Understanding Our Stories, Understanding Ourselves

Date Saturday 12 June 2021
Time 2:00 PM
PriceA Free Event
Age Range16+ years

How Narrative Can Build Resilience

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Understanding Our Stories, Understanding Ourselves


In partnership with Barnardo’s NI we are delighted to bring together Bafta nominated International prize winning writer Lemn Sissay, child psychologist Dr William Coman and political journalist and commentator Alex Kane. Join us for a conversation, chaired by Head of Barnardo’s NI,  Michele Janes, that explores the psychological nature of story-telling and the power of narrative.

What builds resilience and provides us with acceptance and contentment?  Is it knowing and rehearsing our story, a story, the predictable nature of a favourite book that has a beginning, middle and end?

NI psychologist Dr William Coman helped develop a narrative model for communicating with children in care about challenging issues. When children enter care they are often left with many questions: Why am I in care? Why do I live here? When can I go home?  Left unanswered, children can have great difficulty experiencing psychological safety, adjusting to their new circumstances and accepting the care being offered to them.

Lemn Sissay has talked about knowing he wanted to be a poet from the age of 12. He was long established as a poet and playwright when in 2015 Desert Island Discs brought the pain of his past to the attention of millions. He spent his teens in care and has talked openly about the pain, and the healing process.

Well known in the political and journalism world, Alex Kane has explored his own childhood story and documents the importance of having a sense of identity and belonging, no matter how old you are. 

For more information on Barnardo’s NI services, including how to support the organisation, visit Donate.Barnardos.org.uk/

If you would like to submit questions in advance of this event, please email Vanessa Haynes - vanessa.haynes@barnardos.org.uk - by 5pm on Thursday 10 June.

Looking to buy a book by one of the writers involved in this year's programme? Check out our official Festival Bookstore partner, No Alibi’s, who have created this special Belfast Book Festival page on their website which features the books and collections of the writers at the 2021 Festival. Plus they are offering a 10% discount on all of the Festival titles! 


More about the Panellists 

Google the name “Lemn Sissay” and all the returning hits will be about him because there is only one Lemn Sissay in the world. He is a BAFTA nominated, award-winning writer, international poet, performer, playwright, artist and broadcaster. He was awarded an MBE for services to literature by The Queen of England. Along with Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie and Margaret Atwood, he won a Pen Pinter Prize in 2019. He is Chancellor of The University of Manchester and an Honorary Doctor from The Universities of Huddersfield, Manchester, Kent and Brunei which makes him  Dr Dr Dr Dr Lemn Sissay. He was the first poet commissioned to write for the London Olympics and poet of the FA Cup.

Alex Kane is a political commentator and columnist who contributes to a wide range of newspapers and radio/television programmes. He has also written and talked about his adoption at the age of six and made the documentary Before I Was An Orphan in 2019 for BBC Radio Ulster.

Dr William Coman is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist who specialises in supporting children, adolescents and their families. Until recently he was the service lead for a specialist team that provided therapeutic support to children who do not reside with their birth parents and those who care for them. He has co-authored a number of peer-reviewed papers focussed on the needs of children in care including how to support them to have a good understanding of why they are in care using the Narrative Model.  Since 2018 he has worked with Psychological Pathways as a clinician and trainer.

Michele Janes (Chair) is the Head of Barnardo’s NI, a qualified social worker with 25+ years experience working with vulnerable children, young people and their families across the statutory, community and voluntary sectors. She has held leading roles in children’s rights, youth justice, child protection, children in care, newcomer children and children with disabilities services. Michele is responsible for driving operational excellence in Barnardo’s Northern Ireland, working closely with assistant directors and managers across all of their 40+ services.



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