Troublemaker’s Festival interviews: Stella Duffy
Stella Duffy, novelist, writer, performer and documentary presenter will be at Volcano Theatre as part of Troublemaker’s Festival in Swansea giving a Fun Palaces, hands-on workshop. She’ll also be leading a writing workshop walk from the train station along High Street to the sea again on Saturday 15th July. When I contacted Stella Duffy for this short interview she was heading to Penzance for three events, a new novel (The Hidden Room- published by Virago) just out and tons of Fun Palace work to do, let alone 1000 words to write on the way home. Stella Duffy is clearly a highly motivated woman. Small wonder then, she balances all of this with writing plays, acting (she was in ‘The Bill’ many years back amongst other productions) and journalism.
I first came across Stella Duffy after reading about a Fun Palace event at Brockwell Park Lido in Brixton, London organised by local people. She is the Co-director of the Fun Palaces campaign for cultural democracy. The Fun Palace idea is a great one. More on this wonderful idea below. What is remarkable is that she has managed to write so many books to date and still finds time to work on such a big national project. Thankfully, I was given the opportunity to ask her a few questions.
Stella Duffy – “everyone an artist, everyone a scientist”
PD: “Can you tell us a little about Joan Littlewood who I understand was your inspiration for Fun Palaces?”
SD: “Joan was a theatre director and activist who believed passionately in ‘genius in everyone’. In the 1960s, with the architect Cedric Price, she – and many others on a very stellar board – tried to raise the money to build a Fun Palace in the east end of London, a venue that would be free and welcoming to all, enabling people who had never before engaged with arts or sciences to actively join in, with hands-on participation and learning that was fun and exciting. Their motto was ‘everyone an artist or a scientist’. That building never came to fruition, but the idea that culture should be accessible to all – not just as audiences but as participants – remains a brilliant one, especially now when we are so aware of the value of inclusive work, and the damage done by exclusion.
Stella Duffy and cultural democracy
“Since 2013 we have been running the Fun Palaces campaign for cultural democracy. With a very small team, all of us part-time, we support local communities to create their own cultural events, community-led hands-on engagement in arts, science, craft, tech, digital and sometimes sports. Aware that arts and science have so much to learn from each other, and that working together we can do a huge amount, we have updated the motto to “everyone an artist, everyone a scientist”. Once a year we support a weekend of action with local people creating temporary ‘Fun Palaces’ for their neighbours and neighbourhood to enjoy – whether that’s in a council estate, a street, a swimming pool or a library, the key being that the community members themselves are creating by, for and with each other. Last year there were 292 Fun Palaces, made by 4800 local people with 124,000 people taking part ”
Stella Duffy on Fun Palace Makers
PD: “What has been your favourite personal experience of Fun Palaces so far?”
SD: “Far too many to list – I’m especially excited by returning Fun Palaces, when local people found so much benefit from last year, whether that be in getting to know their neighbours or learning a new skill, that they decide to sign up again and make a Fun Palace the next year, building on their learning form the year before. I also really love how the Fun Palaces Makers, all across the UK and abroad are so supportive of each other and what they’re doing in and for their own communities. ‘
Stella Duffy on an equal and inclusive society
PD: “What drives your own passion to communicate?”
SD: “Working class childhood, a belief in the genius of everyone, a trust that when we finally achieve an equal and inclusive society, everyone will have a chance to be creative.”
Stella Duffy on brilliant people
PD: “Can we dream big in an age of austerity?”
SD: Yes. We have to. Besides, the current “austerity” plan isn’t working, not least because it ignores the brilliance of people. There is no austerity of brilliant people.
PD: “Is there room in business to make places truly fit and welcoming for all people?”
SD: There is in the best businesses.
PD: “How important is it to keep things local?”
SD: Vital. We make change where we are, where we live, in our most day to day interactions.
PD: “What one thing would you do to change the world?”
SD: Genuinely equal access for all to education and healthcare.
Troublemaker’s Festival – 13th -16th July #trouble2017
“Changing the world, starting with the High Street”
The festival reimagines the stretch of street between the station and Castle Square as a pedestrian-friendly place where arts and culture aren’t something special but are part of everyday life. It opens up buildings that people perhaps don’t normally see and uses spaces that perhaps people don’t normally notice. The Troublemakers Festival is for everyone who uses Swansea High Street and cares about it’s future. It’s for people who live on High Street, work on High Street, shop on the High Street, socialize on High Street, pass through High Street. The festival is for young people and old people. It’s for Art lovers and show-goers and pizza fans and it’s for people who’ve never been to a gallery or theatre in their lives.
Come along as together a manifesto is created for the High Street. Lose at the Unfair Funfair, Levitate The Palace Theatre, have a Tea Party, join a march, recreate extraordinary speeches from history, watch films, make placards and eat pizza. Be inspired, entertained and provoked. A chance to be at the heart of the change taking place from the station down to the sea. Everyone is welcome!
Please note some events are bookable. Follow event links within programmes (see below for further detailed information) to book these events in advance.
Please also note: The road will be made pedestrian friendly and will be closed from The Grand Hotel down to Argos on Saturday and Sunday from 10.00 am – 5.00 pm.
Festival partners include The Last Resort, Sew Swansea, GaleriesSimpson, TechHub, Urban Village, Cinema & Co, Oxfam, Castle Square, Elysium Studios and Gallery, UWTSD, PEG Talks, The Environment Centre, The Women’s Institute, Hyst…
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