The blanket men in Long Kesh and the protesting women in Armagh used many means to keep themselves sane during the arduous years of the prison struggle.
One means was by writing – on the walls of their cells, on smuggled cigarette papers, on the scraps of toilet paper they were provided by the prison authorities. Some, like Bobby Sands, wrote poetry and short stories; others wrote letters to loved ones and people of influence to make sure they knew the truth behind Britain’s criminalistation policy.
Another means they used was storytelling. Standing at the doors of their cells at night, they would keep their comrades’ spirits up by recounting books they’d read, ancient myths they had heard or inventions of their own making.
Working class young people, neglected and then tortured and imprisoned by the British state, took it upon themselves to educate each other as a means of resistance. Denied even a pencil or a piece of paper by the system, they smuggled their own pens into the prisons in order to tell the truth.
Bobby Sands knew the power of writing and storytelling: to comfort us, to entertain one another, to keep us strong in otherwise unbearable situations, to shine a light on injustice. It is important to promote and nurture those talents.
Consequently, as part of its year of events to celebrate and commemorate the H-Block martyrs, Stailc ’81 has launched the Bobby Sands Creative Writing Contest.
Entries are welcome in poetry, short story or creative nonfiction form on any theme or topic. Entrants can submit up to the three poems and short stories or creative nonfiction articles of up to 2,500 words. Entries are welcome in both English and Irish.
The contest is open to anyone resident in Ireland or abroad in the following three age categories: 12-15, 16-24, 25 plus.
All entrants will receive an honorary prize and winning entries will be published in a one-off commemorative journal.
Entries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline is midnight on Friday, April 30.