The Commitments author, Roddy Doyle, was in Cork yesterday to help a new generation of Irish children find the “write stuff”.
The renowned novelist and screenwriter, who wrote novels The Commitments, The Snapper and The Van which were later adapted for smash-hit movies, as well as several best-selling books for adults and children, and who also worked with Roy Keane on his latest memoir, The Second Half, launched his latest Fighting Words creative writing workshop at the city’s Graffiti Theatre.
Mr Doyle said while it is designed to help students develop their writing skills and explore their love of writing, he hopes it will also influence the way they think and how they look at life.
“It would be lovely to see household names come out of the process, but that’s not really the point. The point is to open the opportunity for everybody, and to allow them to express themselves, and to feel confident and happy expressing themselves, and to feel the exhilaration of expressing it on paper.”
Fighting Words is modelled on the 826 National creative writing project, established by a writer friend of his, Dave Eggers, and which he visited in San Francisco in 2006.
Doyle said: “It made a mark on me. I thought it was magic, I thought it was brilliant. I was inspired by the lifting of the anxiety that children and adults often feel when it comes to grammar or spelling, or even how to start — the blank page is really terrifying, even for a professional — I find the blank page as daunting as it is exciting and I’ve been doing it for three decades now.”
He studied the project and established Fighting Words with Seán Love in Dublin three years later.
Run by volunteers, including novelists, screen-writers, journalists, poets, aspiring writers, illustrators, student teachers, retired teachers and more, some 75,000 children have attended its workshops at its centres in Dublin, Wicklow, Mayo, and Belfast over the years.
Cork’s Graffiti Theatre will host the newest centre.
Mr Doyle said while it is difficult to measure the project’s success, he pointed out that one student who took part has had a play accepted for a festival of short plays; and another recently staged a play in Dublin.
“We can’t ever claim ownership of the talent of these kids, but I think we can claim that we gave them an opportunity. It’s not to teach them to be writers — it’s to give them an opportunity,” he said.
“It’s not a fight against the education system. I see it as a way to influence the education system.”
Niall Cleary, head of outreach and education at the Graffiti Theatre Company, said they will run workshops every Friday until May for primary school children, aged six to 12: “Each child will create a book every morning and take that home with them. We would love to include secondary schools in our programme from September. Anyone can access the programme. Whoever wants to come in and do a workshop is welcome. And it’s completely free.”
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