U2's Edge rocks up at Belfast centre for disabled children
Guitarist The Edge took a break from U2's world tour yesterday to visit the site of a new facility for children with learning disabilities just outside Belfast.
Before the band hit the SSE Arena last night for the second of two gigs in the city, the musician - real name David Evans - made the trip to the construction site for a Mencap centre opening in Newtownbreda in January.
"I've been looking forward to seeing it," he said. "We all need a stimulating environment, and this will provide great support."
The Edge, a longtime supporter of the charity, has had a personal connection to Mencap since his cousin Ciara Lawrence, who has a learning disability, asked him to become an ambassador in 2009.
"Mencap has done so much for my cousin in helping her reach her full potential," he said. "Everyone should have access to this kind of support."
Waiting to greet the rock star was Collette Stewart and her young son Harry. She admitted to feeling nervous because she had a picture of the musician on her wall 20 years ago.
"He seems like a very genuine, kind man and seemed really interested in seeing and talking to us all," Collette said. "I think he was a little overwhelmed. It must be quite different for him to see us lot when he's used to bright lights."
She added that there were lots of "high-fives" with the children and said: "Some people aren't sure how to approach kids with learning disabilities, but he knew what to do."
During his 45-minute visit The Edge posed for photos with Mencap ambassadors and the families of children with disabilities.
After explaining that Mencap would be the official charity for the Belfast Marathon for the next three years, Collette - who also works as a Mencap ambassador - said she "teased him to see if he would consider the marathon and he said he could get the rest of the band to do the relay".
Margaret Kelly, director of Mencap NI, praised the musician and said: "We are incredibly grateful to him. The families were so happy to meet him."
To learn more about the new Mencap centre, visit mencapbigstepforward.org or call 028 9069 1351