Press Release, 11 May 2014
FUN PALACES 2014 RECEIVES ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND EXCEPTIONAL AWARD
On the weekend of 4 & 5 October 2014, in arts centres and museums, marquees and school halls, parks and high streets, something remarkable will occur: a vast communal celebration of arts, culture and sciences quite unlike anything that has come before.
This extraordinary event, presented by the Albany and Fun Palaces, has been made possible with the support of £196,470 of public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England’s Exceptional awards programme.
Marking the 100th birthday of Joan Littlewood, one of the Twentieth Century’s most significant theatre directors and cultural innovators, Fun Palaces will bring to life the vision she created with Cedric Price for spaces linking arts and sciences, entertainment and education, a campaign of culture at the heart of all of our communities.
Visit one of more than 80 Pop Up Fun Palaces across the country, online and overseas; immerse yourself in an interactive treasure trail, learn the secrets of Victorian magic, go underwater dancing in your local Lido, make art with your food, watch cardboard robots battling it out on the high street, create your own Fun Palace game on your mobile phone, or join an epic walk between two of the Fun Palace sites…
Fun Palaces brings together over 80 partners (and counting!), including Joan’s own Theatre Royal Stratford East, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Roundhouse, Turner Contemporary in Margate, Gladstone’s Library, York Cocoa House, Brockwell Lido, Old Bexley CofE Primary and a Canadian radio station, as well as a Digital Fun Palace, in one of the most ambitious creative collaborations the UK has ever seen.
Fun Palaces belong to everyone and can be created by anyone. Each is driven by the five core principles that underpinned Joan Littlewood’s vision:
• Fun Palaces are FREE
• Fun Palaces are LOCAL, with community involvement, engagement and participation at heart
• Fun Palaces are INNOVATIVE, finding new ways to bring the arts, culture and sciences together
• Fun Palaces are TRANSFORMATIVE, intending to transform the place/spaces they take place in: they transform the makers, and they transform the participants
• Fun Palaces are ENGAGING: Fun Palaces are about full participation. Sitting and listening is fine, as long as they also include opportunities to have a go.
“This is not just an event, it is a movement, shouting that arts and culture belong at the heart of the nation. As the Olympics did for sport, Fun Palaces could show that arts, culture and science are also core passions for Britain.”
Stella Duffy, Co-Director, Fun Palaces
“Choose what you want to do … 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”
Joan Littlewood and Cedric Price on their vision for the Fun Palace
“Fun Palaces is a great project that places engagement and participation at its heart. With more than 80 Pop Up Palaces set in communities across the country, it will give a significant number of people the opportunity to immerse themselves in a wonderful mix of arts and science. Underpinned by an initial partnership of more than 80 organisations, it shows great ambition to break new ground and to innovate around audience engagement and we are delighted to be able to support this project.”
Joyce Wilson, Area Director, London, Arts Council England
Stella Duffy is available for interview.
For further information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
020 8692 4446 ext. 267
Notes to Editors
About the Fun Palace
In 1961 Joan Littlewood and architect Cedric Price conceived the Fun Palace as a ‘laboratory of fun’, ‘a university of the streets’. It was to be a temporary and moveable home to the arts and sciences that would welcome children and adults alike, based on Joan Littlewood’s motto of “Everyone an artist, everyone a scientist.”
The original design said:
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.
The original Fun Palace was never brought to fruition: it was too costly, too ambitious, too easy for people to say no. It was ahead of its time. Fun Palaces will capture the spirit and aspiration of Joan and Cedric’s vision in celebration of Joan Littlewood’s 100th Birthday.
About Joan Littlewood
Joan was born in South London on 6 October 1914, she died in 2002. At eighteen she won a scholarship to RADA and, having left drama school early, she walked from London to (almost) Manchester to get away from the constraints of 1930s London theatre. In Manchester she met Ewan MacColl. They worked with actors and writers, making dynamic and provocative work. Following political activism during the Spanish Civil War and WW2, the company re-formed as Theatre Workshop. In 1946 they were invited by Ruth Pennyman to live and work from Ormesby Hall, which they did for eighteen months. The company toured and worked together, developing the Laban-based movement work and ensemble that became their hallmark. At the end of 1952 the company decided to return to a settled base. MacColl chose to stay in the north, Theatre Workshop moved to Stratford.
