and to welcome the young leaders into our new Belfast campus development. It is vitally important that we listen to the voices of our young people and take account of their hopes and aspirations. This is an essential part of the University’s civic engagement as we seek to inspire and motivate future generations of students and citizens to achieve their ambitions and be a positive force for good in our society.”

The Listening to Our Young Leaders Event is part of the annual 4 Corners Festival (running from 28 January through 7 February.) The theme of this year’s festival is ‘the art of listening,’ and aims to inspire people to ‘cross boundaries’ and participate in events in all four corners of the city. The programme is wide-ranging, including music, discussions, art, poetry, film, and a churches’ walk. More information on the 4 Corners Festival can be found at www.4cornersfestival.com.

Any members of the Press planning to attend the Listening to our Young Leaders Event are welcome to arrive at UU Belfast at 1:00pm.

For information or to confirm attendance, contact: Fr Martin Magill (07740500482) or Rev Cheryl Meban (07736351229) or email [email protected].