It’s a bright sunny day (with intermittent showers of course) as I leave Belfast International on the first leg of my journey to Washington DC this week. Sitting here on the plane headed for London I’m slightly panicked that I have nowhere to stay tomorrow night in DC and even more panicked every 5 minutes when I think I’ve lost my bag – I checked a bag in today for the first time in what must be two years of constant air travel.
In my luggage I have my all important itinerary for the week, my mini lint roller (had to run back into the house when I remembered about that – don’t want to be having important meetings covered in lint), a small herd of purple & black Learning Pool pigs (photo opps only – there aren’t enough of them to give away on this trip – and these guys are tired – they’ve already been to Scotland last week!), a bag of salt & vinegar Tayto crisps and a handful of Bewley’s Irish teabags. Also two pairs of St Patrick’s Day fun specs – one for me & one for Learning Pool’s Breda Doherty who’s already in the US having spent the last few days at SXSW in Austin, TX. And an unusual amount of green clothing.
On the plane I read with pride the new Derry City of Culture 2013 corporate sponsorship brochure, hot off the press. Reading the words of our poet Seamus Heaney almost brought a tear to my eye. I really believe the City of Derry is standing at the brink of something big – and that’s the message loud & clear that I’ll be giving to our American friends & potential investors in Washington this week. I’ll also be telling them:
· what a great place Northern Ireland is to live & work in
· how fabulous our standard of living is, how beautiful our scenery is & what an awesome amount of history & culture there is everywhere
· how much fun Northern Ireland is to visit & how friendly everyone is
· what a great entrepreneurial spirit exists in our people and how well educated they are
· how fabulous our emerging digital & creative media sector is
· and what a great place Northern Ireland is to invest in.
I’ll be posting up blogs here whenever I meet anyone interesting or see something worth reporting on.
First I have some people to thank:
· Thanks to Paul & Deborah for picking up my meetings and work this week
· Thanks to the Learning Pool team for scurrying around organising my trip and even going as far as to having new business cards driven to my house on a Sunday night
· Thanks to my friends & colleagues in the industry for being so generous & gracious
· Thanks to Grainne McVeigh, Martin Adair, Stephen Wightman and others at Invest NI
· Thanks to Kamala Lakhdhir & Lorna McCafferty at the US Consulate for making me do things on time
· Thanks to the many people that have made introductions for me this past week to people in Washington
· Thanks to my colleague and friend Martin Bradley, Chairman of Derry’s Millennium Forum and also Derry’s new Culture Company
· Thanks to Mary McNamee from Ilex for driving brochures and copies of the “Voices” DVD to the airport for me today on her day off
· Thanks to my sister for lending me her best party clothes
· Thanks to my nephew for scoring a couple of goals on Saturday & getting full marks in his spelling test at school last week
· Thanks to my goddaughter for teaching me how to say “Happy St Patrick’s Day” in Irish
· Thanks in advance to Breda for her company in Washington this week and for letting me share her hotel room when everywhere is booked up
· Thanks to my Mum for being so excited
· Thanks to Alan for running round after me all weekend & driving me to the airport this morning
I’m wondering about the people I’ll meet this week & what they’ll be like – and also wishing that the two boys that were with me last time I was in DC were with me again today. Paul & Alan – the craic just won’t be the same without you.