The Art of Listening: Launch of the Fourth Annual 4 Corners Festival (28 January – 7 February) set for 22 January at Girdwood Community Hub

The Girdwood Community Hub in North Belfast will host the launch of the annual 4 Corners Festival on Friday 22 January at 11 am. The festival aims to inspire people to ‘cross boundaries’ and participate in events in all four corners of the city. All events are free. 

This year’s theme is ‘the art of listening’ and the events are designed to help people hear what others have to say about how the city can be transformed. The programme is wide-ranging, including music, discussions, art, poetry, film, and a churches’ walk.

The festival was conceived by Rev Steve Stockman of Fitzroy Presbyterian and Fr Martin Magill of Sacred Heart parish. It has been organised by a small group of Christians from all four corners of the city. Festival events are deliberately located in all four corners of the city so that people are enticed to travel outside of their normal comfort zones, seeing new places and meeting new people. The organisers welcome people from all faith backgrounds and none to attend the events, all of which are free of charge or ask only for a donation. 

Rev Stockman explained the festival’s focus on listening:

“In this wee country we talk a lot, shout a lot, make a lot of speeches, preach a lot. We always seem ready with our answers before we even hear the questions. This year we want 4 Corners Festival to help us all to learn the spiritual art of listening: to neighbours, to strangers, to the city, to our history and to our future.”

The packed programme includes 15 events. There are more events focusing on young people this year, including a schools art competition. 

Fr Magill of Sacred Heart Parish pointed out that the festival provides a space for the citizens of Belfast to listen to a variety of different voices, including refugees and the young. He said:

“During the festival, we will be listening to different voices, business people, peace makers, new comers to our city. I’m particularly looking forward to listening to what the Head and Deputy Head Boys and Girls from our post primary schools from across Belfast have to say at the ‘Let them Speak’ event on 5 February. I heard some of those voices from a number of North Belfast schools before Christmas and was greatly encouraged. I don’t accept the line ‘young people are our future. I say, no they’re not, they’re our present’”.

Fr Magill and Rev Stockman got the idea for a festival after reflecting on occasions they had to travel to parts of Belfast with which they were unfamiliar. Astonished by what they saw in these unfamiliar areas, and deeply aware of how segregation continues to divide Belfast’s citizens, they hoped to prompt others to experience new areas of the city through a festival of events.

Now in its fourth year, the festival has grown each year in terms of the number of events and the number of people attending them. Last year, a discussion with four of Belfast’s Lord Mayors had to be moved to a larger venue to accommodate the crowd. 

A full programme of events can be found here.

For information or interviews, contact: Rev Steve Stockman (07740443274) or Fr Martin Magill (07740500482).