Give a child a phone and they will amaze you with their ability to work around codes and apps. Their natural flair with technology both entertains and scares us in equal measure.
But what if you gave a child, or indeed young adult, the resources to unleash their creative side? Would they have any interest in creating stories or writing plays and poems?
That answer will both entertain and scare you. More than 10,000 children and young adults, for instance, use the Fighting Words Centre in Dublin 1 each year to develop and explore their creative side. And almost five to six times that number seeks to avail of that golden opportunity. An opportunity that they are not given in their educational curriculum.
It was for this latter reason why Sean Love and Roddy Doyle established Fighting Words in 2009. The organisation provides story-telling workshops for primary school groups, creative writing workshops for secondary school students, summer camps for kids and teens and occasional seminars, workshops and tutoring for adults.
“We believe that all forms of creative writing are an essential part of a child’s education,” explains Sean. “And we want to try and give every child on the island of Ireland the opportunity to develop their creative side.”
The Right to Write
And they are making inroads into that ambitious plan. Last year, they used a Cinemobile – supported by ESB- to bring “Right to Write” workshops right across the country. More than 800 children availed of that unique learning centre and offering.
This initiative cemented the belief that there is a national demand for this type of creative environment. And so Fighting Words Belfast opened last year, with plans to launch learning hubs in Wicklow, Mayo and Cork. To reach more towns across the country, they are working with local authorities to bring the offering through local art centres and libraries.
All of these achievements are all the more admirable considering the organisation solely survives on the help from its 700 volunteers and financial support from corporate entities, such as ESB. They receive no state funding for their mammoth efforts.
“Our only challenge is managing demand for our service and funding,” explains Sean. “It is great that corporate organisations, such as ESB, are focusing their Corporate Social Responsibility efforts on educational programmes and initiatives such as ours.”
More than Funding
Corporate support, however, should go beyond donating funds for it to have meaningful impact, both for the donor and society as a whole. “We find that more staff from the funding companies we work wants to get involved through volunteering,” says Sean. “They want to be part of their company’s CSR programmes and we are providing that opportunity to them. It’s beneficial for all parties involved.”
The scope and effect of Fighting Words is resonating with people beyond Dublin, and beyond Ireland. Their concept and learning methods have been replicated by similar organisations in eight European cities including London, Amsterdam and Milan.
Give an ambitious voluntary organisation support and funding and they will turn a concept into a powerful movement and offering. Give a child the tools and support to develop their creative side and their opportunities are endless.
What the Children Say
Watch this video to see what the children say about participating in the Fighting Words programme.