Action Space Extended

Ref: MS 426

Title: Action Space Extended

Scope: A collection of material relating to the community arts company Action Space (Mobile)

Dates: 1968-2015
Level: Fonds
Extent: 69 boxes
Name of creator: Mary Turner

Administrative / biographical history:

The collection consists of material relating to the community arts company Action Space, later Action Space Mobile, including photographs, slides, posters, publicity, sound and video recordings.

Action Space Mobile began as Action Space, founded in London in 1968 by Mary and Ken Turner and others who were drawn together to discuss changes in education and culture, and the position of the arts in society. Linked to Joan Littlewood’s ideas for an Adult Fun Palace and the beginnings of the Notting Hill Carnival, to the development of Arts Labs around the country encouraging participatory events, and the Turners’ work in involving Unions in supporting the arts, the idea was to take revolutionary work out of the galleries and into the community.

This formed the basis of a long-lived combined arts and theatre company, which has developed and changed over the years under the influence of the artists involved, the availability (or lack of) of funding, the priorities and agendas of the authorities, and most of all the creativity and devotion of the workers.

In 1971, Action Space moved into a derelict piano factory in Harmood Street, Camden, and then in 1975 to the Drill Hall in Chenies Street, WC1, continuing the work of running community-based projects, events and tours involving children, people with disabilities, local communities, students and many others. After financial difficulties in 1980, the company was split into three: the Drill Hall as a venue, Action Space London Events for the children’s and disability work, and Action Space Mobile for the touring performances and residencies. In 1983, Action Space Mobile moved from London to Yorkshire, led by Mary Turner, working “in communities dealing with complex social changes and issues, with people from deprived areas, people with disabilities or who were institutionalised, both in the UK and in Romania”.

Action Space Mobile continued to thrive from its base in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, until 2015, delivering “a wide range of creative arts workshops using a diverse group of professionally trained artists whose skills include visual arts, craft, movement, dance, music, storytelling, puppetry, film and digital projections.” Participants in the workshops included children and adults with learning and physical disabilities, those with mental health difficulties or alcohol and drug addictions, schoolchildren, local communities, asylum seekers and refugees, the elderly, students and overseas communities. In 1984, its first fully integrated theatre company for adults with disability - In the Boat - was born, followed in 2002 by a second - Cross the Sky. Other projects included Visibility, an arts project for children with disabilities and their friends and siblings, as well as further community arts and theatre workshops and residencies. Many of these projects have continued in spite of the closure of Action Space Mobile.

The archive of Action Space - Action Space Extended - was put together by the painstaking work of Mary Turner and others in order to enable the production of a book of the same title, which was published in November 2012.

  • Related collections: Curtis Collection; National Play Collection
  • Source: Donated by Mary Turner in 2012
  • System of arrangement: As received
  • Subjects: Community arts project - England; Community theatre - England; Community arts projects - Romania
  • Names: Turner, Mary, 1933-
  • Conditions of access: Available to all researchers, by appointment
  • Restrictions: None
  • Copyright: Action Space Mobile
  • Finding aids: Listed