Hannah Armstrong

Write Club Co-ordinator

Length of time at Fighting Words:

2014-2017 and 2019- ...?

Tell us the story of how you came to Fighting Words.

I met a man at the traffic lights. I told him my dreams. He told me to look up Fighting Words. 

I followed the breadcrumbs to this TED talk by Dave Eggers, and then this one by Sean Love. I loved what they were doing. It made me laugh.

I applied for an internship at Fighting Words in Dublin. I volunteered for one, two, three months, learning the ways of the workshops and taking part in a book project with transition year students.

I began work as Project Co-ordinator for Fighting Words Belfast in November 2014 and we opened our doors in March 2015.

Describe a typical day in your role.

There truly is no such thing. At the moment, it involves… turning on my computer. Completing the tea-making process. Navigating through Microsoft Teams to the safety of my inbox. Checking my calendar - what needs doing today, who am I meeting and when? 

If it’s a workshop day, I’ll start by meeting the volunteers online, filling them in on the group we’re working with today, assigning roles and greeting the teachers. Then at 10.00am, the children will join us - either from home or from school. The two-hours of the workshop will go past in the blink of a giant’s eye and by the end of it my mind will be full of talking coffee-machines, laser-shooting cats and usually some kind of time/space portal. After the workshop is over I usually lie on the floor to come back down to earth. 

After lunch I’ll be doing some combination of replying to emails, drafting crafty plans, editing video scripts and Zooming a colleague. If it’s a Wednesday, Write Club will be on. If I’m lucky I’ll get to join the session, watching characters develop, discussing issues faced by teens during lockdown, hearing stories, plays and poems read aloud… By the end of the day my brain will be buzzing so I’ll close my computer and go for a walk in the last of the daylight.  

What has been your proudest achievement or favourite moment while working with Fighting Words?

Back when we were together in-person, I used to take great delight in showing primary school children how to attach their pages together using a paperclip. Everyone remembers such a significant moment in their life as the first time they successfully used a paperclip, right? The number of children’s lives I have impacted has been truly enormous. (Also, my interventions saved a lot of paperclips from a horrible, twisted fate.) 

Every workshop is a favourite moment waiting to happen. I hear an endless supply of brilliant, original, hilarious, poignant creativity from the young people who are discovering that they can be writers without changing a single thing about themselves. Most recently, one P.5 girl read out her story which included the line, “In this world, the sky was green and the grass was blue.” Another story by a P.6 boy featured the sentence, “His greatest fear was reality.” (A sort of existential shudder went round the adults in the room at that one.) Everything I hear filters into how I experience the world.  

Not many people know this about me, but...

During my first chapter at Fighting Words, I trained as a Yoga teacher. I now teach on the courses of the school that I trained with, and one of the things that I teach is Nonviolent Communication. I enjoy the complete oppositeness of Nonviolent Communication and Fighting Words.