A Big Belfast Welcome for Our Bright Future’s All Project Seminar
Queen University’s Riddle Hall, was a beautiful setting for the annual Our Bright Future all projects seminar. One hundred staff and youth forum members, from nearly 30 projects across the UK, came together to celebrate achievements and to inspire and motivate each other for the year ahead.
This was the first time an Our Bright Future gathering had been held in Northern Ireland and both the Belfast Hills Partnership and Ulster Wildlife’s Grassroots Project were delighted to welcome and host our UK partners and showcase some of our stunning landscapes and youth engagement projects.
It’s always a delight to be reunited with the UK wide OBF team. I’ve been involved with the Belfast Hills project from the start, so having the seminar in Northern Ireland, felt like inviting your pals over for a visit. There’s a buzz and energy from the team that I’ve never experienced with any other funded projects, a room full of passionate people, collectively leading a massive social and environmental change across the country.
We started day one with warm welcomes from Cath Hare and Peta Foxhall, followed by an introduction and update, on the Youth Forum, by Lydia Allen. Roberta gave us a fantastic outline of Year 3 achievements, which was followed by a midterm update from ERS. The sheer numbers of young people collectively engaged in our projects are staggering. It’s incredible that so many individuals have made long-lasting changes to both themselves and their local environment.
In the afternoon we jumped aboard buses and headed for the Hills. We were proud to show off our beautiful Slievenacloy Nature Reserve, a species–rich grassland, brimming with wildflowers and butterflies, owned and manged by Ulster Wildlife and located only minutes from the city centre. After a short welcome to the reserve, outdoor activities were delivered by ourselves and the Ulster Wildlife project team, which included pencil making using native Irish trees, wildflower identification as well as some fun teambuilding ‘upland games’. Day one concluded a big vegan feed and Abi’s amazing quiz!
Day two was every bit as action packed however for me the highlights were guest speakers Gary Hart, Senior Education and Engagement Officer, UK Parliament and David Small, Chief Executive, for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. David gave a frank and honest address on the existing state of the Northern Ireland environment and an update on the DAERA Environment Strategy consultation. Many of our youth forum members were keen to engage with both speakers and have their voices heard. This in particular enabled our local young people to see that even though there is no power sharing executive in Northern Ireland, they are still able to have a voice about what matters to them locally.
The afternoon session allowed individuals from different projects to break off into smaller focus groups to discuss themes related to youth empowerment and environmental issues. Our group had the chance to discuss sustainability in the workplace. It was useful to meet people from a range of different projects to exchange thoughts and ideas from contrasting perspectives. The mini-discussion groups were helpful for generating a greater awareness about our systems of work, encouraging us to challenge how we think about the environmental impacts of our own organisations and to suggest achievable practical solutions that we could implement at work to be more sustainable into the future. By the end of day two we were bursting with ideas, inspiration and ready for the next year ahead.