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Can storytelling unite children of different cultures?

Tuesday 8 January 2019

2018 was the year of divides – Remainers v Leavers, nationalists v globalists, Trump v, well virtually everybody!

But as humanity appears more tribal and people close their ears to those even in their own communities, a new conversation is starting aimed at demonstrating that we still have infinite things in common.

Young people from different nations, races or political persuasions are coming together for an extraordinary project to tell each others’ stories by putting themselves in ‘the other’s’ shoes.

Narrative 4, began in Ireland in an attempt to use the art of storytelling to open up emotional silos, and involves author and creative writing lecturer David Savill from the School of Arts & Media.


David and novelist Ruth Gilligan spent a weekend in Limerick with 15 students from a local school and 15 from three schools near Birmingham.

With Narrative 4’s regional director on hand, the pair explained how to shape a story, and a quick guide to Irish and English history and to some of the hostilities aroused by Brexit.

The event is reported in The Guardian which writes: “It turns out that teenagers, on both sides of the Irish Sea, face many problems: there are stories of bullying, self-harm, eating disorders. The difficulties faced by the girls of Asian heritage in Birmingham, torn between a conservative community and a wider secular society, are the most severe. While the boys can lose themselves in sport, the girls experience the full force of cultural collision.

The Limerick students, who are being taught in Irish and given a deep understanding of the country’s culture, seem more rooted, less challenged by conflicting identities, though still in some cases struggling with loss and questions of identity in the broadest sense. Who are they, why are they here, where does their Instagram self meet their real self?

“It’s great to find you are not alone,” says one of the students, summing up the mood perfectly. “Life is unpredictable.”

Read the students stories in the Guardian here.

David Savill is a former BBC producer and author of the critically acclaimed novel They Are Trying To Break Your Heart (Bloomsbury).

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Gareth Hollyman, Senior Press & PR Officer (Science)

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