Welcome toMUN Spotlight, a special series dedicated to Model UNs from around the globe. The aim of this series is to introduce MUNs and their organizers to our MUNPlanet audience and beyond. This Friday we are taking you to Belfast, a city in Northern Ireland, a city well known for its hospitality, a city in which one third of the population of Northern Ireland lives, home of RMS Titanic, and a place where BelfastMUN is about to take place. Our host today is Charlie Shimmins, BelfastMUN Secretary-General.
MUNPlanet: Charlie, everyone is eager to meet you.
Please introduce yourself to our community.
Charlie: Hello, MUNPlanet Community! I’m Charlie Shimmins, I’m 20 years old, and I am the Secretary-General of Belfast MUN 2015. Originally born in London, I have lived most of my life on the Isle of Man and consider myself Manx. The Isle of Man is a small island that lies between Great Britain and Ireland. It’s a part of Britain, but not a part of the United Kingdom, or even the European Union! Anyway, since 2013 I have been living and studying in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I’m a student of International Politics and Conflict Studies at Queen’s University Belfast, and live just five minutes from the famous Lanyon Building. I love Belfast and I can’t wait to welcome our conference delegates to the city in November!
MUNPlanet: For the impatient ones, in one sentence, why should everyone come to Belfast MUN?
Charlie: Belfast MUN will be a professionally-run, academically rewarding yet fun and social conference that offers everything the expensive conferences have – but for a delegate fee of just £20!
MUNPlanet: Organizing a conference for the first time cannot be hard when the team is good. Tell us something about your team, how it came together and how MUN experienced is everyone.
Charlie: I joined the MUN Society at Queen’s when I first came to the University. A year later, I became the President and at that point we decided we were going to hold a conference of our own. Since then, the team has consisted of both previous Society members (who a few years ago came very close to bringing WorldMUN to Belfast), and current Society members who have been doing great work towards the conference. In addition, the Chairs, who come from all over the world, have been working hard to make sure their committee is as good as it can be. Collectively, we have many years of attending MUNs all over Europe, but this is the first time we have taken on the task of organizing one! Sure, it’s not been a walk in the park, but the team has worked brilliantly and the whole city - from the University to the City Council to local companies - has been so keen to help us bring MUN to Belfast.
MUNPlanet: What about the Conference venue? We’ve heard that Queen’s University Belfast has stunning historical settings and majestic surroundings.
Charlie: That’s right! Queen’s University is famous most of all for the Lanyon Building, the stunning centrepiece of the campus. We are extremely fortunate to be hosting all of our committees within this flagship building. The smaller committees are all in majestic surroundings such as the Senate Room, Council Chamber and Newark Room, while the General Assembly will be housed in the Great Hall. The name doesn’t lie, it’s really great and many people compare it to the Great Hall of Hogwarts from Harry Potter. That’s not all though, the opening ceremony of the conference is taking place in Belfast City Hall – the most iconic building in the city – and the conference even includes a tour of the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont House!
MUNPlanet: Is it a coincidence that the conference will be taking place on Friday 13th?
Charlie: No, it’s actually not a coincidence. The conference was due to take place in April this year but we delayed it by seven months just so it took place on Friday 13th. (Yes, it’s a coincidence)
MUNPlanet: Besides the General Assembly, Security Council and Human Rights Council, there will be the Environmental Programme, British-Irish Council and Press team, also. Please, tell us more about the committees you will be simulating.
Charlie: We wanted to make sure that we offered something for everyone with the committees at Belfast MUN. The committees we chose give a range of difficult, ranging from the low-pressure, 80+ delegate General Assembly ideal for newcomers to MUN, and more challenging (but still fun!) committees with topics suited for veterans of several previous conferences, like the Security Council. The Human Rights Council and the Environment Programme offer a nice mid-level option where everyone should have a fun experience, but still get the chance to shine in their committee. The chairing teams are currently working together to come up with their topics. They all have a wealth of knowledge in their respective fields and are certain to deliver a genuinely interesting and engaging debate.
The British-Irish Council is a unique committee to Belfast MUN. We are running it because it was founded right here in the city by the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in 1998. This is the first time there has been a student simulation of the Council and we have been working with the Secretariat of the real organisation to ensure our BIC is just like the real thing! It’s the ideal committee for MUNers who are looking to try something a little different – with just eight members (only two of which are UN members!) the debate will certainly be intense but we expect the eight delegates of the British-Irish Council to become an MUN dream-team over the course of the conference! Also, the Isle of Man is a member state, which automatically makes it the best committee as far as I’m concerned.
Of course, we will also be running a press team, giving budding young journalists the chance to report on the work of the budding young diplomats! The reporters will be running online news sites, detailing all the goings-on of the day’s events.
