On Playgrounds and the Archive: Joan Littlewood’s Stratford Fair, 1967-1975

  • 1pm

  • Adam House, Adam House Lecture Theatre
    3 Chambers Street
    EH1 1HT

Speaker: Ana Bonet Miro

The deprivation ravaging East London’s urban life grounded the Fun Palace programme that Joan Littlewood initiated in the early 1960s. If the democratic and transformative agency of the playground became the master image of this cultural programme, it is the encounter with the local government politics of slum clearance that shaped Stratford Fair between 1967 and 1975. Coordinated by Littlewood and addressed to the local youth, it was an educational initiative to reclaim public land through the production of community-led and temporary playgrounds and fair events in the vacant sites near The Theatre Royal.

The democratic ends and systematic means of Stratford Fair were constituted by the interweaving of playground and archive. Scholarship to date has discussed Stratford playgrounds as a trigger for the political imagination of minority local youths, but has left unexplored the central role that media played in the construction of its public agenda. This paper explores the archive as an active site for Stratford Fair. Drawing on the concept of cultural techniques, the analysis of a range of records grounds the discussion of how these objects and the practices that they constitute speak politically about the fair’s public ambition. It also reflects upon the distributed agency of the archive as site of representation of the fair, and questions the lack of attention to Stratford Fair in architectural scholarship to date.


Ana Bonet Miro is a lecturer in Architectural Design and Architectural Technology and PhD Candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She is a registered architect in Spain since 2000. Currently she is researching Joan Littlewood’s Fun Palace programme during the 1960s and 70s. Her research interests lay at the intersection of architecture with the cultural studies of play, technology and education.

Part of the 2017/2018 ESALA Research Seminar Series. Free and open to all.