‘Fighting Words embodies an empowering and democratic belief in all that is creative’
Foreword by Alan Gilsenan
“In a world where our education system has become increasingly geared towards rote learning, pre-prepared essays and deadening exam strategies, Fighting Words provides a vital parallel track of learning and expression.”
There is undoubtedly something magical about Fighting Words. And not just the secret door at the entrance that leads primary school-goers through the laden book shelves into the world beyond. It’s hard to put your finger on it but it’s certainly a feeling of well-being and infinite possibility. The writing in the pages of this supplement captures something of that magic, that sense of imaginative possibilities, the promise of transformation. But there is also a feeling about the place too, a sense that the world is in safe hands.
It comes from the simplicity and clarity of the original idea. The idea that we can all write. That we all have something to say. And that we deserve to be heard. That we all have a capacity for creating something beyond ourselves. Something out of nothing. Nothing tangible anyway, nothing that can be quantified on a spreadsheet somewhere. Just forged from our boundless and unfettered imaginations. Our heart and soul, if you like. Something true, but not just worthy or po-faced either. Because there’s much laughter about the place and a buoyant sense of play.
But it also comes from the people behind it. From the small and committed staff as well as the hundreds of inspiring volunteers. From Fighting Words’ two founders and guiding lights – Roddy Doyle and Seán Love – with their innate sense of decency and integrity And, above all, from the abundant spirit and reckless energy of the tens of thousands of children and young people that have come through the doors in centres in Dublin and beyond since 2009. Oh, and it’s all for free.
In a world where our education system has become increasingly geared towards rote learning, pre-prepared essays and deadening exam strategies, Fighting Words provides a vital parallel track of learning and expression, a bright and open space in which (mostly) young people can explore other dimensions of themselves and their unbridled potential. Here your soul can sing, and one can make some sense of the chaos, carve a narrative out of the confusion – much-needed skills in our turbulent times. Above all, in Fighting Words, one is allowed to be yourself and re-assured that being yourself is just fine. More than just fine.
Since the early days in Dublin, the organisation has blossomed organically and has spread to eight locations across the country, with more to come. The breadth of writing has broadened too, embracing fiction and non-fiction, play-writing and screen-writing, animation and graphic novels, as well as song-writing and journalism. There are also summer camps and Write Clubs, collaborations and all manner of exciting projects. There have been many books published, films made, plays produced. The stuff of success but not about success. For Fighting Words embodies an empowering and democratic belief in all that is creative but not competitive.
Walking through the doors of Fighting Words and witnessing the daily wonder of it all, one becomes a child again. Here, the visiting writer or artist, jaded perhaps by their daily travails, rediscovers the excitement of it all again. The very atmosphere seems to rekindle that early spark of creativity and hopeful joy. In those early days at Fighting Words – on Jones Road, opposite Croke Park – the book shelves of the carefully designed space were bare and painted a gleaming white. Today, those same shelves are filled with books of every description, with every kind of content, in every size and colour. The shelves themselves seem to speak of the promise of young lives and the power of their imaginations. Of individual voices and free minds. Of gifts of words and writing.
Gifts which we now happily accept. With thanks.
Alan Gilsenan is a film-maker, writer and theatre director and board member of Fighting Words