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Students to tell other stories for Narrative 4 exchange

Narrative 4 exchange brings the youth of Limerick and Birmingham together to explore and understand the depths of empathy through the means of storytelling. Picture: Deirdre Power  

Students to tell other stories for Narrative 4 exchange

This week, pupils from three diverse Birmingham schools will travel to Limerick, to work with students from Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh to discover how listening to and re-telling each other’s stories can increase empathy and understanding between individuals and communities.

The pupils – from Earls High School, Joseph Chamberlain College and Holyhead School – will travel to Limerick on November 16, 2018, to take part in the three-day ‘Telling the Other Story’ project.

They will be accompanied by Dr. Ruth Gilligan, a University of Birmingham academic who is both a bestselling novelist, her latest book being Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan, and a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing. She has organised the event alongside the global not-for-profit Narrative 4, which was founded in 2012 by award-winning author Colum McCann.





The pupils will work with renowned British and Irish authors, visit museums and acquire new creative writing skills. The key activity will be a ‘story exchange’. Here, the pupils will partner off and share personal stories from one another’s lives;  they will then tell each other’s stories back to the group in the first person, thus literally stepping into someone else’s shoes.

The ‘story exchange’ model was developed by Narrative 4, a New York and Limerick based organisation that has run similar projects across the world. These have brought together young people from diverse backgrounds and cultures in order to improve their lives and their communities.

“We live in a time where understanding and empathy are more important than ever, especially amongst young people. Amidst all the talk of Brexit and the Border, there’s a real question mark over how England and Ireland actually understand each other today.

Narrative 4 and I have organised this project to provide a vibrant, safe and creative environment where telling each other’s stories will hopefully provide the foundations for better understanding build relationships and change attitudes towards people from ‘other’ cultures, not to mention improved writing skills. We’re all really excited about what is going to happen and cannot wait for the words to start flowing,” Dr. Gilligan said.

Paula O’ Sullivan English and History teacher at the Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh said: “We are delighted that our students will take part in this enriching and educational project. Narrative 4 empowers my students to engage and understand real people, while feeling listened to and understood themselves. Building empathy is instrumental in the development of our young people, they are the leaders, teachers, doctors and legislators of tomorrow.’

The weekend will include a free event on Saturday, November 17th at 8 pm: ‘Telling the Other Story’: Narratives without Borders in Limerick’s at the Belltable. This inspirational evening of literature and music will feature renowned British and Irish artists whose work also tries to step into the shoes of the ‘other’. Joining Dr. Gilligan for this special evening will be award-winning authors Donal Ryan, David Savill, Paula McGrath, and musician Kathleen Turner. The event is free, but tickets must be reserved at the Belltable Box Office.

For more information on the Narrative 4 initiative go here

For more stories on the Youth of Limerick go 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 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.