Fighting words: a story in every child

Fighting Words is growing up. 5th birthday in January and now able to stand on one foot for 10 seconds. Without swaying.

Photograph: Alan Betson

Photograph: Alan Betson

Wed, May 7, 2014, 14:40

This year’s Irish Times supplement of new writing by children and young adults is the fourth edition, and, once again, the imagination and craftsmanship on display is breathtaking. It is important to emphasise that this is just a small selection taken from many hundreds of equally brilliant submissions. We would love to include them all. Last year’s edition received the National Newspapers of Ireland award for best educational initiative, and the Business to Arts award for creativity in the community. So, you’d like to think we must be doing something right.

Dr. Michael Smurfit points out in his recent autobiography that Ireland has for decades punched above its weight in the arts. He’s right, of course – but as a country we don’t always get there by the most obvious route. When we set up Fighting Words we were looking to address the absence of outlets for children and teenagers in Dublin to engage with creative writing, and the lack of space for creative writing in the school curriculum. We thought it was daft, in a country that prides itself in being a land of writers, that there was so little opportunity for writing.

We are now open a little over five years, and, in that time, we have hosted over 45,000 children and teenagers. They don’t only come from Dublin - they come from every corner of Ireland. We are constantly booked out, oversubscribed and, if we had the capacity and resources, we would host five times that number every day such is the demand. We work through all forms of creative writing and related arts, and the interest is colossal across the whole island. We have 500 volunteer tutors and mentors, and they are the lifeblood of what Fighting Words is about.

If you are interested to help us reach more children, please talk to us. We are immensely grateful to the Irish Times for its vision and generosity in providing such a prestigious platform for young writers.

Roddy Doyle & Seán Love

The Fighting Words editorial committee who chose the stories for this selection:
Alan Bennett, Laura Cassidy, Roddy Doyle, Catherine Dunne, Joanne Hayden, Helen Seymour, Gerard Smyth and Alex Tierney.

Behan Square,
Russell St.
Dublin 1.


Sheila OSheila O’Flanagan, author

When you first walk into a Fighting Words session you see a group of children who may not be entirely sure why they are there. Although they have a story to tell, they’re not sure that it’s worth the telling. But almost as soon as the session begins you are in the centre of a maelstrom of creativity, of ideas, of encouragement and of self-expression. The team at Fighting Words knows how to release the stories within, helps children find their own narrative voice and opens up a million fictional words. It’s a workout for the imagination. It’s absolutely brilliant!

Lynn Scarff, Science Gallery

Science Gallery had an opportunity to partner with Fighting Words on a creative project during the development of our ILLUSION exhibition in 2013. The young writers and animators involved got to meet with scientists connected to Science Gallery, which provided some creative ideas for the group. They developed a fantastic animation “The Battle of Ravenwind” with Brown Bag Films. What was apparent through the whole process is the absolute focus Fighting Words places on being true to the creative direction of the participants and giving them the support and tools to tell their stories. This to me was incredibly powerful. I have always believed storytelling is a skill to be nurtured and Fighting Words does this so well and gently that the final projects from the participants zing with a real sense of their genuine creative journey.

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