!!!! CPD for Teachers: Fighting Words’ Creativity and Creative Writing in Education
Fighting Words in partnership with DCU Institute of Education, has launched Creativity and Creative Writing in Education, an online course to equip educators with the methodologies, evidence and resources to build your understanding of the importance and benefits of creativity for learners, and to strengthen your confidence and interest in creative engagement and creative writing.
Presented in six 40-minute sessions, the course focuses on the Fighting Words creative writing model as an approach, looking at the associated development of communication skills, critical thinking, self-efficacy and resilience in the young people.
The online course is hosted on The Loop, DCU’s online teaching environment, full details on how to access and enrol for this free course can be found here:
Collaboration between Fighting Words and the DCU Institute of Education started in the early days of Fighting Words and has only grown and expanded over the years. In 2018, the relationship evolved to a formal partnership between Fighting Words and Institute of Education, funded by the Department of Education. The purpose of the collaboration is to progress creative writing and creative engagement in education through teacher education and research.
!!!! Opportunity for primary schools: My Bloomsday
Branar and the Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI)
Date: Bloomsday Thursday, 16 June 2022
MoLI is asking young people from 2nd to 6th class to tell us all about a day in their life, this Bloomsday, on Thursday, 16 June. And teachers, it’s a schoolday – so they need your help!
As a follow-on activity from watching Branar’s wonderful You’ll See… film, we want to capture the diversity of lived experiences of young people from around the island of Ireland and put their voice and perspective at the heart of this day.
This is a simple and fun exercise that links imagination and biography, giving us a sense of what their days are like. Schools from across the country are taking part, and the submissions will be presented as an online archive later this year.
The closing date for submissions is Friday, 8 July 2022.
Date: Bloomsday Thursday, 16 June 2022
For more information on how to take part, see ulysses22.ie/mybloomsday
!!!! Fighting Words: Call Out for Student Submissions
Deadline: 5pm, 22 December 2021
Fighting Words invite submissions from post-primary students for its annual Fighting Words supplement in The Irish Times. They are looking for short pieces of fiction on any theme – as Béarla agus as Gaeilge. Young people may submit one prose submission or two poems for consideration. The maximum word count is 1,500 words.
Fighting Words aim is to help children and young people, and adults who did not have this opportunity as children, to discover and harness the power of their own imaginations and creative writing skills. It is about using the creative practice of writing and storytelling to strengthen children and teenagers – from a wide range of backgrounds – to be resilient, creative and successful shapers of their own lives.
Every year, Fighting Words publishes a magazine of exciting new writing by young people from all over Ireland. While the magazine will be predominantly short fiction, if anyone is working on monologues, scripts, poems, comics etc. they are welcome to be submitted, as are extracts from longer pieces. All work submitted will be considered.
Deadline: 5pm, 22 December 2021
For more information see: www.fightingwords.ie/news/call-submissions-irish-times-supplement-2022
!!!! Poetry Ireland Writers in Schools Scheme: School Applications Open
Deadline: 5:30pm Friday 31 December 2021
Poetry Ireland are inviting applications from primary and post-primary schools for their Writers in Schools scheme this Autumn 2021. The Writers in Schools scheme part-funds visits by writers and storytellers to primary and post-primary schools in the Republic of Ireland (funded by The Arts Council) and Northern Ireland (funded by Arts Council Northern Ireland).
Writers in Schools visits are available with a range of artists including poets, novelists, storytellers, teen fiction writers, children’s writers and screenwriters. In-person visits are consist of 2–2.5 hours with a selected writer, which can be divided into shorter sessions for different class group. For the duration of the Covid-19 restrictions, Writers in Schools will also be supporting virtual visits by writers. These virtual visits will be one hour in duration and can be split into a maximum of 2 sessions.
Poetry Ireland recommend that schools submit their application as early as possible, as they generally operate on a first-come-first-served basis and unfortunately cannot accommodate every request.
Deadline: 5:30pm Friday 31 December 2021
For more information, see www.poetryireland.ie/education/writers-in-schools.
!!!! Opportunity for Artists & Writers: Callout for Panel for Collaborative Book Projects
Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership
Deadline: 5pm, 21 June 2021
Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership are seeking 8 professional artists and writers (4 artists and 4 writers) to join their panel specifically for collaborative book-making and publishing projects with children and young people. Are you an artist or writer with a strong professional practice who is interested in exploring collaborative ways of working with children and young people? Would you like join a panel of experts who will lead on developing new publications for Kids’ Own with groups of children and young people?