MUNPlanet: MUNers are very often traveling on budget. Can you give us some tips on how to get the most out of the experience in Belfast? Tell us about the cheapest ways to commute, eat, explore, etc.
Charlie: Belfast is a great value city; in fact it’s officially the cheapest city to live in in the UK. Generally speaking, things are much cheaper than in other UK cities, and are certainly cheaper here than in Dublin to the south. Things like bus tickets, taxi fares, drinks in bars and meals in cafes can all be found at very reasonable prices. I can tell you personally that it’s a great city for a student on a tight budget.
The conference itself represents brilliant value for money. Many conferences across Europe charge over €70 to attend. Belfast MUN is proud to be able to offer a delegate fee of just £20 (around €25). For that you get everything you would expect from the most expensive MUNs and more: three days of great committees in majestic surroundings, a glamorous opening ceremony in the City Hall, a trip to Stormont House for a tour of the Northern Ireland Assembly, guest lecturers including a former Irish Ambassador to the UN, and a great line-up of social events in the evenings. Oh, and don’t forget the lunch! Every day of the conference, every delegate will get a Subway 6-inch sub, cookie, bag of crisps and 500ml drink. The lunches alone would normally cost you more than £20!
We have even been able to arrange great value accommodation for our delegates in hostels less than five minutes walk from the conference venue. Four nights of hostel accommodation, including tea & coffee and free, unlimited Wi-Fi is just £61 (about €85).
As for travel, Belfast is a really easy city to get to. It has two airports – Belfast City and Belfast International. In addition, it’s really cheap and easy to take a train or a coach from Dublin Airport up to Belfast (it can cost less than £10, and take less than 2 hours!).
And if you still aren’t convinced that Belfast MUN is the best value conference available (which it really is), we have teamed up with Visit Belfast to arrange for each of our delegates to get an official Belfast conference delegate pass. This gives you access to exclusive discounts on things like tourist attractions, bars, cafes, restaurants, tours, and shopping around the city!
MUNPlanet: Belfast has some great bars, from Victorian-style or trendy cocktail bars to the historic Duke of York where Titanic builders constructed the bar in exchange for whisky. What is the one place that MUNers should not miss during their visit?
Charlie: Belfast quite literally has a bar to suit every taste. In the Queen’s Quarter (the other three Quarters are Titanic, Cathedral and Gaeltacht); there are lots of pubs and bars ready to cater to the student crowd. The best student atmosphere (and prices!) though comes from none other than the Students Union itself. Several of our social events take place there, including the club night after the closing ceremony. It’s great because there’s something for everyone; sure there’s a dance floor and a DJ if you’re down for throwing some shapes, but there’s also loads of sofas to chill out and chat on, an outdoor roof terrace and even an adjacent pool hall with lots of pool and snooker tables.
MUNPlanet: We are sure that so many of your delegates are huge Game of Thrones fans that would be more than excited to see where their favorite series is being filmed. Are there any tours that include studios or dramatic scenery used in the show?
Charlie: Yes there is, Game of Thrones is filmed in a studio in the Titanic Quarter. You can take a tour of the sets, but only at specific times of the year – not during filming obviously! There are also lots of outdoor locations, such as dramatic cliffs and winding roads that have been used for the show. You can take bus tours from Belfast specifically for GoT locations. In addition, members of the cast are occasionally seen in bars around the city, so you never know – you might just meet Tyrion or Kit during your stay!
MUNPlanet: Charlie, can you give us a perfect recipe for Ulster Fry?
Charlie: Good question, but no, sadly I can’t. I’m nowhere near a good enough cook to make the perfect Ulster Fry. I do, however, know a little café called Maggie May’s just next to Queen’s that will happily make one for you.
MUNPlanet: Charlie, the final question. In your opinion, how can new technologies such as MUNPlanet shape the future Model UN landscape?
Charlie: All I can say about MUNPlanet is that I wish I had found out about it sooner! It’s a really great platform for MUNers; not just to find their next conference, but also to interact with likeminded people from all over the world, hone their skills and further their own ambitions. Ultimately, Model UN isn’t about individuals, it’s about how individuals interact with each other, and in that respect it’s the perfect community to build an online platform around.
In addition, MUNPlanet Premium is a brilliant service that opens up opportunities for funded places at conferences, allowing young people on tight budgets to attend conferences and visit places that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to visit. We’re really pleased to be offering MUNPlanet Premium members the chance to apply for six funded places at Belfast MUN. Five will have their delegate fee paid for them, and the most impressive applicant will get their delegate fee and accommodation completely free of charge!
Check out a special offer from BelfastMUN: