Irish and British teens walk a movie mile in each other’s shoes

  • Some Stories - Narrative 4

Teenagers from schools in Birmingham and Limerick came together to exchange their personal stories and discover the power of empathy – creating a unique documentary film.

Some Stories is a documentary film showcasing a project involving students from three Birmingham schools and their counterparts from Limerick, who took part in creative writing and art workshops, cultural excursions and a ‘story exchange’.

Organised by the University of Birmingham and Narrative 4, the project revolved around the idea of teenagers partnering up and swapping stories from their lives, before telling each other’s story back to the group in the first person.

Students from the Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh were introduced to students from the schools in or near Birmingham – Holyhead School, Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College, and Earls High School, Halesowen.

Over the course of a weekend in Limerick, the 30 students swapped stories about identity, fears, beliefs and hopes - captured by a team of film-makers led by the University of Birmingham’s Professor Rob Stone, and turned into an inspirational documentary.

Project co-ordinator Dr Ruth Gilligan, acclaimed author and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham, commented: “This was the most inspiring project I have ever been part of. Amidst the endless conversations around Brexit and borders, divisions and differences, to see the openness between UK and Irish students was extremely powerful and profoundly moving. Their stories gave me hope.”

The project movie premieres at Birmingham’s historic Electric Cinema on Tuesday 7 May 2019 in a public screening organised by Narrative 4, B-Film: The Birmingham Centre for Film Studies and the Department of Film & Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham.

Narrative 4, based in Limerick and New York, was founded in 2012 by a group of writers and activists, led by the internationally-acclaimed author Colum McCann. Since then, it has brokered ‘story exchanges’ around the world in places such as South Africa, Israel, Palestine and Mexico.

The exchanges have featured schools with very different social mixes - even pro and anti-gun groups. In 2016, Narrative 4 set up an office in Ireland, using a disused library in Limerick.

Students say that the project has already impacted on their lives, with one teenager commenting: I’m more confident in myself. I take more pride in what I do, I’m much more understanding and empathetic and more sociable and I’m less affected by people’s perceptions about me now.

 

“Narrative 4 has helped me understand that all people regardless of age, gender, culture are the same and experience similar emotions. It’s helped me realise that I do in fact have a voice and stories of my own to tell; it’s helped me realise we all matter.”

Long-term, Narrative 4 aims to develop the next generation of truly empathetic leaders. In the short-term, projects such as this aim to foster a sense of empathy, a greater degree of self-confidence, and a deeper understanding towards people from different cultural background.

Before the screening there will be some introductory remarks by Ruth Gilligan, James Lawlor of Narrative 4 and Professor Rob Stone.

Students from Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh, Holyhead, Joseph Chamberlain College and Earls High School will attend the premiere along with writers and community organisers from across Birmingham and the country - these will include Birmingham Poet Laureate, Richard O’Brien, authors Luke Kennard and David Savill, as well as members of the Narrative 4 boards from the US and Ireland.

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