South Dublin Epic
The South Dublin Epic is a journey through speculative fiction with young writers from South Dublin. It was developed and curated by writer Colm Keegan, designed by Big Bad Studios and commissioned by South Dublin County Council Libraries & Arts.
Here are a few words from Colm about the project, which you can find here.
When I started to develop this project. I was taking inspiration from the history of Ireland and fantasy fiction, as well as hugely popular dystopian sagas like the Walking Dead, the South Dublin EPIC project aims to offer students a means to explore their lives in a unique and liberating way. I also wanted to put the following question to students – What would you do, if you could do anything?
In the way that speculative fiction takes inspiration from real events (World War Z took inspiration from “The Good War”: An Oral History of World War II, Game of Thrones riffs on medieval battles, The Day After Tomorrow speculates on climate change, and City of Bohane is a steampunk representation of contemporary Limerick), participants in the EPIC project are encouraged to look on South County Dublin, it’s history, it’s geography and their own experience in it, as inspiring source material from which whole new worlds can be built.
Using SDCC’s four libraries as hubs, and after recruiting students through the four libraries (eg four groups around the hub of Lucan library), workshops were scheduled through Early 2018.
I then made two visits to each participating school (or youth group), where students were led through the following 2-step creative process.
VISIT 1 – Writing the real world.
Visit 1 was all about encouraging self expression through Poetry and a short exploration of plot, structure and character. Apart from a few changes, this workshop was the one on which I’ve built my reputation as a leading creative writing facilitator in Ireland. It was designed to give students an increased confidence in their own ability as artists, story makers and risk takers in the creative sense.
At this stage, South Dublin EPIC and the concept of ‘Decontextualisation’ was also explained. Decontextualisation is a phrase I use to describe the taking of real life situations, distorting and fictionalising them. Writing based on real life experiences was mined for use in the fictional worlds we went on to create.
Then came VISIT 2 – Leaping from the real into fiction.
Participants left their normal existence behind, rolled out a map and co-created a fictional world with pressing and often cataclysmic challenges. They positioned themselves on the map and wrote themselves into the heart of world changing, epic events.
All poems and stories have been collected here. A select few of the stories have been developed as Twine based stories for the website, co written with selected young writers.
The South Dublin EPIC maps and website were designed by Big Bad Studios’. Internationally renowned comic artists, illustrators and game designers. The maps provide a starting point for speculative stories built around four worlds – a zombie apocalypse, a dystopian near future, a fantasy world from the distant past, and a steampunk alternative universe.
The website is populated with stories and writing from all the schools surrounding each South Dublin library. The maps featured here are currently being exhibited along with the Epic stories and poetry in Tallaght Library, and will subsequently be displayed in other libraries through 2018.
I would like to thanks South Dublin’s Arts Office and all at South Dublin Libraries for making this project possible. A project of this scale would never succeed without their faith and support.
Building this project and working with young people across a wide range of ages, from all areas and backgrounds in South Dublin has been a fascinating experience. Not just because of the writing we ended up creating together, but also because of one, crucial thing. Before becoming a writer I volunteered as a youth leader in North Clondalkin for ten years, and was trained with the belief that all youth work should involve a sociological and developmental dimension.
All great leaps begin with imagining it first, predicting the consequences of that risky jump. I believe using speculative fiction as a sandbox in which political ideologies, belief systems and social problems can be challenged and explored leads to true personal growth. It’s not just creative and fun, it also encourages young people to take their role in South Dublin more seriously. Empowering them to improve our narratives is empowering them to improve the world.