About Us

Fighting Words NI is a creative writing charity for children and young people.

Since 2015 we’ve been a force for creativity in Belfast and beyond, providing over 14,000 creative writing opportunities for schools, youth groups and young writers aged 6 to 18. We have delivered hundreds of free Storymaking Workshops, Write Club Meetings and special projects, all supported by our amazing volunteer mentors.

We want to show every young person in Northern Ireland that creative writing is all about joy, imagination and creativity.

Our patrons are the acclaimed writers Glenn Patterson, Roddy Doyle, Nick Hornby, Lucy Caldwell, Paul Muldoon and Dave Eggers.

Ever wondered about the origin of our duck logo? It comes from this quote from Maeve Binchy - 'I don't have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks.'



Director, Hilary Copeland
Hilary Copeland

Hilary Copeland has worked in the arts sector since 2008, for festivals, arts and theatre companies in Edinburgh, Belfast and Dublin. She has worked across business management, strategic planning, creative programming and event delivery, at the Irish Writers Centre, Belfast International Arts Festival, The John Hewitt Society, NI Science Festival, Belfast Book Festival, Young at Art, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. She is a founding member and former Chair of the Board of Integrated AlumNI, a group of advocates and campaigners for Integrated Education, a movement which tackles religious segregation in schools in Northern Ireland and contributes towards a more peaceful and inclusive society. Hilary lives in Belfast, and sits on the Board of Governors of New-Bridge Integrated College in Co. Down.

Playwright Club Co-ordinator, Emily DeDakis
Emily DeDakis
Associate Artist - Scriptwriting

Emily DeDakis is a writer & dramaturg from the southeast U.S., now based in Belfast. She’s developed dozens of scripts & performances with companies like Accidental, Dumbworld, Terra Nova, Prime Cut, OfftheRails, Sole Purpose (NI), Scene+Heard, Droichead Arts Centre (Ireland) and foolsFURY (USA). Emily’s writing has been broadcast on BBC television & radio and commissioned by the MAC, the Lyric Theatre, Household and Sonorities. A member of the music collectives HIVE Choir & No Hevdem, she often collaborates with sound artists & composers on things like musical essays (Freak Floods with Úna Monaghan & Driving Music with Una Lee), choose-your-own-adventure operas (Carbon Women with Áine Mallon), soundwalks (Two by Two with John D’Arcy & Marty Byrne) and immersive audio plays (Stowaway City with Michael McKnight). 

Marnie Kennedy
Project Coordinator

Hannah Armstrong
Story Seeds Coordinator

Talitha Taylor
General Manager


Sam Savage
Digital Storyteller

Sam has a keen love for stories in all there forms: books, movies, personal anecdotes: and is excited to be working in such a story-centric environment!
​​​​​They studied English with Creative Writing at Queen's University Belfast where they furthered their knowledge and love of writing.
They volunteered with Fighting Words NI for several years before joining the main staff in this role. They also have a passion for acting and theatre work, and have worked with Bruiser Theatre Company in their educational workshops.

Julie Sherlock

Emma Gibb
Community Engagement

Emma is a poet and short story writer from Scotland. She moved to Belfast to study but stayed for the craic. If you want to read her work, email her and she’ll gladly hook you up. Emma used to spend all of her time reading people who have been dead for hundreds of years, but now enjoys nothing more than being able to read the fantastic work of the young writers bringing it to Fighting Words NI (alongside the odd bit of Milton and Shakespeare). She feels extremely lucky to be able to work in a place that supports the amazing creativity of Northern Ireland's next gen, and she LOVES dogs. 

Aoife E. Osborne
Volunteer Coordinator

Aoife is originally from Cork and moved to Belfast in 2022. She studied English at University College Cork where she was a Quercus College Scholar and the 2022 Eoin Murray Scholar for Creative Writing. Her work has been published with Paper Lanterns YA Literary Journal, Keeping it Under Wraps and the DoubleSpace Journal. A former children’s bookseller, her professional background is primarily in events and festivals. She has worked with the Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, Cork International Choral Festival and Cork Puppetry Festival, among others. She began her work with Fighting Words NI as a placement student before joining the team as volunteer coordinator in June 2023. She is currently completing her MA in Arts Management and Cultural Policy at Queen’s University.  

Lucy Beevor
Fundraising and Development

Lucy has worked for many arts and education charities in the UK and Ireland, including Shakespeare’s Globe and The Roundhouse in London; Turner Contemporary in Margate; UCD in Dublin. She has lived and worked in Belfast since 2014. She’s also a writer and has won the Mairtín Crawford Award for Short Story and been a finalist for the Michael McLaverty Short Story Award and the Mslexia Short Story Award.

