13 November 2014 / Events

Joan Littlewood: Her Vision and Legacies

Discussion panel with Philip Hedley, Derek Paget & Sarah-Jane Rawlings, Chaired By Professor Nadine Holdsworth

In her centenary year, this discussion panel will explore the on-going impact and legacy of the ground-breaking theatre director and community activist, Joan Littlewood (1914-2002). The panel will talk about the qualities that made Littlewood’s approach to theatre so refreshing during the mid-twentieth century and offer some reflections on how contemporary theatre makers and cultural producers have been inspired by her work in recent revivals such as the 2014 Oh What a Lovely War at the Theatre Royal Stratford East or in the ambitious Fun Palace initiative that will see a national network of hundreds of local, pop-up Fun Palaces across Britain during the weekend of 4-5 October 2014.

Philip Hedley has had a fifty-year career in theatre, inspiringly influenced by the work of Joan Littlewood. He was a founding student in 1961 at the E15 Acting School, which was based on her rehearsal methods. Later he was assistant to her for two years, and later still became Artistic Director of her theatre, the Theatre Royal Stratford East. During his 25 years in that post he produced and/or directed over a hundred new plays and built up an audience that was totally diverse in age, race and class. Away from the Theatre Royal he ran two other regional theatres and guest-directed in many more. He staged productions also in Sydney, Vancouver, Khartoum and London’s West End. He has been a constant campaigner championing young people’s theatre, opportunities for new writers and young directors, regional theatre and, perhaps above all, multi-ethnic theatre.

Nadine Holdsworth is Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Warwick. She has spent a great deal of time researching Joan Littlewood’s theatre and community activism and has published Joan Littlewood’s Theatre (2011), and Joan Littlewood (2006), as well as articles about Theatre Workshop’s relationship with the Arts Council (NTQ, 1999) and on Littlewood’s playground projects (RiDE, 2007). In addition she has published the edited collection Theatre and National Identities: Re-Imagining Conceptions of Nation (2014), Theatre & Nation (2010) and edited John McGrath’s collected writings, Naked Thoughts That Roam About (2002), as well as John McGrath: Plays for England (2005). She is currently embarking on research on amateur theatre in the Royal Navy for an AHRC-funded project Amateur Dramatics: Crafting Communities in Time and Space.

Derek Paget is Visiting Fellow in the Department of Film, Theatre and Television at the University of Reading. He was Principal Investigator for the AHRC Research project ‘Acting with Facts: Actors Performing the Real in British Theatre and Television Since 1990’ (2007-2010), during which time around 30 actors and other creative personnel were interviewed by his team. Once a theatre worker, he was involved with West End productions, with Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop company at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, and with early Alternative Theatre (notably at the Kings Head, Islington). He retains a supporting interest in the Theatre Royal, Stratford East and its work. He is the author of two books – True Stories?: Documentary drama on Radio, Screen and Stage (1990) and No Other Way To Tell It: Docudrama on Film and Television (2nd edition 2011, 1st edition 1998). He researches and writes on Documentary Theatre (Theatre Workshop’s 1963 play Oh What a Lovely War has been a special focus of interest), and on screen docudrama.

Sarah-Jane Rawlings is a freelance producer and Co-Director of Fun Palaces, a campaign for nationwide public engagement in the arts, inspired by Joan Littlewood and Cedric Price’s (designed but never built) 1961 vision of a Fun Palace, ‘a university of the streets’, ‘a laboratory of fun’. Her producing work prior to this has been varied, ranging from the development of Meet Me at the Albany at the Albany Deptford, a creative day centre supporting the health and well being of isolated older people to a digital project linking schools in Hunan, China and Manchester, England through the writing of a soap opera over the internet. She also produced Storm at the Lyric Hammersmith, a week-long participatory festival of physical and devised theatre for disabled, Deaf and BME artists. Sarah-Jane was General Manager for Improbable from 2007 – 2013. Prior to this, she worked as a Theatre Officer at ACE London, with a responsibility for contemporary performance. She has also worked at the Lyric Hammersmith and Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester managing their education departments


13 November 2014




Swedenborg Hall, Barter Street, London, UK