Having developed an approach to collaborative publishing with children and young people over two decades, they are inviting applications from people who would like to participate in a 2-day funded training programme and subsequently be part of a panel, from which artist–teacher pairs will be selected to work on future projects.
Kids’ Own invite applications from all over the island of Ireland, and especially welcome applications from diverse communities that are reflective of the communities of children they work with, and of artistic and cultural life in Ireland.
Deadline: 5pm, 21st June 2021
For more information or to apply, see https://kidsown.ie/callout-exciting-training-opportunity-for-artists-and-writers-interested-in-working-with-children-and-young-people/
!!!! Online Arts Education Resource: MoLI in the Classroom
Museum of Literature Ireland
New online visual arts education resource for primary school students.
The Museum of Literature Ireland are launching MoLI in the Classroom: a free, interactive, virtual, 40-50 minute workshop for 3rd to 6th class primary school students from across Ireland. It takes place over Zoom and is delivered directly into classrooms around Ireland. Teachers can book online with their live calendar. Their aim is to make the workshops fun and stimulating for all children, whatever their abilities.
All students need to participate is paper, pen/pencil and some colouring pencils, crayons or markers. Students can write, draw or doodle their responses according to their learning style. Students will see and hear all about the museum and will get to watch a special behind-the-scenes TikTok video. They will be encouraged to explore their own creativity through a range of individual and group work, fun word and drama games and creative writing exercises.
Teachers will not need to cover any topics in advance. After the online workshop, teachers can continue to encourage creativity in the classroom with their engaging follow-on activities, which include an opportunity to win a writer visit to a school and an iPad.
For more information, see moli.ie/learning/moli-in-the-classroom/
!!!! Opportunity for Schools: Ennis Book Club Festival Workshops for Schools
Ennis Book Club Festival
Dates: 2 – 5 March
Ennis Book Club Festival invites post-primary school students and teachers in County Clare to a series of online workshops scheduled as part of their wider book club festival taking place from 2 – 7 March.
The workshops include:
- Fighting Words Creative Writing Workshop, Tues 2 March, 10am-12 noon or 1.45pm-3.45pm
- Songwriting and Music Production Workshop with Music Generation Clare, Wed 3 March, 9.30am-12pm or 1.30pm-4pm
- Secondary School Audience with author Louise O’Neill, Thurs 4 March, 10am-11am or 2.10pm-3.10pm
- Louise O’Neill in conversation with Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, 5 March, 11.30am
For more information on how to book, see https://www.ennisbookclubfestival.com/ebcf-2021-events
!!!! Opportunity for Artists: Managing Online Content Webinars
Children’s Books Ireland & Poetry Ireland
Dates: 23 & 24 February, 2, 3, 10 March
Children’s Books Ireland and Poetry Ireland are working in partnership to host a series of capacity-building webinars for artists who are delivering online programmes to children and young people. The webinars are free to attend and places are limited. Children’s Books Ireland and Poetry Ireland are committed to supporting artists in the development of their practice and their working conditions.
- 23rd Feb: Child Protection and Safeguarding Webinar
- 24th Feb: Cybersafety when working with Children Webinar
- 2nd Mar: Managing Online Content Webinar 1
- 3th Mar: Managing Online Content Webinar 2
- 10th Mar: Basic Online Content Generation & Sharing Skills for Children’s Artists
- 10th Mar: An Introduction to video editing tools for Children’s Artists
For more information or to register for these workshops, see https://www.eventbrite.ie/o/childrens-books-ireland-11806877628
!!!! #CreateAtHome: The Fighting Words Story-Starter for Primary School Writers
Send Your Creative Writing to Fighting Words!
During this time when we might find ourselves with more time, it’s time for more stories! Fighting Words is inviting children and young people to write and share their writing with us..
Primary School Age Writers (Age 6-12): The Fighting Words Story-Starter
Fighting Words have invented the Story-Starter, which they hope will spark your imagination and help you get started on a story. You can change anything you want in the story – you don’t have to include all the ideas generated in the Story-Starter.
How do I submit my writing?
After you have written your story, ask your parent/guardian to send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. IMPORTANT: Please include the words Primary Story in the subject line.
