Spotlight: Graffiti Theatre – Fighting Words

Located on Assumption Road, Cork City Graffiti Theatre works creatively with young people through their creative writing programme “Fighting Words Cork”. The Fighting Words program was developed by Roddy Doyle and Sean Love in 2009 in Dublin, to provide a space for catalysing creative writing among children and young adults, and has since made its way across the country, with Graffiti Theatre Company now hosting Fighting Words Cork.

The first workshops began in Grafitti Theatre in January 2017, hosting 20 creative writing workshops free of charge for predominantly primary school children. Fighting Words Cork also hosted a number of workshops for homeschool and post primary groups as well as a workshop through Irish. Since January, over 500 students between the ages of 6 – 16 have successfully engaged with the programme in Cork.

Fighting Words Cork is completely fuelled by volunteers, who assist the children in developing their stories through creative thinking. Volunteer storytellers help the students to brainstorm their ideas, create original characters and interesting plot points. Volunteer Illustrators draw images of the children’s creations as their story develops, while tech volunteers help to type, scan, compile and print the book for the children by the end of each session.

Speaking to volunteer co-ordinator Ravnita Joyce, about the Fighting Words volunteers. “I love working with volunteers, their commitment and passion is unreal” she explains. “They are an absolute example for these young children to what they can become. It’s amazing to see how the volunteers validate the kid’s ideas, and imagination”. The no-boundaries approach to Fighting Words Cork’s programme allows students to see from a young age, that their dreams to become writers, illustrators or editors, can all become a reality.

Annie Curran who has been volunteering with Fighting Words since January is on a scholarship in Cork from America, and is currently working on her Thesis. She was eager to find something in Cork where she could immerse herself in the culture while also making a difference. Annie explains that working with the kids and seeing their reactions and happiness as their stories come to life is very rewarding. “We had one boy who came up to us and said ‘This is the best day of my life’. They feel safe in this environment and you can really see their passion spark”. Speaking about her fellow volunteers Annie shares “It’s also nice to come together with people you wouldn’t normally see in your normal life. It leaves you feeling good.”

John McCarthy has also been volunteering with Fighting Words since January, comes from a background in theatre and teaching. “You make a choice to be here, and because it’s your choice, you give it more conviction than you would if it was a job”. John also praised the work of Graffiti Theatre, and the positive atmosphere created for the young children.

Laura Perrem was the third volunteer Adam met. Laura has been volunteering with fighting words since March, and is now hoping to progress into volunteering as an illustrator. With a background in visual art, Laura shares that she was initially curious about how the programme worked in giving a creative space to kids. Laura shares that her favourite part about volunteering is “When you see that moment of confidence in the kids, when they realise their idea is OK. It’s a foundation of confidence for them. It’s so valuable for the kids to have such an opportunity, it gives them a whole new way of looking at themselves”.

For anyone creative that is interested in working with children, offering encourage and support then there is definitely a place in Fighting Words for you. Fighting Words Cork would especially love some more Illustrators and Storytellers. If you know anyone who may be interested, or if you would like to see what other volunteering opportunities are available, we would greatly encourage you to register online at VolunteerCork.ie and we can arrange a meeting to help you find the perfect volunteer opportunity. You can also find Cork Volunteer Centre on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram: @VolunteerCork where you can keep up to date with all our latest opportunities, events and general happenings here in Cork.

Adam Lacey

Cork Volunteer Centre