New anthologies from Fighting Words

Primary and secondary school children inspired to create stories by visiting National Gallery

 

From exploding grannies to ninja ghosts to clerks who give up the day job and become professional thieves, a vast cast of characters tell their stories in two new anthologies created by school children.

Fighting Words: Stories Inspired by Visits to the National Gallery of Ireland is a collection of 10 stories devised and written by groups of primary school students after class outings to the National Gallery on Merrion Square. Featuring an introduction from the children’s author Gordon Snell, each story is set in its own unique world – ghost ravens, shapeshifters and National Chip Days to name but a few – and is testament to the powers of collective imagination.

The paintings and sculptures of the National Gallery, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, were also used as inspiration for secondary school students in their graphic fiction anthology, That’s Comical. Twenty-one transition year students from Scoil Chaitríona in Glasnevin drew on their weekly visits to the gallery to create stories with a range of interesting themes, from moving counties to the struggle for teenage autonomy to the more universal need for security.

The books have been published by Fighting Words, a creative writing centre set up by Roddy Doyle and Sean Love in 2009 to help foster a love of storytelling in children and teenagers. Since its inception, the centre has seen hundreds of classes from around the country partake in storytelling exercises at its base in Dublin 1, giving pupils the chance to become authors for a day and to leave with a copy of their work.

This year’s inaugural programme with the National Gallery brought the same practice to a different venue, incorporating a tour of the gallery’s best known paintings and some behind-the-scenes secrets for added inspiration. Staff and volunteers from Fighting Words helped edit and illustrate the collections.

“The projects came about following an invitation from the National Gallery to commemorate its 150th anniversary,” said Love, executive director at Fighting Words. “For That’s Comical, it was a real challenge for the teenagers involved. Most of the teenagers aren’t art students, had never set foot in the gallery and didn’t believe they could draw. The results are 100 per cent their own work, and they’re brilliant. We’re also delighted with the primary school anthology that was born out of the visits. In the region of 250 primary schoolchildren participated in the writing of these stories.”

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