For further infromation and submission guidelines go to www.fightingwords.ie/news/we-want-your-stories-send-your-creative-writing-fighting-words
!!!! New Primary School Creative Programme at the Museum of Literature Ireland
Museum of Literature Ireland
The Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) are excited to offer a free primary school creative programme ‘Shut your eyes and see’ to Irish primary school teachers and students in 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th class. Workshops explore Irish literature, past and present, hoping to inspire the next generation to read, write, and unlock their creative potential in whatever form it takes.
Developed in collaboration with students from our learning partner schools, teachers, educators, administrators and librarians, our programme is designed with different learning styles in mind.
We offer a two-hour experience in MoLI from 10am–12pm, during term time. Teachers and students participate in a creative workshop and a tour of our exhibition space and gardens.
Connecting to our exhibitions and gardens, and reflecting elements of the school curriculum, workshops seek to develop critical thinking and research skills as well as visual, verbal and information literacy.
When booking, primary school teachers can choose from one of three workshops:
- Wild, Wild Words! Poetry Workshop
- Once upon a time: Me! Drama Workshop
- The story of us! Visual Art Workshop
To book go to moli.ie/book-a-primary-school-workshop/
For further information and to download a teachers resource pack go to moli.ie/learning/schools-and-teachers/
!!!! Eva International announce ‘Better Words’ a new arts in educational initiative
EVA International is delighted to announce ‘Better Words’, a new educational initiative which seeks to empower children’s access and understanding of contemporary art through creative language.
Over the course of a five week programme of workshops between March and May 2019, school groups aged 8 to 12 will develop new word-forms that articulate their experience and encounter of contemporary art. Led by workshop coordinator Maeve Mulrennan and developed in consultation with Patrick Burke (Dept. of Language and Literacy Education, MIC, Limerick) the workshops will involve visits to galleries and meetings with practicing artists, in addition to classroom-based activity.
The selected schools are:
- Corpus Christi Primary School (Limerick City),
- Knockainey National School (Hospital),
- Limerick School Project (Limerick City),
- Our Lady Queen of Peace (Limerick City),
- St. Senan’s National School (Foynes).
A publication of new art terms developed through the workshop process will be published by EVA International in Autumn 2019, featuring a foreword by author Kevin Barry. Better Words is developed with support from Creative Ireland’s National Creativity Fund.
For more information go to www.eva.ie/project/better-words/
!!!! Kids’ Own publishes new book by children experiencing homelessness, aged 8–12
Kids’ Own has published a brand new book by children experiencing homelessness. The book was launched in partnership with Focus Ireland on Friday 9th November, and offers a rich resource for teachers and schools to explore themes of social justice, children’s rights and SPHE topics. The book was developed by 15 children, aged 8–12, during the summer – through a creative process with writer Mary Branley and artist Maree Hensey –and includes a beautiful mixture of artwork, photography, poetry and personal stories.
To buy a copy, visit Kids’ Own’s website.
!!!! Guest Blogger: Róisin O’Donnell Young Playwrights’ Programme – Blog No. 4
Róisin O’Donnell is a 19 year old leaving cert survivor and writer. She was a participant in the first ever Young Playwrights’ Programme. Her play ‘Bernie’ premiered through the programme. She lives in Cork, where she spends her time writing fiction and plays, obsessing over books and her dog.
College has changed the way I write… – Blog 2
I write this blog like a stereotypical college student, with a deadline looming, on a tiny computer, in a big academic library. Eight months ago I was accepted into the Young Playwrights Programme and four months ago my first play took to life on the stage. Do I miss the programme? Short answer: Yeah.
In college, I am constantly reminded of the time I spent at Graffiti – not to jinx it. Just like then I am surrounded by people I like with my trusty keyboard only a stretch of my arm away.
A lot of things that I did not expect happened when I became a first-year student at UCC.
I can stare/glare/laugh at the ‘world’ now. And feel comfortable enough in it. John and Katie always encouraged us to say what we are- writers. An obvious title. But up until this new chapter of my life, I was waiting. Waiting for proof that I could post on Instagram and make everyone stop scrolling for a second and think- wow, Róisin… she’s not average… every negative thought gone…
I am not going to type bullshit if my time with the journalism society has taught me anything. The doors did not open present my ambitions to me.
My personal life turned into the Titanic on speed when the Leaving Cert came around. And the neat blue lines of the exam booklets had no sympathy marks to give. I didn’t get the results I wanted. The State Examinations Commission said you’re not good enough, the days, the months, the YEAR you spent was as worthless as the paper the results are printed on.
