Hilary Copeland



Length of time at Fighting Words: 
Five weeks at time of writing! (April 2021)

Tell us the story of how you came to work for Fighting Words. 
I’ve been very fortunate to have volunteered or worked in the arts, and mostly literature, since I was a student. Every volunteering opportunity, internship, temping job, freelance gig or part-time job I’ve had has taught me something that shapes the way I work today. I’ve come to Fighting Words via Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, and now back to Belfast again, having worked on 30+ arts festivals as well as in theatre, with arts centres and other arts non-profits. Highlights include meeting some incredible writers like Michael Morpurgo, Joan Lingard, and Michael Rosen, and looking after the Mr Men when they came to visit. They are much bigger than they appear in the books. The Gruffalo, on the other hand, is smaller than you might think, but no less terrifying.  

Describe a typical day in your role.
I think the only typical thing about working in the arts is that most days offer a wide variety of responsibilities and tasks across different areas. As Director, my job involves learning and understanding how every aspect of the organisation works, from who does what and how they do it, to thinking and planning for the short, medium and long-term future for the organisation as whole. Whilst working from home, I miss being in our workshop space in Skainos and working alongside my colleagues. I’m looking forward to the day when I get to work in the same place as all of our team, when we can dream up new projects and drink a lot of tea together in the same room. 

What has been your proudest achievement or favourite moment while working with Fighting Words?
I’m most proud of something I had nothing to do with, which is how brilliantly our team adapted to continuing to work throughout the pandemic, under really hard and challenging circumstances. Their commitment to working with our schools and young people has been fantastic. I’m also really proud of the children and young people we work with, their imaginations and the stories they have created. I think of DinoDonkey often.

Not many people know this about me, but...
Perhaps a lot of people do know this about me already, but I enjoy baking, and about five years ago I studied patisserie professionally. It was a lot like the Bake Off but with exams. I liked working in professional kitchens, the fast pace and time pressures reminds me of working in festivals and events management. There is a lot of overlap with planning ahead and making sure customers are happy. I have so much respect for people who work in events, catering and hospitality. Creating lovely experiences for people is a real labour of love. 

Alongside lots of jobs in the arts, I’ve also had an assortment of other job over the years, so many that I’ve lost count. These have included being a Christmas Elf, shop assistant, switchboard operator, assembling a shoe shop, dishwasher, golf tournament parking attendant, census collector, a waitress for one day, and dressing up as Professor McGonagall for the last Harry Potter book launch. 

Since all live theatre and performances shutdown, I’ve started watching musical theatre productions online, which is odd as I previously spent my life avoiding ever having to watch musicals. The spectacle of costume and staging, the heightened emotions of the music and songs are all exactly the things life has been lacking for the last year, and I think watching musicals is satisfying that need for me. I can neither sing nor dance but that hasn’t stopped me trying. I like to try to sing all the parts of ‘One Day More’ even though I don’t know all the words.