Anna Blackburn gets an inside look into Fighting Words and their inspirational work.
Fighting Words is a non-profit organization which delivers creative writing and storytelling workshops to kids, teenagers, and adults of all ages and abilities. Roddy Doyle and Seán Love co-founded the organisation in 2009, and continue to expand their offerings of free workshops which are designed to promote creativity in young writers and demonstrate writing as a safe and powerful means of self-expression. According to the Mission Statement; “Our aim is to help children and young people, and adults who did not have this opportunity as children, to discover and harness the power of their own imaginations and creative writing skills.”
The organisation, which is predominantly funded by private individuals and institutions, is run by a small staff whose work has helped the organisation grow immensely over the past ten years. Workshops are provided year-round and are run by an ever-expanding list of volunteers, in addition to the staff. Morning primary school workshops encourage both collective and individual writing and let the children express themselves through their own stories and drawings, while the afternoon secondary school workshops focus more on individual development through a mixture of genuine praise for students’ work and constructive feedback. Staff members, volunteers, and interns help students start a story as a group, answer questions during individual writing time, and deliver feedback and admiration to students who present their work. General Manager, Sara Bennett, manages the volunteers and describes them as those who “give their time to help participants express themselves, they listen, they encourage, they inspire. It creates a powerful sense of community.”
“Delivering the message to everyone who engages with us that their voice is important and worth hearing is one of the most crucial aspects of Fighting Words,” said Programme Coordinator, Mark Davidson. Davidson is in charge of running workshops and making sure everything goes smoothly in order to make sure all participants, and especially children, have the experience of mentorship and confidence building. “A lot of the impact we have is making sure that children, teenagers, and adults feel listened to, heard, understood, and validated. And all the workshops are fun for everyone. Volunteers keep coming back and they're a big part of why we’ve become so successful. At its core, it’s just fun and we don’t want to understate how important it is to have fun.”
At the beginning of each workshop, facilitators ask how many people like to write and at the end how many enjoyed themselves during the workshop. If not all the hands were up at the start, they certainly are at the end. Making these workshops fun immediately lets participants know that writing (and drawing) can be fun, and as they get older many people find themselves writing about more serious and influential topics. No matter how old you are, Fighting Words acts as a guide to developing your writing skills while also teaching you how to enjoy it.
During the pandemic, the organisation has moved all of their workshops online and they plan on continuing to provide online workshops in order for more people to have the opportunity to attend. At the moment, Fighting Words is working with the Croke Park Museum and people all over Ireland on a project to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of Bloody Sunday. This is only one of many opportunities that Fighting Words provides, so whether you like writing or want to improve upon your skills, Fighting Words is a great way to get involved as a participant and volunteer.