I got my dream course because I got lucky. Any other year… let’s not think of that.
My Leaving Cert is worthless now. Lecturers don’t mention it and us students squint and cringe about it, rarely.
I have learned to stop wishing and writing sloppy coming of age stories that made me sick with boredom. I write about my life now and the world around me. I send my drafts to the UCC Express or the Motley to connect with other students. So far I haven’t got a no, just edits. and ‘you can do it.’ And I am happy. The tiny achievements college has offered me have given me more than six years and two exams ever could.
!!!! Guest Blogger: Jessica O’Brien, Young Playwright Programme – Blog No. 3
Jessica O’ Brien is a 16 year old student and aspiring writer from Cork. As part of the Young Playwrights’ Programme with Graffiti Theatre, she along with eight other young people wrote and staged plays in The Everyman as part of the Midsummer Festival in 2018. She is currently writing her first book and hopes to have a career in writing novels or journalism.
Why I Write – Blog 3
I write for a reason, though I know that most of it is just instinct. Since I was a kid I would fill these hardbacks with creative writing and acrostic poems and I would fill my suitcases with my favourite books for the summer holidays – to the despair of my Mom. (my case was always overweight) I distinctly remember the first Young Adult novel I read, ‘The Fault In Our Stars’, and immediately being hooked. I couldn’t get enough of these characters and worlds that were realistic, these people I wanted to be friends with. Within two years my room was unrecognisable, with massive shelves to facilitate my little library.
When I started studying for the Junior Cert I was taught to read and look at other forms of art critically. I am very grateful for the English class, classmates and teacher I had. Instead of just spewing out whatever Ithought was good, I took criticism from others. I listened to the other girls and realised I could be as good at writing answers as them if I tried. It was then I realised just how much I loved writing. I loved being able to start writing and forgetting about where I was and having that right word come to me. Suddenly I was in love with cinematography, the meaning behind words and I began to read and write differently. Now I couldn’t just read any YA book, I would scan the fonts and blurbs and as I read, I would add things to my mental list of what I liked or disliked. My journals became a source of comfort, and they still remain so.
But as I have gotten older and learned more about myself and the world, I realised that I had never truly been able to find myself in a book. There is such a lack of diversity, there are so many cliche stories with happy endings and straight romances and I got tired. One day I was walking home from the bookshop with my Dad and he asked me what the books I had bought were about. I explained, and I guess he was surprised because the books had strong themes in them. ‘I thought you read to escape reality,’ he said, with his bag of crime novels. ‘I guess I write to help change my reality,’ I thought.
I write because I can’t not write. I write to tell people what I can’t say or to get my feelings out on paper. My journals are almost like scrapbooks in a way. But most importantly, I now write because I have stories I need to tell. There are people in the LGBT community like me who’s story never gets told. People of colour. Different religion. Disabilities. Those love stories that don’t work out and real life teenager scenarios. We are all hot messes. It is so much nicer to read a book and relate to it rather than read a book and strive to be like it.
I write for myself, and everyone who ever deserved a voice. One day, maybe I’ll be scrutinising the YA section and I’ll see my own name there. That’s the dream I have for this reality.
!!!! Guest Blogger: Róisin O’Donnell Young Playwright Programme – Blog No. 2
Róisin O’Donnell is a 19 year old leaving cert survivor and writer. She was a participant in the first ever Young Playwrights Programme. Her play ‘Bernie’ premiered through the programme. She lives in Cork, where she spends her time writing fiction and plays, obsessing over books and her dog.
Youth, the Internet and Fiction – Blog 2
There are millions of stories on Fanfiction.net. 791K of those stories alone are listed under Harry Potter.
Meaning: Thousands of mostly young people around the world using their keyboards to enter the writing world. All because of words someone else has written.
I think that sounds amazing.
But attach the label ‘fanfiction’ and people start cringing.
Using the incorrect form of ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ shouldn’t automatically make you a joke. Writing isn’t easy. And I can relate.
On my way to becoming a writer, I went through the terrible years of primary and early secondary school feeling average. I had nothing in front of me, so much energy and nowhere to put it.
According to school there are only three categories to slot into. Athletic, brainy or social butterfly and if you aren’t a superstar at one of those things – tough shit. To the end of the pecking order, please!
