Posted by: stelladuffy | April 5, 2013

Fun Palaces 2014

We’ll have a dedicated website as soon as we can, but for now, here’s the taster information …

edited (Jan 2014) to add, here it is! :

I’ve mentioned on this blog a couple of times that there is a Fun Palace idea. There is. It’s a big one, and it’s growing daily. It’s got so much enthusiasm already that it both thrills and excites me. It also terrifies me because it could be so astonishing – and so right.

This is the thing :

6 October 2014 will be Joan Littlewood’s centenary. At Improbable’s annual Devoted & Disgruntled in January I called a session asking people if they wanted to do something about/for/with her centenary – something that ISN’T a revival of Fings or Oh What a Lovely War (they’re happening anyway).

At the D&D session we talked about Littlewood, about Theatre Workshop, Littlewood’s walk to Manchester, her work in Scotland, about Ormesby Hall, about folk music. And then about the Fun Palace.
Littlewood and architect Cedric Price discussed a venue where you could :
“Choose what you want to do – or watch someone else doing it. Learn how to handle tools, paint, babies, machinery, or just listen to your favourite tune. Dance, talk or be lifted up to where you can see how other people make things work. Sit out over space with a drink and tune in to what’s happening elsewhere in the city. Try starting a riot or beginning a painting – or just lie back and stare at the sky.”
While the actual venue never happened (as such), there were two temporary incarnations in Bubble City (1968) and the Stratford Fair (1975)

We also talked about a walk – Stratford East to Manchester. Or Liverpool as she didn’t quite make it to Manchester on the walk. Or Stratford East to Stratford-upon-Avon. Or Stratford East to the world. Walks from one venue/company to another, linking them all, all over the country. Walks with political lectures, talks, songs, shows …

On the day at D&D, many people who were in the room were up for it, Winchester Theatre Royal would like to link it to their own centenary in 2014, Wendy Smith at Sage Gateshead, Mike Bradwell, Erica Whyman put their hands up on twitter and facebook. Here’s the report from that session.

We now have 80 theatres, venues and companies, and many independent artists interested in being part of the project, creating or participating in Fun Palaces for the weekend of Littlewood’s centenary. They are a hugely varied range of venues and companies engaged in discussing how to take part, companies as wide-ranging as Improbable, Kneehigh, BAC, MakeBelieve Arts, the RSC, the Manchester Royal Exchange, the Liverpool Everyman, Pilot Theatre in York, Live in Newcastle, Hall for Cornwall, and Stratford East – of course. We want to make sure as many theatres/companies/individual artists know about the idea as possible. We could do with some scientists too. Littlewood loved sciences and truly believed arts and sciences could work together in the Fun Palace. Ideally it will be a Britain-wide thing, and maybe further, while Littlewood personally worked in France, Germany, Nigeria, Tunisia, she inspired many far further away.

Right now, the ‘we’ behind this, having meetings with venues and companies and sending emails, making phone calls, is just me and producer Sarah Jane Rawlings, both of us doing so around our other work, in between our other work. We have been hugely encouraged by the support of Murray Melvin and Peter Rankin who worked with Littlewood, Murray has made the Theatre Workshop archive available to us, with information about the earliest incarnations of the idea.

It’s going to get bigger, I have no doubt we will be supported and encouraged by all the companies who want to take apart, I fully expect that our major funding and cultural bodies will get behind this in every way, and we will also have the support of philanthropic businesses and individuals who know that Littlewood’s idea was just ahead of its time and now its time has come.
Last year the world came to Stratford East.
Now we can take Littlewood’s dream from Stratford East out to the UK and worldwide.

Here are a few more specifics about the proposal for October 2014.
Fun Palaces 2014 – the idea
We’ll have a website up as soon as we can, with more information to download about creating your own Fun Palace or being part of one at a theatre or venue near you, and there will be an Open Space in September/October this year to begin to make these dreams even more real.

A weekend of Fun Palaces, across the UK and further, to celebrate Littlewood’s centenary 4/5 October 2014. It will be what we make it. And we can all be part of making it. Want to play?


  1. Hi Stella. We’d like to play in Northampton – Royal & Derngate. Do keep me posted. All the best, Martin

  2. Bilimankhwe are very keen to get involved. We have many international links which might be of use to you also. Do get in touch, we want to play

  3. Hello Stella, I’m an East 15 Graduate and would definitely like to get involved! I run Sky Blue Theatre Co in Cambridge, small company but love the idea and may be able to help in some way. We want to play too!

  4. What a wonderful, truly exciting idea!!! Good luck with it – and even though II can’t be there to be involved or enjoy, a thank you on behalf of the thousands of lucky ones who will enjoy!


  5. Can we play too! :0)

  6. Excellent idea!

  7. I want to join the fun and am based in a palace! (Now an international school – St Julian’s in Portugal.) Think kids and schools should be involved. Will be happy to help in any way that I can. BIG RESPECT to Joan.

  8. I’m in!

  9. Yay! X

  10. We at Northern Stage in Newcastle want to join in too!

  11. You’re in! Woo hoo!

  12. Reblogged this on Hugh Chapman's Blog and commented:
    6 October 2014 will be Joan Littlewood’s centenary

  13. Hi Stella, my hand’s up.
    Mike Packer

  14. that’s great Mike. let me know where I can get hold of you and I’ll send you our info. if you leave an email address here, I can quickly delete it so you don’t get spammed by the world.

  15. As a dance science girl passionate about the arts-science interface I would definitely like to pitch in.
    Fully loaded website coming soon…!

    All best

  16. Amazing getting from that lovely d&d conversation to here. London bubble would love to play. And Bubble City… ? we need to find out what that was and maybe respond.

  17. Peth, of course I have you on the list anyway! Have everyone from that first D&D meeting, plus about another 100 venues and companies now. Eek! Bubble City was a two week artists &architects arts garden event somewhere between (depending on who you speak to!) Paternoster Square and Tower Hill. We expect some of one who were there will be at the Open Space at TRSE on October 7th (this year, for kick off), so you should be able to speak to people about it – a London Bubble response to Bubble City would be amazing! Hope to see you at TRSE on October 7th.

  18. Kabosh in Belfast would be keen to participate Stella

  19. Paula, you’re on our list already! via Lyndsey Jackson?

  20. Hi Stella!
    Long time no see!
    Very int in this project. i am now events sec of the landscape institute ( london branch) and was wondering how we might get involved. Do you forsee this as including only permanent theatre spaces ie buildings? Could landscape, parks , squares, streets etc also feature?
    I am guessing yes but would like to discover more.

  21. and indeed, the answer is yes!

  22. The all new members of staff within the all new Performing Arts department at Newham Collage, of whom I am lucky enough to be one, are rearing to go so please, do let me know as, when and what we can do to celebrate such a wonderful project?!! Cheers, Charlie Cox, a So and So!!🙂

  23. Charlie, yay ! see email.

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