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12th May, 2016

Fun Palaces: ‘Culture by, for and with all’


Event Details

12th May, 2016
The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama 62-64 Eton Avenue London NW3 3HY
Free admission

This Practices & Processes and Theatre Applied Centre for Research in Performance and Social Practice brings together Stella Duffy, writer, theatremaker and co-director of Fun Palaces and Nadine Holdsworth Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Warwick. Chaired by Dr Selina Busby the seminar will focus on community arts practices.

Fun Palaces: ‘Culture by, for and with all’ 

Fun Palaces is an ongoing campaign for culture at the heart of community, with an annual event every October, combining arts and sciences and everyday participation in locally-led public events. Over two weekends in 2014 and 2015 there were 280 Fun Palaces across 11 nations made by 5262 local people with over 90,000 joining in. Fun Palaces have taken place in museums, libraries, theatres, town squares, shopping centres, village halls, fields, forests, an observatory, a ship, a tech lab and one outdoor swimming pool. The 2016 dates are 1 & 2 October.

Stella Duffy is an award-winning writer with over fifty short stories, ten plays, and thirteen novels published in fifteen languages. She has twice won Stonewall Writer of the Year. She adapted her novel State of Happiness for feature film with Zentropa/Fiesta, and HBO have optioned her Theodora novels for TV. She has twice won the CWA Short Story Dagger, and her short story collection Everything is Moving, Everything is Joined was published in 2014. Her latest novel London Lies Beneath will be published by Virago in November this year, and her new play, The Matilda Effect is in development with Three Legged Theatre. She has worked in theatre for over thirty years as an actor, director, playwright, and facilitator. She is Co-Director of the Fun Palaces campaign for greater access to and engagement with all culture.

From Fun Palaces to Guerilla Gardening: Joan Littlewood’s Reimagining of Space, Labour and Creativity

As her engagement in ‘traditional’ theatre waned during the 1960s, Joan Littlewood increasingly directed her energies towards local projects that emphasised cultural democracy and the creative animation of community-based activity and spaces. For instance, during a period of extensive redevelopment around the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, she transformed disused spaces through temporary structures, playgrounds, inner-city farms, painting and planting schemes that promoted the importance of children’s access to cultural activity and creative play. She also pioneered the Mobile Fair Project, launched at the City of London Festival in July 1968. This drew on innovative practices in art, architecture and industrial design to generate portable, interactive toys, performances and entertainment structures that encouraged play and exploration. On a larger scale, she spent years developing the unrealised Fun Palace project with the architect Cedric Price. Described as a ‘university of the streets’, and a ‘laboratory of pleasure’, they decided to fly in the face of the post-Second World War obsession to erect permanent structures, by championing planned obsolescence. Working from the principle that a building should only exist for as long as it was socially useful, Littlewood and Price proposed a temporary, flexible network of multiple activities that eroded borders between everyday life and theatre, education and entertainment, art and science, observation and participation, the attainment of new skills and the joy of doing nothing.

Drawing on my past research on Littlewood and current research on amateur creativity and cultural participation, this talk will consider the social, cultural and ethical concerns at the heart of Littlewood’s projects. In particular I will consider her focus on social/public spaces conceived as performative agents of change that relied on qualities of play, temporary occupation, transformation, making together and creative labour.

Nadine Holdsworth is Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies and Deputy Chair of the Arts Faculty at the University of Warwick. She has research interests in theatre and national identities, popular theatre practitioners and amateur creativity and cultural participation. Her recent publications include Theatre and National Identity: Reimagining Conceptions of Nation(2014); Joan Littlewood’s Theatre (2011) and Theatre & Nation (2010). She is currently writing a monograph on theatre and social abjection and is a researcher on the AHRC funded projectAmateur Dramatics: Crafting Communities in Time and Space

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