One day, out of boredom, I typed 500 words on my phone and called it a first (bad) chapter. I wanted nineteen years later to be more than a just happy ending at a train station. Those 500 words turned into 230,000 words and counting. And that, I can safely say, drew me to more books, made me see things from multiple perspectives and start to question things. English class didn’t improve my editing skills, get me into the Young Playwrights Programme or give me the opportunity to write this blog. Writing something I loved did.
Yes, there are the scandalous stories but isn’t there Mills and Boons lining the shelves of every library? You just need to know where to look. The most followed stories on the site are under the genre adventure and are longer than any of the books I have on my shelf.
The readers and writers work together. They learn to improve their writing technique by editing and even beta-ing. People constructively break down each other’s work and work together to build each other up. Even the reviews are kind and supportive for the most part.
You wouldn’t believe the number of teen writers testing the waters and spreading their wings. They are trying to teach themselves. They want guidance and acknowledgement.
If you type fanfiction into any search engine late-night talk show segments will show up trying to get a cheap laugh and articles trying to teach parents what it is like in the depths of the community will appear. No one on the sites cares. That’s the outside world. The writers and readers do what they do with confidence. Confidence that would be benefitable to schools and societies in this cynical world.
And I’ll end this first blog with the lessons online writing has taught me. Lessons I should’ve learned in school:
Ability, even a magical ability like creativity takes works.
The only way to really succeed is to push forwards through the shitty phase every writer goes through and post that next update.
!!!! Trinity Book of Kells Creative Competition
Trinity College Dublin is calling on the nation to get creative this autumn and be inspired by one of Ireland’s greatest cultural treasures, the Book of Kells. Get your pens and paint brushes out, and write a poem, short story or create a drawing or painting based on the images from the world’s most famous medieval manuscript. Our judges will be looking for modern and innovative interpretations of the Book of Kells from participants. There are fantastic prizes to be won for individuals, schools, clubs and groups nationwide.
Closing date for entries Thursday 30 November 2017
To find out more click here
!!!! Guest Blogger Éadaoin Quinn on the Creative Writing Course at The Ark
Éadaoin Quinn is a school librarian at Enniscorthy Vocational College. She is one of thirty librarians working as part of the JCSP Library Project. A graduate of Trinity College and UCD, Éadaoin began her career as a librarian in third level academic libraries. In 2001 she left Trinity College Library to become one of the first JCSP Librarians. She loves her role a school librarian, engaging students with reading, supporting their learning and running a full programme of arts, culture and technology. When not pushing books on students she is hanging out with her family, or escaping them trail running and cycling.
Creative Writing Summer Course in The Ark
This course sounded like just what I was looking for: “Creative Writing in the Differentiated Classroom”, I was excited by the chance to be in Temple Bar in Dublin in the middle of Summer and better again to work from The Ark.
As a school librarian, working in a Deis school as part of the JCSP Demonstration Library Project, I have been running an after school creative writing group for the past eight years. I am always looking for new ideas to inspire my students and to develop their writing. Too often I am looking for these bright ideas at the end of a long and tiring day.
Poet Nell Regan delivered the course, as Nell has worked as a teacher and continues to teach writing to children, this was a course grounded in the reality of the day to day of school life and not high falutin theory. The course was fun and we deserved fun at the end of the school year, especially the primary school teachers who had only days before waved goodbye to their students.
Practical playful activities were described by Nell from her experience, we were invited to try each exercise ourselves and then to reflect on how we would work it in to our classrooms or libraries. This generous sharing of ideas led to wonderful discussions among us. There was a great buzz and spirit of collegiality between all of us participants. It was especially interesting to share experiences between primary and secondary level. We had a lot to learn from each other and Nell having experience of both made the course relevant to all of us.
The project room on the top floor of The Ark is a beautiful creative space, we explored it thoroughly during one exercise leading each other blind folded on a sensory exploration around the room and out onto the balcony (eek!). We were brought on a tour of The Ark’s exhibitions and learned of the rich programme of visual and performing arts. I found it a stimulating environment, just being there you felt creative.
By Wednesday afternoon I was exhausted and was so happy to sit back and listen to Children’s author and guest facilitator Patricia Forde. Patricia was a ball of energy, she told a hilarious and personal story of growing up on Shop Street in Galway City and how she began to write. It brought home to me the huge influence an adult, especially a teacher or librarian, can have on a child’s sense of themselves as a writer. An engaging conversation followed on children’s and young adult’s books with much scribbling down of titles and authors.