Molly Martin
Story Seeds Assistant 

Molly Martin is an Irish visual artist from Belfast, working predominantly in photography, video and live performance. Her work has been published in The Irish Times, Source Magazine, exhibited in The Golden Thread Gallery, and Ulster Museum - winning an award for the Inaugural Video Prize of the Royal Ulster Academy in 2022. She has performed in Belfast International Festival of Performance Art and is a strong advocate for activism through the Arts. 
Molly has volunteered with Fighting Words NI since 2021 and is now currently working as a workshop facilitator and co-ordinator assistant in both our cross-border project, Story Seeds, and in our latest project, North Star.
She loves short stories and journalling. 




Tim Newell

Over 30 years’ experience in the creative and broadcasting industries. Over 20 years’ experience in television production, in roles including Producer/Director/Creative in broadcast, including producing and directing BBC TV, Radio, and Multi-platform campaigns, trained editor with Media 100, Final Cut Pro, Cool Edit Pro and Adobe Suite. 5 years’ experience in Public Relations, Marketing/Sales/Project Management.

Tony Gallagher

Professor Gallagher is considered one of the world’s leading academic experts on the role of education in divided societies.
Tony Gallagher has worked for over 15 years on shared education promoting social cohesion and school improvement in communities in Northern Ireland, Israel, and Los Angeles. This is part of a career-long focus of work on the role of education in divided societies, including work on minority rights, equality policy, and the role of education in ethnic conflict. He has dedicated many years as a voluntary director to numerous non-profits in peace and reconciliation, and education, and is a current Board Member of Wave Trauma Centre.

Andrew Dryle
Andrew Drylie is a private equity and venture capital professional. He is Investment Manager at Quadri Ventures.  Andrew graduated from the University of Nottingham with LLB Honours in Law. Andrew is a member of Green Shoots (EISA). Andrew has also successfully obtained the EISA diploma and holds the Investment Management Certificate for the UK Context (IMC). He has campaigned and fundraised for social initiatives aimed at helping men in professional capacities speak more openly around mental health issues. He is a capped Northern Ireland International Footballer and ex-professional footballer.

Rick O'Shea
Rick O’Shea is a broadcaster with RTE - currently on RTE Gold. He has previously been a presenter on RTE2FM and with The Book Show on RTE Radio 1.
He runs Ireland’s largest book club, The Rick O’Shea Book Club on Facebook and also runs Christmas Appeal for the club each year. He is also involved in the literary world through other work such as hosting public author interviews at festivals all around the country and presenting and judging various literary awards. Rick has been literary curator for the UCD Festival since 2020. He is a patron of Epilepsy Ireland.

Colm Ó Cuanacháin
Colm was appointed Executive Director of Fighting Words in 2023 and he serves as the Fighting Words ROI rep at FWNI. He joined Fighting Words in 2020 as Education Director. Colm worked in human rights and development education with Comhlámh, served as Secretary General of Amnesty International in Dublin, as head of campaigns with ActionAid International and as Senior Director with Amnesty International in London. He was a primary school teacher in Gaelscoil na Cille and principal at Gaelscoil Aonach Urmhumhan and Gaelscoil an Ghoirt Álainn Educate Together in Cork. Colm has a PhD in human rights education from the University of Leicester.

Bethany O'Neill
Bethany is the HR & People representative on the Fighting Words NI board, bringing 5 years of experience in HR Consulting. Bethany is a Senior HR Consultant with Think People, providing strategic advice and guidance to a wide range of businesses and organisations across the Island of Ireland and GB.  Bethany has a 1st class MA Honours degree in Business and Management from the University of Glasgow and a CIPD Level 3 Diploma in Human Resources Practice. Bethany has a long-held passion for the arts and non-profit sector and joined the Board in 2021, having participated in Arts & Business Young Professionals on Arts Boards programme.

Paul Connolly
Paul Connolly is a songwriter and lyricist with NI alternative rock band, The Wood Burning Savages. The band have appeared numerous times at Glastonbury festival and are two-time winners of the Northern Ireland Music Prize. 
Connolly is a frequent voice on both BBC Radio Ulster and Foyle as an Arts & Cultural correspondent, Sunday Show panellist and recently a poet on BBC Radio 3 in collaboration with the Ulster Orchestra. As well as writing for NI-based magazine, Dig With It, he is also heavily involved in Community Arts workshop facilitation, operating on behalf of the Nerve Centre as a lecturer in Events Management and on various community-focused projects alongside Prince's Trust, Education Authority and many others.



