I have always loved the arts. Literary, visual and performing arts have always held a special place in my heart. They engage every emotion from joy to fear to sadness and remind us of that spirit we all have inside of us but don’t always connect with. I have the utmost respect for the artists of these disciplines and believe their work is integral to a community. This is why I am happy to support the Lyric Theater in my hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The Chairman of the American Ireland Fund, Loretta Brennan Glucksman hosted a dinner at her home to support this historic and remarkable piece of Belfast’s turbulent past. It was a star-studded event with actors Liam Neeson, Meryl Streep, Aidan Quinn and Ciaran Hinds attending. Liam Neeson started his career at the theatre and I heard he was speaking about the productions in the old theater being interrupted by terrorist attacks and bombings, but the artists always completed their plays. I have never met Liam, but he seems to me to be an individual that doesn’t give up easily and inspires those around him to improve. That is so very inspiring to me and I hope it motivates others to create, promote and pursue their passions, whatever they may be in this world.

I was heart-broken that I couldn’t be at the fundraiser, but I recruited my cousin, Josh Stewart, to attend in my place. Josh told me that he had a very wonderful time and was impressed by the openness and polite nature of those movie stars in attendance. He also enjoyed performances by Broadway star, Conleth Hill, singer, Brian Kennedy and international recording cellist, Neil Martin. He said the food was phenomenal from Belfast based Michelin Star chef, Paul Rankin, who used local produce in his meal. Both Josh and I were happy to support the capital campaign contributing pledges on behalf of our families and we will continue to do so. The fundraising still continues and I think it is so vital to Belfast, its people and community.

Chairman, BNE/INE