'She always said we didn't have enough fun in England'. Joan Littlewood at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East
'She always said we didn't have enough fun in England'. Joan Littlewood at Stratford East

A new international festival, inspired by an original idea by radical theatre director Joan Littlewood, was officially launched today.

Co-created by playwright Stella Duffy and producer Sarah-Jane Rawlings, Fun Palaces will take place at across the UK and internationally on 4 and 5 October 2014, coinciding with Littlewood's 100th birthday.

Venues ranging from Brockwell Lido to a chocolate shop in York will offer free events inspired by Littlewood's maxim of "everyone an artist, everyone a scientist."

There are a total of 105 Fun Palaces so far, with more to be announced in the coming weeks. Projects range from the Royal and Derngate Theatre turning into an interactive campsite for the weekend to a radio station in Toronto that will broadcast a live variety show.

It's been made possible through an Arts Council Excellence Award totalling £196,000, with organisers hoping it will become an annual event.

Littlewood conceived the idea in 1961 with theatre architect Cedric Price as a 'laboratory of fun, a university of the streets'. It was intended to be a temporary and moveable home to the arts and sciences that would welcome children and adults alike.

Littlewood's archivist Murray Melvin said: "Joan knew that entertainment was for thousands of people, not just hundreds in a small space... She always said we didn't have enough fun in England, it's rather frowned on, and that's where the inspiration for the Fun Palaces came from."

'Make it yourself'

A launch event was held this morning at the Roundhouse, one of the venues hosting a Fun Palace. Others taking part include the Albany in Deptford, which is co-producing the festival, and Littlewood's own venue, the Theatre Royal Stratford East.

As well as the live events there will also be a series of 'digital Fun Palaces', orchestrated by The Space's creative director Ruth Mackenzie.

Many of the Palaces were prompted by Tweets sent to the organisers in response to a call out for ideas; applications are still open for those wishing to participate through the Fun Palaces website.

Speaking to WhatsOnStage, organiser Stella Duffy said: "There's a famous Joan quote, 'I built my life on the rock of change', and I think she'd approve of this. She was all for the digital, she was all for new, and she was all for community.

"It's the reclamation of theatre, taking it out of buildings and giving it back to the people. It's saying to people, 'make it yourself'."

Sarah-Jane Rawlings added: "Fun Palaces is about making friends with your neighbours and making something happen in your community that reflects who you are and who they are."