Nell organised a visit to The Chester Beatty Library on Thursday afternoon. We used the exhibits of the library as the stimulus for some writing and for ideas for Friday’s book making workshop. On Friday we were up to our oxters in glittery paper, glue and ribbon as we made our own notebooks. Having had trouble that week folding up my paper lunch carton from a nearby trendy café this was not an easy task. Some of the results were gorgeous, I’m filing it under “student led activity”.
I’ve come away from the week with a stack of ideas, some “just hints” of ideas and some half fledged lesson plans. I have a list of online resources recommended by Nell and fellow participants and I have more confidence and enthusiasm for teaching creative writing next year.
!!!! Irish Poetry Reading Archive: An educational resource and digital heritage archive
Ursula Byrne, Head of Development and Strategic Programmes, UCD Library and Dr Lucy Collins, Lecturer UCD are co–founders of the Irish Poetry Reading Archive:
The Irish Poetry Reading Archive is a free digital collection of readings by Irish poets in the English and Irish language. Educators and students alike will derive value from this archive, drawing on the readings by the poets themselves, along with their recollections and insights of the time, place and context that influenced their writing. The archive holds recordings by 80 poets, with new voices being added annually. Each poet reads up to 8 poems, and over time poets will be invited back, to capture more of their work. Bringing the voices of our poets together within a curated digital environment aims to ensure that these cultural heritage recordings are preserved for future generations. The Irish Poetry Reading Archive is poised to develop into a resource of national scope and significance. There is great potential for this resource to support students doing the Junior Cert and the Leaving Cert. Hearing the poets talk about their own work, and read the poems in their own voices brings the poetry to life and makes it really enjoyable.
!!!! 100 Year History Project – Children as researchers
The 100-year history project is a creative commemoration project, engaging children and teachers from 10 schools in Ireland and Northern Ireland with the Decade of Commemorations, through research and creative activity alongside a professional artist and writer. The project is phased to encompass child-led research, exploring the wider political events of the decade 1912-22 through the lens of local and family histories.
The 100 Year History publication will be launched in September 2016.
The project aims to:
- Support a way of working that involves children as action researchers within their own communities and that recognises the value of the arts for breaking down cultural barrier.
- Make a unique commemorative book publication to provide a legacy that promotes children’s inclusion in commemorations, and the power of the child’s voice to challenge the perceptions of adults.
- Engage children with the decade of commemorations through child-led research and creative activity alongside a professional artist and writer.
- Challenge received myths and perceptions around historical events from 1912-22, and break the culture of silence surrounding these events.
Who was involved?
The project is managed and led by Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership, in conjunction with the Kilkenny Education Centre, Blackrock Education Centre, Dublin West Education Centre, Limerick Education Centre, and the Belfast Education and Library Board. For 10 primary schools North and South of Ireland with artist Ann Donnelly and writer Mary Branley. The project is funded by The Department of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund.
The 12 primary schools included;
- Northampton National School, Kinvara, Co. Galway
- Laghey Primary School, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone
- Inchicore National School, Dublin 10
- Hazelwood Integrated PS, Belfast
- Lisnafunchin National School, Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny
- Gaelscoil na Bhfál, Falls Road, Belfast
- Nicker National School, Old Pallas, Co. Limerick
- Holy Rosary Primary School, Belfast
- St Joseph’s Boys National School, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan
- St Brigid’s National School, Dublin 4
How did you begin?
Phase one of the project began with an initial teacher meeting, with teachers from schools, north and south, artist Ann Donnelly & writer Mary Branley, representatives from the partner organisations. The aim of the meeting was to provide a space for teachers participating in the project to come together to begin to discuss and plan the project.
The feedback from the teachers on the day reflected both their excitement about the project, as well as their fears and concerns, in terms of supporting the children through a research process while being mindful of the political sensibilities involved;
“Only British history is taught to the pupils in my school. I am excited to teach the children some history about Northern Ireland, especially within their own locality. Children learn a lot of British history but have never visited the settings of these historical events. By learning about local history the children can compare now and then.”
“There was a positive sense of schools working as part of a group, with help from writer and artist.”
“Rich historic surroundings around our school in Inchicore/ Kilmainham. I am excited and enthusiastic about beginning the project and exploring, 1. How the children interpret these events explored, and 2. How it can be linked to personal/ local history, and also how it can be compared to their experiences of the world today – perspective of an innocent eye.”
