Posted by: stelladuffy | May 19, 2014

Radical Fun

So. I just wrote a really long and beautifully worded blog, being ever so careful about calling people out, and stepping gently so as not to tread on toes that didn’t mean to be in the way, and all that … basically a thing happened on twitter last week (don’t search, I deleted) and some people whose work I like and very much respect* had a light-hearted (I assume) go about Fun Palaces, fun being bland and miserable being more fun and fun not being radical and palaces sounding awful … That sort of thing.

And in my long and thoughtful blog I explained in great detail why this felt so ouch and how I do think fun is radical, ever so, and why community and local are huge, and the long and vital history of the people’s palace as a massively political idea.

But the internet ate my neatly-phrased blog.

So here’s the fast version.
Anger and apathy haven’t worked brilliantly yet.
For all the well-meaning and trying hard around engagement and involvement from mainstream and non-mainstream theatre makers and writers and film-makers and other artists, I see very few of us achieving the engagement and involvement we say we want to.
I see even fewer prepared to give up their own ideas to TRULY co-create.
I see a lot of lip service paid to working with rather than performing for.
I see myself in all of this – doing less than I dream I can, less than I hope I can, making less of a difference than I want to. And I’m bored with it and I’m tired of it and I want to make a difference. I want to make differently.

And maybe the Fun Palaces campaign won’t make the difference overnight. That’s why it’s a campaign, not a one-off. I don’t expect the world of arts and artists to be radically different (sadly) come Joan Littlewood’s 100th birthday on October 6th. Of course there will be Fun Palaces that just make another version of a fete**. But not all of them, not by a long shot. And those are the ones we’ll learn from.

Because I know that there are already artists making in a way they haven’t done before. Fun Palaces has already made it possible for groups to talk to each other where they had never made those links before. (Many of them via twitter.) I know some local communities are looking at their locality and what they can bring to it in a way they haven’t before.
I also know that loads of us have been trying to do this for years. But we’ve never before tried simultaneously and nationwide. We’ve never tried together.

So yeah, the other blog was better written, but this says the same. And faster.
Fun IS radical. If we let it be.

(Also, fuck cynicism.)

* and yes, I’m sure I could progress to become the kind of person who doesn’t want those whose work she likes and respects to like and respect her own work. Who doesn’t care what anyone thinks. But I’m 51 and didn’t get there yet, so maybe not this week …

** yes fetes are great. they’re not usually national/simultaneous or trying to enable open participation.


  1. It plain hurts when a blog disappears. I have the same with untold material tucked away in stolen computers. No back up.

    I like the idea of fun as a radical concept and as a palace taken over (or stormed) by the people. That’s radical and revolutionary in one. Fun Palace.

    I’m friend of Caroline Bird who wrote the poem ahout The Fun Palace for the olympic site.

  2. yes, we’ve been talking to Caroline about the poem, and her Joan respect, and I have loved the poem since it was the first thing I bumped into on the Olympic site two years ago! x

  3. Stella I’ll sign off on this. Fun is a radical concept, anarchic even. Joan saw that. We are living in very controlled environments where/were fun is meted out like it in square feet. Westfield is example number one. Personally I like Westfield but fun it isn’t.

    Storming the palace from within is the nature of fun. Your making fun a palace or making a palace fun. Either way it’s radical. The subversiveness in the central concept is there if one should look at it through Joan’s eyes, and read! And that’s what you are doing – looking through Joan’s vision to realise it.

    People fear what they don’t know because they don’t know what they fear. The word radical is not owned by those who co-opt it but by those who see it. The Fun Palace is exciting and radical and yes it says “fun” and yes it says “palace”.

    More power to your wrinkly elbows. All elbows are wrinkly. Best Wishes Lemn

  4. Yes yes and again yes. (Nb, We were both at Claire G’s funeral. We have people in common. We have not actually met in real life! So much joy to come …)

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