As Prince Charles celebrates his 70th birthday on Wednesday, the Belfast man behind a number of adrenaline sports initiatives on both sides of the Irish border has praised a charity set up by the heir to the throne to help young people.
Armed with a business idea and the drive to make it a success, Matt Gillespie sought the guidance of the Prince’s Trust in 2015 and got the expert help he needed to embark on a dream career – providing action sport opportunities and experiences for people of all ages.
The 32-year-old – who also runs Thunder Action Sports in Bangor – said Prince Charles made the greatest use of his position and influence when he set up the trust in his name.
The Prince of Wales established the Trust in 1976 with his £7,000 severance pay from the Royal Navy. He is also the patron or president of more than 400 charities that together raise more than £140 million every year for good causes.
“Prince Charles created [the Trust], and funded it, but the staff and people who are involved in the organisation are really passionate about it. I think the Prince’s Trust is the best kept secret in society. I really do,” Matt said.
The Urban Excel branch of Matt’s company use BMX bikes to engage young people in programmes which lead to work on issues such as confidence-building and reducing anti-social behaviour.
“I now employ nine people and have an Ireland-wide coaching service and Ireland’s first ever action sports academy in Bangor,” Matt said.
“That started with the Enterprise Programme, a £7,000 loan and a mentor – and my mentor has been fantastic.”
The Prince’s birthday celebrations began last month with a gala comedy and magic night staged in his honour at the London Palladium.
The ‘We Are Most Amused And Amazed’ show – featuring Bill Bailey, Rowan Atkinson, Sandi Toksvig, Omid Djalili, Alistair McGowan and Kylie Minogue – was screened on UTV on Tuesday night (November 13).