The Theatre Royal Stratford East was a dilapidated palace of varieties when Littlewood and her partner Gerry Raffles took it over took it over in January 1953. The company renovated the building and Joan’s great causes – community and political theatre, improvisation, the working class language, the inclusion of children – helped change the face of British theatre.
The list of hits – Oh! What A Lovely War, Fings Ain’t What They Used To Be, The Quare Fellow, Sparrers Can’t Sing, A Taste of Honey – are as well known as the star names who worked with Joan; Barbara Windsor, Harry H Corbett, Brian Murphy, Yootha Joyce, Brendan Behan, Lionel Bart, Victor Spinetti, Nigel Hawthorne, Murray Melvin to name a few.
About Fun Palaces
Fun Palaces was born at the 2013 Devoted and Disgruntled event, when Stella Duffy called a session that asked ‘Who wants to do something for Littlewood’s centenary that isn’t another revival?’. Inspired by a hugely positive response to the idea of staging a Fun Palace, Stella teamed up with Sarah-Jane Rawlings to make it happen. They are now the Co-Directors of Fun Palaces, working with and based at the Albany, developing the Fun Palaces campaign for 2014 and beyond.
Stella Duffy has worked in theatre for over 30 years as an actor, director, playwright, facilitator and workshop leader. She is an award-winning writer with over fifty short stories, ten plays, and thirteen novels published in fifteen languages. She regularly blogs and campaigns about the arts, women’s and LGBT issues. From 2010-2013 she led the Chaosbaby Project, a multi-disciplinary arts project made by 70 artists, ages 17-70, working together in Open Space over three years to create The Chaosbaby show. She is an Associate Artist with Improbable and the Artistic Director of Shaky Isles Theatre.
Sarah-Jane Rawlings is a Freelance Producer. Her recent work includes: Meet Me at the Albany, a pioneering Creative Ageing initiative at the Albany, Deptford, in partnership with Entelechy Arts and Lewisham Council and a research project for the Lyric Hammersmith on data capture. She also produced Storm at the Lyric Hammersmith, (with Graeae and Push), a week long festival of training and participation for disabled, Deaf, and BME artists; designed and managed a series of networking events for Deaf and disabled artists, (ACE managed funds) and spent time with Lisa Hammond and Rachel Spence on the development of their first show, No Idea. Sarah-Jane was General Manager at Improbable from 2007 – 2013. Prior to this, she worked as a Theatre Officer at ACE London, with a responsibility for contemporary performance. She has also worked at the Lyric Hammersmith and Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, managing their Education Programmes.
About the Albany
The Albany is an arts centre based in the heart of Deptford with a history embedded in the local community, and driven by the cultural diversity and creative mix of South East London. The venue has a 500 capacity ‘big top inspired’ main house, as well as two smaller studio spaces, 26 resident companies housed in offices throughout the building, a café and a large garden.
The Albany has a diverse programme of events including theatre, music, comedy, spoken word, circus and work for families. From Kate Tempest’s Brand New Ancients and Soweto Kinch’s The Legend of Mike Smith to Simon Mole’s Indiana Jones and the Extra Chair and Talawa’s God’s Property, the Albany commissions and develops new projects before they embark on London runs and/or successful tours – often returning to re-meet Albany audiences as polished pieces. In many ways a ‘spiritual home’ for works that challenge new forms, audience dynamic and social relevance, the Albany continues to work with high-profile partners and artists to celebrate original ideas and risk-taking.
The Albany has a range of engagement and participation enterprises, such as its UNCOVER Theatre Company and Music Company for young people, and Meet Me at the Albany, an artist led day club for the over 60s taking place every Tuesday in the Albany café, with a activities and performances for older people.
About Arts Council England
Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2010 and 2015, we will invest £1.9 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk
About Arts Council England Exceptional Awards
Arts Council England announced the Exceptional Awards programme in July 2013. It recognises that, on occasion, arts organisations may wish to respond to a one-off opportunity to create a project that is of such ambition that it sits outside the normal programme of the organisation and does not fit into existing Arts Council funding routes. Therefore, the Arts Council is making a small number of Exceptional awards of more than £50,000 to fund projects making a significant additional contribution to helping the Arts Council deliver its strategic vision of Great art and culture for everyone; through at least one of the Arts Council’s five goals.