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.

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 9:
Longford 7: Jesus falls
for the second time

Station 7 in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford … Jesus falls for the second time (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Each morning in Lent, as part of my meditations and reflections for Lent this year, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations.

The idea for this series of morning Lenten meditations came from reading about Peter Walker’s new exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ inspired by the Stations of the Cross, which opened in Lichfield Cathedral last week on Ash Wednesday and continues throughout Lent.

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are inspired by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. They are the stations in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at Saint John’s Well on a mountainside near Millstreet, Co Cork, and in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

In my meditations, I am drawing on portions of the Stabat Mater, the 12th century hymn of the Crucifixion (‘At the cross her station keeping’) attributed to the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi. Some prayers are traditional, some are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

For two weeks, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, sculpted by Ken Thompson in Bath stone with chisel and mallet, with lettering inspired by the work of Eric Gill and haloes picked out in gold leaf.

He uses blue to give a background dimension that works almost like a shadow in itself, providing the foreground figures with greater relief. The bright gold leaf haloes establish the central image of Christ as well as his mother and disciples or saints.

Rather than using the traditional title for each station, the text at the foot of each panel is allusive. He has chosen two lines of scripture for each panel, cut them in lettering inspired by Eric Gill, and highlighted them in terracotta.

Station 7: Jesus falls for the second time

Station 7 also illustrates a story that is not told any of the four Gospel accounts of Christ’s journey to Calvary, although the popular numbering of three falls may have a Trinitarian intention.

In this station in Longford, as Christ falls to his knees beneath the weight of his cross, he is punished by three figures: two beat him with sticks and stones, while a third berates him verbally.

A woman in his path also falls to her knees. She is anonymous, for she has no halo, but her hands and arms are crossed, as if to say she is asking for a blessing.

The inscription in terracotta capital letters below the panel reads: ‘For We Have Been Healed by His Wounds.’ This seems refer to both Isaiah (‘But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed’ Isaiah 53: 5), and I Peter (‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed’ I Peter 2: 24).

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender child,
All with bloody scourges rent.


Oppressed. Afflicted. Silently suffering.
Simon carries the cross, yet Jesus cannot continue.
He bears our infirmities and carries our sorrows.
Crushed under their weight, Jesus falls once more.


Compassionate Christ, all we like sheep have gone astray, turning each of us to our own way. Grant that when we fall into sin, we may return from going our own way to following in yours. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our crucified Lord, the King of Glory, the King of Peace. Amen.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

This is the second time you have fallen on the road. As the cross grows heavier and heavier, it becomes more difficult to get up. But you continue to struggle and try until you are up and walking again. You do not give up.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

Holy God,
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.

Tomorrow: Station 8: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

Yesterday’s reflection