Our Festival is about reconciliation and also about the wellbeing of the city. That extends into education and this morning more than 60 year 10 pupils from across Belfast came to the Ulster University. The morning was introduced by Conan Meehan the Vice President of the Student Union who admitted that when growing up in Derry he didn’t want to go to university. His real dream was to be a rock star, but when that didn’t pan out he gave higher education a chance. 4 Corners Committee member Kayla Rush picked up on that theme talking about her friend Steve who was educated at the School of Hard Knocks but is one of the most creative people she knows. She also encouraged the pupils to take the chance to make friends during the day with their counterparts from other schools.

Different Dreams is not saying that everyone has to go university but it is saying – don’t rule it out without thinking about it. The session then moved into a game of human bingo which allowed the pupils to meet others from across the city, followed by a tour of the new UU campus in York Street. Next came the practical part of the day as participants got the chance to attend workshops. In the photography workshop, we got to see the work of some UU graduates who now create graphics for the music industry and rock concerts. Aspiring creatives were told that Art, Physics and Math is the perfect combination for this kind of work. There was also a forensics class where everyone got fingerprinted. In the marketing class, there were prizes for the best ideas and in ceramics there was literally the chance to get your hands dirty and make some art. All of these sessions show what a degree here or elsewhere might look like and give people the chance to live a different dream in the future.

After Lunch the Lord Mayor of Belfast Brian Kingston spoke about how vital our universities are for the future of Belfast. “It is important for the future of our young people and our city that we remove as many obstacles to higher education as possible. We want the only criteria to be your own ability, drive and aspirations.”

The final workshop was led by Roisin McAvoy the Head of International Student Experience who talked about the skills and values we need to live well with diversity. Finally, we had a light-hearted competition to see what is the collective noun for Stormont politicians – I’m not saying there is an election on but we have had the DUP Education Minister Peter Weir, the Sinn Fein Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, SDLP Veteran Alex Attwood and even the new leader of Sinn Fein in the North, the Health Minister Michelle O’Neill drop by. So far entries include, A swarm, A Flush, A herd, A Rake and a Ween! Whatever your preferred description we are grateful for the interest shown in the event and in the future of our young people and our city.

Father Martin Magill was the 4 Corners lead for this event and he was thrilled with how it went.

It has been great to work in partnership with the University as both staff and students have been fabulously helpful. They helped plan a great event and it was wonderful to see the pupils trying new things and maybe thinking about the future differently. And certainly new friendships were being formed across the city – I saw one girl writing her contact details on the arm of a boy from a different school!”