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Princess Royal’s investment summit visit hailed an ‘unexpected pleasure’

A visit by the Princess Royal to a high-profile investment conference in Belfast was hailed by businesses as an “unexpected pleasure”.

Princess Anne was attending the Northern Ireland Investment Summit, where Secretary of State for Business and Trade Kemi Badenoch framed the event as telling a different story of the region to delegates.

Among those the Princess Royal met on a walkabout were award-winning An Irish Goodbye directors Ross White and Tom Berkeley, who showed her their Oscar statuette.

Mr Berkeley joked that their Oscar had “a strange power about it”, with people spotting it and immediately coming over to talk to them.

“We had a fantastic conversation (with Princess Anne) and it was great to see her interest in our industry and supporting young film makers, we fairly recently moved into film making and had this crazy journey – for us it’s about representing the work that comes from Northern Ireland,” Mr Berkeley said.

Mr White added: “It’s so clear to see the passion that Princess Anne has for story telling and for films, telling us about the films she loved growing up, the Disney animations and it was great to see.

“It’s fantastic to be representing the place and the film industry in this place which is going from strength to strength in the recent decade.

“To be able to wave the flag for that and tell people that this is such a brilliant place to bring business to and bring productions to. If we can be a small part of helping that along, we’ll happily do it.”

The summit came at a perfect time for Phil Morrow, chief executive of animation company Retinize, in the week before the firm launches a product called Animotive to “revolutionise the way 3D-animated content is created”.

Mr Morrow said it would do this by making it “fast, fun and affordable”.

They demonstrated an immersive experience to the royal visitor, who chuckled as they got the character on the screen to bow to her.

Getting to meet Princess Anne was an unexpected pleasure, and she took a real interest in what we’re doing, she asked quite a lot of probing questions about exactly what we were doing and how it worked

“The summit has been a fantastic opportunity to be meet some really influential people who can hopefully connect us with more potential customers and investors, and we’re very committed to being a Northern Irish company taking on the world,” Mr Morrow said.

“Getting to meet Princess Anne was an unexpected pleasure, and she took a real interest in what we’re doing, she asked quite a lot of probing questions about exactly what we were doing and how it worked.”

The Princess Royal also met with Edward Dryden, president of interiors at Collins Aerospace, and Alan Henning, site lead for the operation in Northern Ireland.

The firm, based in Kilkeel, Co Down manufactures aircraft seating for airlines around the globe.

With more than 800 employees, the Kilkeel site is one of the largest seating manufacturing facilities in the world.

Mr Dryden described the Princess Royal as “very engaging”, adding: “She probably knows more than your average person around seats.

“She was asking about how seats have changed, and how they might be different depending what region you’re in and even as much as to say it’s not just a seat, but what about the furniture, which was quite impressive – not very many people think of that much.

“It’s been good to understand how the Government is thinking about Northern Ireland and how to support external investment because we at Collins Aerospace are very committed to the facility and the employees in Kilkeel, but the question is how we are thinking about growing it. So it’s good to get alignment on what the Government is thinking about it, and how we find some connection.”

Mr Henning added: “(The Princess Royal) asked a lot about our customers, and what types of customers we have, she was interested in how we made the seats in Kilkeel.

“The summit was a great opportunity as a large employer in Kilkeel and in the aerospace sector, to meet government officials, some of our ministers.”

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