Stella Duffy awarded an OBE for services to the Arts

Fun Palaces Co-Director Stella Duffy will receive an OBE for services to the Arts in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2016.


Celebrated writer, theatremaker and Fun Palaces Co-Director Stella Duffy will receive an OBE for Services to the Arts in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2016.


In a career spanning thirty years Stella has written thirteen novels, over fifty short stories and ten plays. Her novels have been translated into fifteen languages. The Room of Lost Things and State of Happiness were both long-listed for the Orange Prize. The Room of Lost Things won Stonewall Writer of the Year 2008, Theodora won Stonewall Writer of the Year 2010. She won the 2002 CWA Short Story Dagger for Martha Grace, and again in 2013 for Come Away With Me. Her short story collection Everything is Moving, Everything is Joined was published by Salt in 2014. Her fourteenth novel London Lies Beneath will be published by Virago in October 2016.

Her plays include The Book of Ruth (and Naomi) (Bush Theatre); The Wedding (Manchester Royal Exchange), Medea (The Scoop & Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh); Prime Resident (NYT, Soho Theatre); and Immaculate Conceit (Lyric Hammersmith).

She adapted her novel State of Happiness for film for Fiesta/Zentropa, and her short story From the River’s Mouth as a short film directed by Deborah Paige, and HBO have optioned both of her Theodora novels for a television series. Her latest play commission is The Matilda Effect for Three Legged Theatre, director Lucy Pitman-Wallace.

Fun Palaces

Driven by her belief in active citizenship, in 2013 Stella established Fun Palaces. Inspired by theatre director Joan Littlewood and architect Cedric Price’s never-built vision for a Fun Palace, Fun Palaces are free and participatory spaces of learning between the arts and sciences in which people come together to create a local Fun Palace, learn from each other and celebrate their own community.

Initially conceived as a one-off weekend celebration for Joan Littlewood’s centenary, Stella’s idea quickly grew to become a year-round campaign championing community-led arts, science and cultural engagement for all, culminating in a worldwide weekend celebration each October (1 & 2 October 2016).

Each year, the part-time Fun Palaces team of four, based at the Albany, Deptford, facilitate thousands of volunteer makers to create Fun Palaces for their local communities to enjoy. Fun Palaces can be created by anyone, on any scale and are made by a variety of people of all ages – artists, scientists, librarians, shopkeepers, knitters, butchers and more. Fun Palaces happen everywhere, from large-scale venues such as Southbank Centre, to swimming pools and universities, shopping centres and woodlands.

Over the two weekends in 2014 and 2015 there were 280 Fun Palaces created by over 5000 Fun Palace Makers across 11 nations, with 90,000 people taking part.


Stella has worked in theatre for thirty years, primarily in collaborative, devised, improvised and physical theatre capacity. She was a member of the improvisation company Spontaneous Combustion for over twenty years. She is an Associate Artist with theatre company Improbable, and was a member of Improbable’s Lifegame company for ten years, touring the UK (incl. National, Bristol Old Vic, Lyric Hammersmith), to the US (off-Broadway and La Jolla, San Diego), and Australia. She founded and co-directed the Chaosbaby Project, a large-scale, group-devised piece made entirely in Open Space.

LGBT Campaigning Work

Stella is a Patron of Diversity Role Models which works to end bullying of LGBTQ young people. A prominent supporter of Stonewall, she has hosted Stonewall’s annual fundraising dinner for the past four years.

Other Campaigning Work

She has had breast cancer twice, at the age of 36 and again at 50, and has spoken for Breast Cancer Care and Modern Amazons about young women with breast cancer, and written for many publications about the impact of disease on daily life.

She is active in the ongoing campaign against Lambeth council’s closure of local libraries – all ten Lambeth libraries and one archive made Fun Palaces in 2015.

She is on the steering group and a founding member of the Women’s Equality Party.

“I have worked in theatre and as a writer for more than thirty years, always with the hope that our work in the arts can be of value to all and make a difference. For example, Fun Palaces was born of my mounting frustration at the continued lip service paid to full cultural engagement – an engagement where everyone is truly welcome to participate, as creators, not just audiences. I hope that this unexpected honour will help us push open some doors, have vital conversations, make the difference we need. The change we believe in, the empowered and active citizens who are Joan Littlewood’s “everyone an artist and everyone a scientist”, is needed now more than ever before”. – Stella Duffy

Notes to the Editor

Press Contact: Daniel King 07772 081915 |

Interview: Stella Duffy is available for interview.

Photography: high-resolution photography of Stella is available here.

Stella Duffy’s Biography
Stella Duffy was born in Woolwich, south London in 1963. She is the youngest of seven children. Her mother was born and raised in Kennington, her parents met when her father came to the UK with the RNZAF during WW2. Her family moved to her father’s native New Zealand when she was five years old, and she grew up in Tokoroa. She studied English Literature and Drama at Victoria University of Wellington, and returned to the UK in 1986, she has lived in London ever since. She now lives in Loughborough Junction, south London and is married to the writer Shelley Silas.

Fun Palaces: 1 & 2 October 2016
More information: / @FunPalaces / Newsletter. The 2015 Fun Palaces Evaluation including statistics and quotes can be found here. A short film about Fun Palaces 2015 film can be viewed here.

The Fun Palaces team are: Stella Duffy, Sarah-Jane Rawlings, Hannah Lambert and Kirsty Lothian

Stella’s 14th novel London Lies Beneath will be published by Virago on October 27th 2016 and will be available from all good book shops.