BFI National Archive
Scenes from Keeling House, a council block in Bethnal Green, filmed in 1963 for Joan Littlewood’s film about London past-times.
A small child is filmed on the ground outside Keeling House in Bethnal Green (now listed and converted to luxury flats), before we take a grimy lift to the upper floors and see the tiny balconies, one occupied by a forlorn tricycle. Also filmed is a sign forbidding ball games and the playing of musical instruments. The intention was to show how hard it was for London children to find a place to play, part of a film project by Joan Littlewood that explored London leisure life in 1963.
Joan Littlewood was an English theatre director best remembered for her work in productions such as "A Taste of Honey", "Fings Ain’t Wot They Used t’Be" and "Oh, What a Lovely War!" Her interests, however, went far beyond the world of theatre. In collaboration with the architect Cedric Price she came up with the idea of Fun Palaces. Their idea was to create a moveable construction that would become a space where people of all ages could come together to explore and learn about arts, science and culture, a “university of the streets”.
In order to promote this venture she made a film which was reportedly shown at the National Film Theatre in the early 1970s but has since disappeared without a trace. This short film is part of the rushes shot as part of that project in London and the South East. Filmed in pubs and clubs, galleries and museums, air shows and stock car races, the 16mm films are a window on life in 1963, from mixed couples dancing in backstreet clubs, striptease acts in East End pubs, and life in the new tower blocks which were springing up out of the postwar ‘slum clearance’.
Although sadly the Fun Palaces did not come to fruition during her lifetime, in October 2014, the weekend before her centenary, hundreds of fun palaces appeared across the UK and beyond. During the weekend, over 150 venues and companies enlisted along with independent artists, scientists and community events organisers. Fun Palaces are now very much a community event created by and for local people. They are held in a variety of locations, ranging from libraries, shopping centres, schools, parks, village squares, community halls, swimming pools, etc.
Keeling House; Bethnal Green; London; United Kingdom
Documentary; Women's filmmaking
Director: Joan Littlewood
Camera operator: Walter Lassally
|Archive name||Format||LSA ID||Archive's identifier||Sound|
|BFI National Archive||ProRes digital file||LSA26402||Mute|