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Updated: May 22, 2023

I want to speak the truth as loud as I spoke the lie” Wade Robson

Every day we are bombarded with new stories - on radio, television and in our social media feeds. Probing journalists and documentary filmmakers invite individuals to tell their personal stories. We give our attention and stories jostle for our listening. We can choose to discard the story and move on or we can get drawn in - the story stays with us and won’t leave our thoughts.

After watching four hours of the HBO documentary LEAVING NEVERLAND recently, I found myself wondering what it took for Wade Robson and James Safechuck to tell their stories about their childhood experiences with Michael Jackson at his Neverland ranch in California. And, more importantly, why are they telling their stories now?

At Narativ we work with the principle that there is always a multiplicity of stories - there are many different ways to tell the same story. Over a lifetime the stories of our experiences will occur differently to us, hidden stories may surface, perspectives will evolve. And it is key to the ethics of storytelling work that everyone owns their own story and has the right to tell it - or indeed NOT to tell it. Robson and Safechuck have chosen to tell this story now. So has our ability to listen to this story changed?

It seems like it has. Increasingly as a society we are opening our listening to previously untold stories - #MeToo being the obvious case in point.

Robson and Safechuck said in their interview with Oprah Winfrey that they want to be heard by other survivors of sexual abuse. But Michael Jackson's fans have a major 'obstacle' in their listening of this story, because they cannot allow their hero to be vilified and especially now as only one side can be told. Increasingly we live in a world of echo chambers of our own devising. There is a danger that we only listen to the stories that underscore our own beliefs and only speak to those who listen to our stories with empathy.

Listening is generative - how we listen creates the space into which people speak, determines what it is possible for people to say. This simple idea is transformative. In these times of polarisation, how can we all listen to one another with greater openness, compassion and empathy? It seems more necessary than ever...

Dan Milne

Director Narativ London

Our next Narativ Listening and Storytelling workshop is in London on April 24th.

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