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Action Space (1968 - 2015)



  • Existence: 1968 - 2015
  • Usage: 1968 - 1981
  • Usage: 1981 - 2015


Action Space Mobile began as Action Space, a community arts company 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 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 despite the closure of Action Space Mobile

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Action Space Archive

Reference code: 426
Scope and Contents

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.

Dates: 1968 - 2015