We need Key Note Listeners as much as Key Note Speakers. It is a mantra of Fr Martin Magill’s. We were probably only in the second year of our 4 Corners Festival when he coined the phrase. We as Church leaders or community leaders or political leaders or whatever kind of leader we are are often incredibly fast to speak but very slow to listen.

The 4 Corners Festival has attempted to give a space for people to be listened to. We have listened to young loyalist bandsmen; we have listened to the Brighton bomber Pat Magee and Jo Berry the daughter of the British Cabinet member Anthony Berry who was killed in that bomb; we have listened to Stephen Travers from the Miami Showband and the possible security forces collusion in the massacre that killed his band mates; we have listened to loyalist leaders remind us of the loyalist contribution to the Good Friday Agreement; we have listened in various ways to various of the Troubles.

Listening. As George Michael said (and I don’t quote him too often) listen without prejudice. I find it difficult and as we have encouraged us all to be Key Note Listeners it has been a constant challenge for me.

This year the Festival is giving more opportunities to listen. We will be listening to the stories of Presbyterians caught up in the Troubles. There will be specific stories read out at Considering Grace with Gladys Ganiel at St John’s Parish on the Falls Road. Bishop Donal McKeown will be listening and then we listen to his response.

We will be listening to Bishop Alan Abernethy tell us how watching a riot attacking a Catholic Church on the Woodstock Road when he was 15 made him rethink what it was like to love your neighbour in a divided city. We will be listening in the very Church that he watched being attacked. 

We will be listening to the Chairmen on Belfast’s 4 soccer teams. They will tell us the difficulties and frustrations that they have as fans do sectarian things that the clubs take the blame for. How do we use sport to build a city of grace?

We will be listening to Stephen Travers in a different way as through music he will tell us how got through life a lot more traumatic and less ordinary than most of the rest of us. 

We will be listening to poets and singers, throwing different literary hues across our fractured corners. 

It is a tough call to be a Key Note Listener. Most of us think we should be listened too. Most of us think we know what others think without listening to them. Some of us do not even want to listen.

If we are to build a city of grace then listening will be all too vital. Indeed, listening is a gracious act in itself. Listening rehumanises the other as well as being an avenue to making us more empathetic. At the very least it might confirm what we think we already think! 

If we are not listening to one another in this wounded place then hope and grace will have no fertile soil to grow in. Can I encourage you to glance across our programme and pick one that might resource your listening. Can I invite you to be a Key Note Listener at 4 Corners Festival 2020.


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)