22 February 2018

Narrative 4 brings social change
through story-telling in Limerick

The Narrative 4 offices in Limerick … encouraging empathy through story-telling (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I heard interviews on RTÉ recently with the Irish author Colum McCann and John Moran, once one of the most senior civil servants in Ireland and now chair of the Hunt Museum in Limerick. Both interviews last weekend sent me in search of the Limerick offices of Narrative 4 earlier this week and to find out more about this unique organisation.

Narrative 4 opened its first global base on O’Connell Street, Limerick, in October 2016. It is a not-for-profit organisation promoting social change through storytelling and believes the world can be changed through the art of stories.

This global arts-education organisation was formed to foster empathy through storytelling and with the aim of breaking down barriers and shattering stereotypes.

It was co-founded by Colum McCann and dozens of other artists from around the world, and changes the way individuals interact with their communities by developing action-oriented empathetic leaders and citizens.

Narrative 4 has partnerships with organisations, educators, and students around the world to ensure their story exchanges can reflect local concerns on a global level. This work has been shared on four continents, and the countries include Ireland, Mexico, Rwanda, Israel, South Africa, Palestine, England and the US.

Narrative 4 Ireland is chaired by John Moran, former Secretary General of the Department of Finance and now chair of the Hunt Museum in Limerick. At the offices on O’Connell Street, Limerick, James Lawlor is the Narrative 4 Regional Director and Sheila Quealey facilitates programmes. They are backed by a large team of volunteers and supporters.

The Narrative 4 Executive Director, Lisa Consiglio, and Global Director of Programmes, Lee Keylock, based in New York, also devote a lot of their time and expertise to setting up Narrative 4 in Europe.

‘The Limerick community has been incredibly welcoming and wonderful. Limerick City and County Council and the Limerick Economic Forum must be commended for their work in creating a start-up culture in the city,’ James Lawlor said in a recent interview.

‘We were looking for a city that could be a hub of creative activity and a model for the growth that we will foster internationally and Limerick more than fits that bill,’ he told the interviewer. ‘Limerick has a lot of friends and supporters in New York City, where N4 is based, and they asked us to come to the city and see for ourselves the energy that was here.’

Narrative 4, now based in the former library in O’Connell Street, has brought Irish and international students, educators and artists to Limerick in lead workshops in storytelling, art and creative writing using a cutting-edge curriculum designed by some of the biggest literary talents in the world. The centre is an ideas lab for young people interested in volunteerism, advocacy and social entrepreneurship, using state-of-the-art technology to globally connect young people.

Narrative 4 has the backing of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Star Wars director JJ Abrams, among many others.

Colum McCann says ‘Narrative 4 is like a United Nations for young storytellers, the whole idea behind it is that the one true democracy we have is storytelling. It goes across borders, boundaries, genders, rich, poor – everybody has a story to tell.’

There’s more about Narrative 4 HERE.

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