Guthanna Óga - Young Voices (Fighting Words North and South youth advisory panel)

GO Panel Manifesto: Fight for the Write!

We will empower young writers on the island of Ireland and nurture their creative self-expression, especially as they grow up with decreasing opportunities to do creative things. We will connect up young writers and provide a supportive, positive atmosphere that protects creative headspace, where everyone can be different, can be themselves; where success is not academic or economic, but on their own individual terms; where creative writing is not just a dream or a fantasy but an enriching, empowering and important path through life.

Kaila Patterson, Belfast. Member of Fighting Words NI Write Club and Young Playwrights (Spring 2022). Writer of novels and plays with a bit of poetry. Hopes to support Fighting Words and encourage young people to get creative and use their voice – on the page, stage, and to create change. 

Patrick Maginnis, Co. Down. Member of Fighting Words NI Write Club for over two years. Enjoys writing poetry but loves short prose and is working through a science-fiction novel. Hopes to ensure that writing is available to anybody who wants it- all people from every generation have ‘the write to right’.

Michael Corbett, Co. Cork. I'm excited to be a part of this. I'm fairly new to fighting words. I was published in the Irish Times Supplement this year. I have a lifelong passion for writing and hope to pursue English in college next year! I usually write short stories


Éire Ní Fhaoláin, Wexford. Táim sa chúigiú bliain i Meánscoil Gharman. I write in Irish and English in Write Club and have been published in a literary magazine and with Fighting Words. I want to encourage young writers to involve the Irish language in their creative work. Tá an-sceitimíní orm a bheith mar chuid de Ghuthanna Óga le Fighting Words. 

Eabha, Dublin. I've loved writing for as long as I can remember and have been involved with Fighting Words in various ways for nearly ten years, from summer camps to Write Club to co-writing a play performed in the Gate Theatre. I write prose mostly, especially short stories. Fighting Words has given me so much over the years, and I'm thrilled to have a chance to give something back.

Eden Byrne, Belfast. I'm a young volunteer. I have been interested in writing from a young age, especially poems and short stories. I had a poem published in a poetry collection in 2019. I hope to help make fighting words even better for the next generation of young writers.

Rachel, Co. Antrim. Member of Fighting Words NI Playwright Club since 2020. I have taken part in two radio play projects and have had a radio play commissioned by BBC Radio 4! I am so excited to be a member of the youth advisory panel. I hope to make writing more accessible and achievable to everyone, and help young people feel more confident in their writing.

Wiktoria, Dublin. Born in Kraków, Poland. I've loved writing since I was a little kid but only got involved with Fighting Words this summer when I took part in their playwriting summer camp. It was heaps of fun and I knew I found my people. I mostly write short stories about deeply flawed characters struggling to make sense of their place in the world, and I love reading just about anything that piques my interest.

Emily, Co. Galway. I have been a member of Fighting Words Write Club for two years. I joined two Fighting Words summer camps. Last year I won the teens category for “Poetry in Bloom” and this year I represented Ireland in a climate crisis anthology of creative writing. I mainly write poetry and would love to encourage other teens across Ireland to get creative and start writing. 

Tara, Co. Antrim. I've been a member of Fighting Words NI Playwright Club for 3 years. I made a radio play and a play at Lyric Theatre in Belfast. I have been into creative writing since young.


Sean O Donnell, Co. Donegal. 
I have been a member of Fighting Words Write Club for 2 years. I enjoy writing short stories, especially psychological thrillers. I have been published in the Irish Times supplement as well as other publications. I have a great interest in creative writing and I would like to help others develop an interest in writing and enhance their skills. 

Teagan Rice - Co. Antrim.
I recently did my work experience with Fighting Words NI and also became a member of the Write Club, so I'm ecstatic to be a part of the Youth Advisory Panel and hopefully bring the amazing work of FWNI to a wider audience. I've always loved writing; I plan to study English in university after school and start a career in that field, particularly in the world of poetry. My favourite stories both to read and write are historical, literary, and fantasy novels!


Ishaan, Co Derry. I am part of Write Club. I have completed a Write Club camp on True Stories. I like to read fantasy and sci-fi novels, and I am working on a sci-fi novel myself. I hope to help young writers accomplish their writing goals in many creative ways.  

Rachel Fleming, Kildare. In Transition Year in secondary school. She enjoys hanging out with her friends and going to the gym. She is also part of the Children’s Ombudsman Youth Advisory Panel which she really enjoys and she attends regular meetings with the group. She plans to study psychology in university once finished school.