Fighting Words and other banana related stories | Inspirational cross-community project

16 May 2022

Fighting Words | NICRC

An inspiring cross-community project allowed young participants from disadvantaged and divided parts of Belfast to exhibit their creative works.

The theme was banana related stories. And what better place to exhibit than at the Banana Block, a shared creative space in East Belfast.

The 50 young participants attended creative writing workshops in preparation for the exhibition during March 2022. The Community Relations Council supported the project through its CR/CD Small Grants Scheme.

This cross community and multi-cultural learning project was delivered by Fighting Words NI and formed part of Belfast Children's Festival.

Bringing people together

Niamh Scullion from Fighting Words relished the opportunity to bring people together.

“I’d discovered through surveys with community groups that the children from these divided groups had not mixed in years due to covid,” Niamh explained. “So I wanted to bring together the children, their parents, and the group leaders for an inspiring, immersive exhibition that they could be proud of.”

The result was a pop-up writer’s studio designed to instil a sense of wonder and excitement in reading and writing, where children and parents alike could feel comfortable and inspired.

For example, the exhibition turned the area into a giant book where children and parents could physically move around from giant page to giant page. Or they could grab a piece of paper and pencil, find a space, and get scribbling with their creative ideas.

Wheel of fortune

Niamh described the pleasure of seeing parents and children sharing reading moments together.

“It was really lovely to see parents and children reading together in the rocking chair, or two children reading who said previously they didn’t like reading,” she explained. “It was wonderful to see them writing at the desk, and picking books to take home.”

But it was the breadth and scope of the children’s incredible imaginations that really blew her away.

“It’s a wonder to behold that moment when they realise they have freedom to imagine anything at all without fear of getting it wrong, and how much fun that can be,” Niamh said. “Many of the group leaders told us the children have continued to write and have been writing stories at home and bringing them in to show them off.”

A specific technique Niamh used to help develop stories is known as the wheel of fortune.

She said: “We used an emotions Wheel Of Fortune which has helped them think about emotions in stories, and about conflict and resolution.”

Public imagination

Creative writing and reading can help develop problem solving skills, as well as building the bedrock of understanding conflict.

Niamh explained: “I hope the project will help spark more children’s (and parents’) imaginations and that they’ll benefit from the growth of empathy, emotional literacy, and self- expression that creative writing and reading bring.”

It is hoped that the interactive exhibition will now move around various shared spaces in Belfast, with the aim of making creative writing more prominent in the public imagination.

“Already hundreds of people from a wide variety of backgrounds have engaged with the exhibition at Banana Block,” Niamh said. “I hope creative writing and creativity will become a part of their identity, that they will be more excited about the power of their imagination and what they can bring to the world, about creating their own stories, rather than accepting conflict narratives from the past that they’re exposed to every day.”

Quotes

Here’s what some of the parents had to say:

We felt included and as equally as involved as everyone else. The exhibition and the Pencil Portal, along with the storymaking workshop had a massive impact on my daughter (6-years-old). She now plans out the elements of her stories before writing the story so she knows where she's starting and where she wants to end up.”

It was lovely to see all of the kids getting involved and joining in. I might copy the whole idea and try it with my class!” [A parent who is also a teacher]

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