Skip to main content

Olympic Swimmer Launches Record Breaking Year of Airport's Youth Leadership Programme

Date: 27 Oct 2021

Former Olympic swimmer, double Commonwealth champion, and British record holder, Chris Cook, joined George Best Belfast City Airport this week to launch a record-breaking year of its IGNITE youth leadership programme.
IGNITE, an educational partnership between Belfast City Airport and Cinemagic aiming to provide life-changing opportunities to 100 young people over a five-year period, is now in its third year, and has witnessed a record 24 students sign up to participate in the next 12-month programme.
These students from 11 different secondary schools and higher educational colleges across Greater Belfast will follow in the footsteps of 41 other young people who have already graduated from the programme and made significant steps to realising their future aspirations.
Director of Corporate Services at Belfast City Airport, Michelle Hatfield, said of IGNITE:
“We are extremely proud of our IGNITE programme, the only initiative of its kind in Northern Ireland which gives young individuals the chance to not only build their skill set, self-confidence, resilience, mental wellbeing, and employability, but to also gain an NLP Diploma in Personal and Career Development.
“It really is changing the lives of young people in our society and providing them with tools they can harness to build brighter futures, and I think the fact that we have had a record number of participants enroll on the programme this year is testament to that.”
The programme, which has been championed by Jay Rowe, Senior Vice President of HBO and Game of Thrones creator, TV and radio presenter Dermot O’Leary, local radio presenter, Pete Snodden, and LA showbiz journalist, Ross King through the delivery of keynote speeches, workshops, and webinars, returns this year to physical sessions following a year of virtual delivery due to the global pandemic.


Chris Cook, former swimmer turned motivational speaker, spoke of his delight at being physically involved in year three of the programme having already delivered a virtual session last year:

“I loved working online with Belfast City Airport and the students on the IGNITE programme last year, but nothing really compares to meeting individuals face-to-face, thriving off their energy, and really getting the channels of communication open.
“Programmes like this are so important for our young people these days. Sometimes they just need one person to believe in them and that is exactly what Belfast City Airport is doing, so I am absolutely thrilled to be invited to the city to witness that for myself and honoured to contribute to the programme yet again.”
Echoing the sentiments of both Michelle and Chris, Chief Executive of youth film charity Cinemagic, Joan Burney-Keatings, added:

“We are extremely proud to work in partnership with George Best Belfast City Airport as year 3 of the Ignite Programme launches.

“It has been an incredible collaboration and the young people involved develop real life skills as well as getting the chance to have their talents nurtured and celebrated. Cinemagic welcomes the opportunity to provide young people with the chance to explore opportunities, and reaffirm their belief in what they want to do and their own ability to achieve it.”

To find out more information about the IGNITE Youth Leadership programme, please visit:

Stay in Touch

Sign up to our newsletter and be the first to hear about exclusive airport discounts, updates, competitions and all the latest airline news!

Contact us
Belfast City Airport close