BFI National Archive
A compelling glimpse inside an unnamed East End pub in 1963 where a talent show takes place featuring singers and strippers.
There’s something fascinating about this nine-minute silent black-and-white reel shot inside an East End pub, where the men are watching a stripper perform in a talent contest. Rather than gaze at the woman as she undresses, the cameraman focuses on the intently watching men and picks out several extraordinary faces as well as brilliantly capturing the rising tension. It’s a minor marvel, and was originally shot for use in a film by Joan Littlewood about London leisure.
The footage came from a film Littlewood was making to support her Fun Palace concept. This was intended to be a huge movable construction that would contain education and entertainment. In 1963 she shot 60 reels of 16mm rushes around London to show what people currently did for leisure and to demonstrate something else was needed. The film was lost and Fun Palace never got built, but the surviving reels present a fantastic window on social life from the era, with many expertly filmed by cameraman Walter Lassally, who also shot “We Are The Lambeth Boys” and “A Taste Of Honey”.
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.
East End; 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||LSA26403||Mute|