Posted by: stelladuffy | March 25, 2015

because nice things happen too

2014 was a hell of a year, as well as having breast cancer for the second time and three surgeries (spaced over the year), my father-in-law died extremely painfully and very sadly – and, at the same time as these horrible things, Fun Palaces, the biggest thing I’ve ever made (not alone, obviously!) took off and grew to become far more astonishing and glorious and hopeful than we could ever have dreamed, I wrote a teeny tiny opera (libretto) for Tete a Tete (and have now been asked to write a slightly larger one, yay), and wrote a women-in-science play commissioned for her company, Theree Legged Theatre, by the gorgeous Lucy Pitman-Wallace.
Another good thing that happened is that a Twitter conversation (use Twitter for good, my friends! it can be done!) led to the splendid Salt Publishing collecting and publishing my short stories Everything is Moving, Everything is Joined.
And today I heard that the anthology is longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize.
Having been twice longlisted for the Orange Prize, among a bunch of other long and short listings, I’m well aware that being longlisted is not the same as being shortlisted, and being shortlisted is definitely not the same as making the tearful speech.
But it’s very lovely regardless.

The main reason I’m sharing it is that we ALL have rubbish years. Sometimes we have rubbish decades. And, if we’re lucky, there are gifts to be found in those rubbish times as well. I’m now awaiting a date for my 4th (and final – woop!) surgery, I’m in less in pain than I’ve been in over a year, and this nice thing happened today.
I hope, whatever tough things are going on for you, that some nice things can happen today for you too.
(Even if it’s only that the rain is good for the trees.)

Here’s the gorgeous cover Salt gave my collection.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 15.19.14

Posted by: stelladuffy | March 15, 2015

BAC Phoenix

On loving BAC back :

I think I first did a show at BAC in 1989, maybe ’90. For quite a while in the 90s, with Spontaneous Combustion, I improvised a play there every single Sunday night. I have acted there with a (live) chicken, washed half-naked in a pool built onstage while eye-balling Derek Jarman, scratched pieces when Scratch was BAC’s brand-new idea (and is now a term many people think has always existed), I had my 30th birthday there in an eternal day of a never-ending tech, I’ve taught impro and writing to youth and adult groups, made a solo show in the attic and shown in the studio, told stories, done readings with Apples & Snakes, devised new work, staged an exhibition of amazing photos of young women with breast cancer, I’ve been part of LifeGame and Animo with Improbable at BAC, I’ve been to weddings and parties and loads of shows and have never once walked into the building without seeing someone I know, more often than not, someone I love.

I’m not alone. Thousands of us feel the same, have experienced the same, as artists, as audience, as participants, as someone popping in for a coffee or a wine because the cafe is accessible and friendly. BAC isn’t just a building, it’s an idea. From Jude Kelly through Paul Blackman, Tom Morris, Davids Jubb and Micklem, and David Jubb’s brilliant team now, the building IS important, always has been, but the spirit is enormous. A spirit of openness, of engagement, of honestly looking at how the building is run and how to run it FOR and WITH the people – both the people of the area and the people who make the work there – often those people are the same. It has a true relationship with the local community and with the community of artists. It’s no surprise that David Jubb was one of the first supporters of Fun Palaces, nor that BAC’s Fun Palace plans are far-reaching and enormously political, working with the Katherine Low Settlement to make a difference, a political difference, in true engagement, right where they are. BAC is radical as hell and bloody welcoming at the same time.

Friday’s fire is heartbreaking, and the work to rebuild and – no doubt – build better, has already begun. Of course it has.

Lyn Gardner has written a lovely, moving piece on BAC.

You can donate here to make a difference. Even if you have never been to BAC or never known someone who has, if you work in theatre or the wider arts in the UK, then the chances are that something of BAC’s spirit has touched you. It’s time to give back.

opening of Modern Amazons exhibition, BAC 2004 - incredible photos of young women with breast cancer, thoughout the building.

opening of Modern Amazons exhibition, BAC 2004 – incredible photos of young women with breast cancer, thoughout the building.

Breaststrokes, 2004

Breaststrokes, BAC, 2004

Posted by: stelladuffy | February 28, 2015

getting it wrong right wrong right

Last week, some of us, Fun Palaces Makers and many not, shared ideas around the 50th anniversary of Jennie Lee’s White Paper, A Policy for the Arts, First Steps.

Loads of people all over the UK shared dreams and despairs, put thoughts out on social media, talked about where we’d come from and where we’re going with the arts and policy, and how much more there is still to do, how much hasn’t been done. I loved that it took minimal pushing (compared to the work it took to make Fun Palaces happen!, diff size thing, I know) and happened regardless – because people care.

And, out of it, I had an email conversation with a 2014 Fun Palaces Maker, Carine, who has been very honest with us about her experience of making a Fun Palace last year, the challenges as well as the great bits. I found the conversation both moving and invigorating, and asked Carine if I could share it more widely. Here it is, with her permission. (nb, Carine is not an arts professional and the Fun Palace she co-made last year was her first work in creating a public event of this nature. These are the people Fun Palaces are for, AND the people we’re learning from about how to make the whole thing work!)

I hope it’s useful to those of you thinking you want to make a Fun Palace (or wanting to make anything at all!) and worrying about doing it right. There is no ‘right’!

Carine : I shared #ArtsPolicy 50 with non-arts people today. They were interested but too busy/not bothered enough to get involved. It made me think I wasn’t sending the right message. Or I haven’t found the right way to send it. This brought me to think about how Alex and I are talking about/sharing the Fun Palaces. We did not manage to get the #everyoneanartist #everyoneascientist message across in 2014. And though we’re quite pleased with what we managed to do, there is huge space for improvement re getting people engaged and involved, lots to achieve in 2015.
And this led me to realise that’s why the Fun Palaces are unique : they give us the space to learn, grow, make mistakes (and sometimes turn them into happy accidents), improve, make things better the following year; but since there is no expectation, there can’t be failure or competition. The structure of the FP (and the HQ) act like a safety net for when we need reassurance, guidance.
Voilà.  That’s what the #ArtsPolicy50 thing got me thinking about today. I wish I could find better words to express my thoughts! I guess the main idea is : I found something I’m passionate about, something that is changing me. And while I’m learning to be a Maker I need to find a way to pass on why it matters (and not only to me) and I haven’t found it. Not yet…

Stella : Carine, this made me cry. I really hope you understand how useful, important and valuable your open-ness is to us, to all of us, (you included I hope?) who are trying to make whatever this “Fun Palace” thing is. Because NONE of us know. I certainly don’t. And I go to these big meetings and tell very posh/’high-powered’ people : “I don’t know – but I’m ok to not know, to learn, to make mistakes, to develop it”, and they don’t understand how I can be so honest about what I don’t know.
And I don’t understand how they can not realise what a HUGE thing we are beginning, and how weird it is of them to think anyone might fully KNOW how to do Fun Palaces yet. Ever.

Carine : Being okay about my mistakes, and open about them is one of the most valuable things the Fun Palaces have taught me.  Seeing writers/theatre makers like you being open about them too only makes you closer to your audience I think. It doesn’t stop us admiring your work, but it shows it comes from work, not a magic trick. I suspect one of the reasons we’re afraid to admit we’re sometimes wrong is the competitive system we’re brought up in (school, grades, etc…) that teaches us to be better than the others, work against them rather than with them. So Fun Palaces in schools could make such a massive difference (easier said than done I guess!!).

I love the Fun Palaces Makers – the guts it takes to get out in our own community, right where we live, and risk getting it wrong, risk getting it right, risk getting involved, risk our neighbours knowing us. I bloody love them for their daring.

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