As cities and communities close down to battle Covid-19, the Belfast International Homecoming is vowing to keep vital virtual connections to our global Irish family open
Adopting the theme 'We Are Team Belfast', the 2 October online summit will bring together civic leaders and friends of Belfast in the diaspora to ensure the city emerges stronger and better from the pandemic.
And while the seventh international Belfast Homecoming will hear from government ministers and captains of industry, it will also give voice to those at the community cliff face who are struggling to keep their organisations and institutions moving forward during the coronavirus crisis.
As Homecoming Host, my aim is to make sure we draw on all the resources available to us, both at home and abroad, to ensure the community, cultural and commercial groups which are the life's blood of Belfast are not knocked out by this pandemic.
Among the international friends of Belfast who have already committed to the Homecoming gathering are the Controller of California Betty Yee and the Comptroller of New York State Tom DiNapoli - who are trustees of two of the largest pension funds in the world — Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism in Wales, Hon Consul General Brian Doherty, musician and representative of Canada on the board of the International Fund for Ireland, who hails from coronavirus-free Nova Scotia, and Christine Quinn, CEO of the biggest homeless charity for women and their families in New York City.
Fielding for the home side will be a slate of prominent speakers including QUB Vice-Chancellor Ian Greer who will lay out a new agenda for Queen's University to drive city growth and inclusion, former businesswoman of the year and Deloitte Senior Partner Jackie Henry who will address the regeneration of the city, Seamus Cushley of tech company Bazaarvoice which is pioneering the city's economic transformation, and South Belfast community leader and Policing Board member Debbie Hammill.
There is a place for everyone on Team Belfast — joining is just a click away at the Homecoming conference website. And registration is free though we urge our team players to make a £10 contribution to the NI Community Foundation Coronavirus Appeal which is helping grassroots organisations struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.