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US Empathy Expert Lee Keylock to Speak at Limerick Conference on Bridging Divides

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The 2024 Transformative Narratives conference is set to take place in Limerick on Friday, June 7th

A leading international voice on the power of storytelling to foster empathy and bridge divides is set to visit Limerick for the 2024 Transformative Narratives conference

Keylock is a former high school teacher affected by a 2012 mass shooting and went on to become one of the driving forces in developing the global non-profit Narrative 4

Lee Keylock will be the keynote speaker at the Transformative Narratives conference in Limerick on Friday, June 7th. Keylock is a former high school teacher affected by a 2012 mass shooting and went on to become one of the driving forces in developing the global non-profit Narrative 4, which has its European headquarters in Limerick.

The conference is a groundbreaking event that delves into the profound impact of story exchange, restorative practice, and empathy-building pedagogies in educational settings. This conference aims to bring together educators, researchers, and practitioners to explore how these innovative approaches can foster a more inclusive, empathetic, and supportive learning environment.

Based in Connecticut, Keylock is the Director of Global Programs with Narrative 4, which trains teachers and educators to use storytelling to bridge divides and create a culture of empathy and compassion among students. He became part of the original founding team over ten years ago after he reached out to New York-based Irish author Colum McCann. At the time he was a secondary school English teacher based at Newtown Elementary School just up the street from Sandy Hook Elementary School, the site of the 2012 mass shooting by a 20-year-old gunman that killed 26 people.


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Many of his friends worked at the school, which is located in a small tight-knit community. It was an incident that would indirectly change Keylock’s life forever. Determined to act, Keylock sought out Colum McCann after reading his book Let the Great World Spin. He figured storytelling was one way of generating empathy and understanding, and the pair went on to join forces through Narrative 4.

His keynote in Limerick will reveal insights from his extensive work in the US, Ireland, Mexico, Palestine, Israel and South Africa on topics such as gun violence, division, racism, and the transformative power of storytelling to cultivate empathy.

Conference organiser Dr Dan O’Sullivan from the School of Education at the University of Limerick says the conference provides an important forum for educators, researchers, and practitioners to come together, share ideas, and explore new approaches.

“The world is changing rapidly, and every sector of society is being asked to evolve and transform. The field of education is particularly important as it prepares our young people for life. It’s therefore vital to explore how education can best meet the needs of students and society. We know that to reach students and to inspire and engage them, we need to build trust and rapport with them,” he says.

“Building a culture of respect, inclusion and honest communication is key. This means finding ways to empathise with where young people are at, to understand their lives, and to ensure they feel heard and supported. This is where storytelling, restorative practice, and other similar approaches can be so effective. They can deliver great outcomes, not just in academic results, but in wellbeing, communication, conflict resolution, and teamwork”.

The 2024 Transformative Narratives conference is a groundbreaking event that delves into the profound impact of story exchange, restorative practice, and empathy-building pedagogies in educational settings.
The 2024 Transformative Narratives conference is a groundbreaking event that delves into the profound impact of story exchange, restorative practice, and empathy-building pedagogies in educational settings.

“We know too with all that’s going on in the world, with so much division, that the work of empathy and inclusion has never been more important. There’s so much great work going on in this area, in Ireland and internationally. That’s why we must come together to showcase different approaches, to share ideas and resources, and explore how we can respond to shared challenges”.

The impressive line-up of speakers also includes Joe Power, the former Restorative Practices (RP) Development Officer for Limerick and an accredited RP trainer. He has previously worked for Le Cheile Restorative Justice program in Limerick with young offenders and he has written extensively about restorative practice. Ruth Kelly, Co-Chair of Restorative Practices Ireland will also speak. She is a Restorative Practice associate with Oide, a Restorative Champion with the Childhood Development Initiative Tallaght and a Narrative 4 facilitator. Ruth Works with Alternative to Violence Ireland and delivers workshops in the Midlands Prison. Marion Irwin-Gowran, Project Manager at Gaisce – The Presidents Award, will share insights from her work using the Narrative 4 Story Exchange as part of a partnership between Maynooth University Access Programme and Wheatfield Prison. Marion has also worked with LGBT and refugee communities. Former Governor Mountjoy Progression Unit Donnacha Walsh, Gemma Lynch from Maynooth University’s Access Programme and Paige Franklin, a SNA and Restorative Practices Trainer, also join the list of speakers, as does Dr James Lawlor and Rachel Gleeson from Narrative 4 Ireland

The Transformative Narratives conference takes place on Friday, June 7th, at Castletroy Park Hotel in Limerick.

For information and registration visit here
Read more Narrative 4 stories here

Richard is a presenter, producer, songwriter and actor. He was named the Limerick Person of the Year (2011) and won an online award at the Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Awards (2011) for promoting multi-culturalism online. Richard says that the ilovelimerick.com concept is very much a community driven project that aims to document life in Limerick. So, that in 20 years time people can look back and remember the events that were making the headlines.