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An acclaimed actress and Ulster University Honorary Graduate, Geraldine visited the University’s creative spaces, including the Virtual Production Studio, a £1m facility supporting cutting-edge teaching and research in the screen industries.

Geraldine joined a training session for the S.U.R.F. (Skills for Urban and Rural Futures) group, a programme designed to address the lack of opportunity many young people face in gaining high level skills, and met with two community groups The Marion Centre of Excellence and Newtownabbey Arts and Cultural Network.

In a specially curated workshop, the acclaimed actress spoke with the young creatives about her career journey, taking practical questions and offering an opportunity for the young people to share their own aspirations and areas of interest.

Facilitated by Ulster University Professor of Creative Technologies Paul Moore, the visit also featured a demonstration of the Ulster Screen Academy’s virtual production facilities, with Geraldine getting back in front of the camera on a Nevada desert landscape produced and directed by students.

The S.U.R.F project enables virtual production students at Ulster University to train other young people, who have not otherwise had access to many other opportunities, to learn their craft, develop employability skills and raise their aspirations.

Visiting Ulster University, Geraldine Hughes said:

“I was honoured and inspired to meet the S.U.R.F. group participants at Ulster University. When I left West Belfast at age 18, there was little opportunity to do what students in Northern Ireland can do now. Yet people in my life told me I was worth it, recognised my talent, and gave me a hand up. That was crucial, but it was also important that I supported myself and what I told the students was that it doesn’t matter what your background is or what you’re going through, your dreams and ambitions will take you through. Success is many different things, but doing what you love is success in my book and I was thrilled to meet so many ambitious and talented young creatives today.”

Joanne Dunn, Founder of The Marion Centre of Excellence said:

“At The Marion Centre of Excellence, we target mental health in the community which we believe stems from a lack of sense of belonging or passion. Our coaching, and our partnership with organisations like Ulster University and the S.U.R.F. programme, helps people first decide what they want to do. Recently we have found many young people want to work in areas like animation, game design, and set building, so this connection with the University allows us to provide pathways in that area. The world is moving away from traditional sectors, so it was great to hear Geraldine’s story of success and provide an inspiring example to our young people.”

Paul Moore, Professor of Creative Technologies at Ulster University said:

“It was wonderful to welcome Geraldine Hughes, a globally renowned actress and filmmaker and kind friend to Ulster University. Geraldine is an inspiring example of acclaimed talent, born and raised in Northern Ireland, and has gone on to achieve success on the big screen. At Ulster University, we are pleased to be feeding the creative industries – not only developing the skilled workforce that powers the sector but undertaking the research and innovation projects to drive opportunity. Today’s event, and the S.U.R.F programme, is about supporting the young people who have the creativity and passion, but not necessarily the opportunity, to leapfrog an education system that isn’t necessarily catered to them and realise their full potential.”