How were the ideas developed and how did the young people, artist and teacher work together?
This work is not just about the facts and stories that have been uncovered, although some of these are full of interest and worth: above all, the project needed to be child-led. This approach has required a huge amount of resourcefulness from all concerned, as often the material doesn’t exist in a form that is easily accessible, particularly for younger children or those with English as a second language. The role of the writer and artist was in supporting children and teachers in their research, encouraging them to dig deeper into local and family history.
Writer Mary Branley
The actual historical knowledge the children researched through different means and sources. In two schools so far the entire class focused on place related incidents, i.e. The Lockout of 1913 in Haddington Rd Dublin, The Clones Shooting in 1922 (in which the newly established border plays a big part), and the arrival of the Belgian Refugees in Monaghan, Carrickmacross. In preparing these stories for publication, children, teacher, artist and writer worked together to tell the story orally, writer transcribed, we revisited the story for accuracy, completeness, further details and context. Once agreement had been reached on the written story, the children selected the images or aspects of the story they wanted to illustrate. This kind of collective working meant both a higher level of knowledge was attained, and shared, and that a high level of ownership of both text and illustrations was reached. The role of the adults was to support the children in their line of inquiry, rather than leading the children in any particular direction.
Pupil from St Joseph’s Boys’ National School, Carrickmacross
“There has been a lot of work researching, searching the internet and books and doing drawings. But it should be spectacular at the end to see what other kids have done”.
Pupils from Gaelscoil na Bhfál, Belfast
“We walked from school to City Cemetery up the Falls Road. It took us five minutes. It’s a very old cemetery. We saw graves from 1789. We first had to go big gates with statues on either side of the wall, we followed the trail to find the graves.
The highlight of our day was climbing through bushes to find what graves there were. Someone leaned over to pull the ivy vines away from the headstone. We saw a grave over 200 years old.
We also found the grave of Viscount Perrie’s. He was in charge of Harland and Wolf during the building of the Titanic”.
What aspects of the project made you smile? What aspects of the project made you feel challenged?
Artist Ann Donnelly
The children’s enthusiasm was exciting in every school, I loved seeing real objects and photos, these really brought things to life for me. Or hearing about something that happened just around the corner, amazing stories and ideas. Louis from Kilkenny discovered from visiting historian that his great aunt was the first woman to drive an armoured car. Children in the Limerick class told me about rebel ambushes a few fields away and about great aunts who were shot as German informers near Lublin in Poland. I was challenged to ensure that these amazing little stories did not get swept away in a big important narrative strand.
Writer Mary Branley
School visits are always exciting and it’s a privilege to be welcomed wherever we have gone. It was a delight to meet individual children who had found out about the lives of their great great grandparents, or other family members, and conveyed their amazement in looking at artefacts, like photos, letters from the trenches in World War 1 and even a beautifully boxed deck of playing cards. It made history come alive to make connections with family members, in some cases with the same names as themselves and clear family resemblances.
The sensitivity of the history itself, both of the formation of the Republic of Ireland and the creation of Northern Ireland challenged us. As one teacher explained it “History is not just fact, but perspectives on the same stories, depending on your sources. Then there are opinions and judgments on the facts which we are living with to this day. It’s not easy for children to understand this, but their perspectives are also part of the learning process.” We need to be aware of the pitfalls of simple jingoistic narratives that essentially continue the status quo, and never go deeper into the complexities of issues that might challenge us, and lead us to question our mono cultural perspectives. But there has never been a better time to investigate the past, with so many and varied sources now available.
Teacher Linda O’Sullivan
“I feel that children have developed a wonderful sense of how history can leap off the page and come alive for them from this project”.
What insights from the project are worth sharing?
Writer Mary Branley
Winston Churchill famously described history, as “just one damn thing after another.” This is both true and very misleading. Facts are facts, but they don’t exist by themselves, such as neat little sums,like 2+2=4. There are causes, consequences, terrible events, and further reprisals in an ongoing saga of power and politics. Then there are the ordinary people caught up in battles for equality, rights, justice and the wish to lead a peaceful life. This can be a daunting task for children to negotiate. But how worthwhile to allow children to connect with and make sense of the past.
Pupil from St Joseph’s Boys’ National School, Carrickmacross
“My Grandad has a chest of stuff about PJ Cassidy. I felt excited because someone in our family was in such a big event and I had real thing from 100 years ago to show the boys in the class”.