Global Limerick chats to Narrative 4’s James Lawlor.
Chatting to James Lawlor of Narrative 4, at 58 O’Connell Street, Limerick City.
Can you give us a brief history of Narrative 4 and its concept?
Narrative 4 is an not-for-profit organisation that believes the world can be changed through the art of stories. We are a global arts-education organisation that was created to foster empathy through storytelling. At the very heart of it, our mission is to develop the first generation of truly empathic leaders and citizens and help them become agents of change within their own communities.
N4 was co-founded by Irish novelist Colum McCann and dozens of other artists from around the world. We now have fantastic partnerships with amazing organizations, educators, and students across the globe to ensure that N4 story exchanges can reflect local concerns on a global level. Last year, over 25,000 stories were exchanged on four continents; countries included Ireland, Mexico, Rwanda, Israel, South Africa, Palestine, England and the United States. And of course, we opened our first global centre in Limerick.
For people not familiar with Narrative 4, what is the most important thing to understand about it?
Our goal is to bring people from across the globe to “re-story” one another, to create a network of young leaders who understand each other and empower them to make positive social changes in their communities. Storytelling is an incredible powerful tool. Stories are the way we embrace our deep-seated need to make sense of our lives and the lives of others. Stories create empathy. Stories create community. Scientific research has shown that our capacity for empathy can be increased though storytelling. Narrative 4 helps people tell their stories in a new and powerful way. You step into my shoes, I step into yours.
The fundamental philosophy is that if we can understand the story of someone else, we can create empathy, even in the face of cultural or geographic division. The process instils lifelong community building skills such as active listening, tolerance, creativity and critical thinking
Please tell us about your team structure?
The former Secretary General of the Department of Finance, John Moran is chairing Narrative 4 Ireland. At the moment we have two staff working in the Limerick Centre including myself. A number of staff in the New York Office are actively involved in our Irish operation including the Narrative 4 Executive Director Lisa Consiglio and Global Director of Programmes Lee Keylock . We also have a large team of volunteers and supporters locally and nationally.
Why did Narrative 4 choose to open its first global base in Limerick?
Narrative 4 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. In 2014, Narrative 4 ran a pilot in the city as part of Limerick City of Culture. The enthusiasm of the kids involved and those who led the project told us that Narrative 4 was not only needed in the city but could be a real success story. There was a deep sense that those who played their part were hungry for change and a change of story.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. We love being part of this unfolding success story.
Opening of Narrative 4 in Limerick.
In September 2016 we opened our centre in Limerick. It will be the administrative base for our European operations. It will also be a creative space for young people. Students from all over Ireland (and the world) will come to the city centre in order to conduct workshops in storytelling, art and creative writing using a cutting edge curriculum designed by some of the biggest literary talents in the world. Our centre will be an idea’s lab for young people who are interested in volunteerism, advocacy and social entrepreneurship. We will use state-of-the-art technology to globally connect young people.
How is it going so far?
It is going really great. The schools have been fantastic and we are building a very exciting educational programme that every school in Ireland could adopt. We have a great team of student ambassadors from Limerick who are exceptional young people. In June we held part of our Global Summit in Limerick, we brought artists, students and educators from Northern Ireland, South Africa, the USA, Israel, Mexico and the UK to Limerick.
Our Limerick Narrative 4 Centre is just in its second month but it is up and running. People are incredibly curious about N4 on O’ Connell Street. On a blackboard outside our centre, we write inspirational quotes and so many people stop and read it. We have incredible plans for the Limerick space and for the organization on a global level. Watch this space…
Do you have any plans/projects coming up you can share with us?
On Thursday October 27th, 2016 (at 8pm) we are holding our inaugural Storytelling Open-Mic night at the Narrative 4 Centre 58 O’ Connell Street. It is a free event and all are welcome to come and take part or just come and listen.
Is there a way for people interested in engaging with Narrative 4 to contact you?
Absolutely! The best thing to do is to sign up for our newsletter, which will give you updates on our programming, students, teachers, and supporters. You can sign up on our website, which also gives you information on how to support or contact us if you have questions. http://www.