photo: Bernie Brown
I imagine you will be reading a good few surmises about the 2020 4 Corners Festival over the next while. This year’s Festival was 10 days filled with amazing content. I am not joking when I say that it might be that there wasn’t one sentence spoken or line recited, sung or acted out that hadn’t a gem of insight. Really!
Let me give an overview of the Festival through the prism of one of those sentences. Damian Gorman was a more than gracious contributor to the Festival. As well as his own gig in conversation with Jude Hill, with Anthony Toner singing, Damian turned up at the hidden extra track gig at the end of the Wonderful Wander when we launched our poetry book - Building A City Of Grace.
At the launch Damian gave even more of his time sharing a few poems, encouraging the Six Form students with poems in the book and giving us a mini seminar in writing poetry.
Anyway, it was a sentence Damian shared with Jude Hill that caught my attention and came to mind almost every single night.
Damian spoke about stories being like the Eucharist. Someone’s story is broken up and used to feed others. As someone who presides over Communion the second Sunday of every month and attempts to creatively not only break the bread but also Jesus story. I even used another 4 Corners Festival artist Gary Lightbody’s song this very Sunday.
Half way through the Festival event in St. John’s Parish on the Falls Road I realised that what Damian said about the Eucharist was exactly what was happening in the stories of Presbyterian ministers, victims and nurses being read from Gladys Ganiel and Jamie Yohanis’s book Considering Grace. Stories were being broken and given to us in a near sacred way.
Then I realised that Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody had allowed us to break up his story in conversation with me, at the first public event of the Festival, when he shared about his struggles with depression and alcohol.
We had broken Beano Niblock’s story of getting caught up in tartan gangs and paramilitaries before ending up in prison.
We had broken Linda Molloy’s story of how she had lost her son to a brutal murder in 1996.
We had broken up Bishop Alan Abernethy’s story of watching a riot at St. Anthony’s Parish Church and how it changed his attitude to reconciliation.
We had broken up the stories of four Football club chairmen as they shared the difficulties of the task they have.
We had broken up Stephen Travers story of his being blown up and shot in the Miami Showband massacre.
We had broken up Ken Haddock’s story as he shared with us how growing up on the Shankill Road he hadn’t met a Catholic until he was 16.
We had broken up Fr. Peter McVerry’s story about how he had been taught so many things about God through the homeless people has spent almost fifty years working with.
That was not all the events of the Festival but as you can see it was ten days packed with fascinating stories of real people caught up in a divided society and willing to have their stories broken up to feed a better world.
It will take much more time to go into those stories broken and eke out all the spiritual nourishment within. Thank you to all those who were willing to break up their stories. You all did it with such vulnerability, courage and authenticity and also with great clarity.