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Lumb Bank Fun Palace

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Lumb Fun for the Day

Bec Evans was one of over 300 people who visited the Lumb Bank Fun Palace on Saturday 4 October.

Many stories start with meeting a mysterious stranger on a path – and so does this one. Although the stranger in question wasn’t so strange or mysterious at all – just a lost local writer with a satnav baffled by Lumb Bank’s craggy location.

I’d spent the morning assembling various family members and readying them for a wet and windy walk up to Lumb Bank, Ted Hughes’ former home and now an Arvon centre for creative writing – one of 100 locations being turned into Fun Palaces for the day.

It’s pretty rare that the home of the former poet laureate throws its doors open so we set off early. The expected muddy trudge turned into a sun-blessed walk as the clouds lifted and kids and adults hiked through the woods up to the house – chatting breathlessly to the now not-so-lost writer.

Writing, walking, creating

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After saying goodbye to our lost literary friend, we made our way to the garden where we found radio writer Winston Plows gazing out across the Colden Valley, his transistor radio playing in the rhododendron tree behind him. He was one of the local writers who contributed prompts to a writing trail. The trail wound its way through the grounds offering the opportunity to write location-based pieces taking in the medlar tree, the bee bole garden, and the window in the wall.

A barn choc-full of creativity

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In the lantern-lit barn it was time to get creative. Local artist Lou Crosby was constructing a huge ‘Iron Man’ comic and throughout the afternoon children drew scenes from Ted Hughes’ famous story. Nobody could believe their eyes as the finished panels were mounted on the wall.

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While my Mum settled into the sofa to read from the mobile library, my niece and nephew got all three-dimensional with plaster of Paris sculptures. One of the main attractions was a typewriter which fascinated the millennial generation: “so this is what you used before IPads?”

More cake please!

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Over in the main house a film of Ted Hughes’ life was shown in the library by the Elmet Trust. Afterwards visitors could take a guided tour around his former home.

We arrived in the dining room at the same time as ten-year old budding Bake-Off star Molly sliced her home-made triple-layer chocolate delight – yum! She was one of many volunteer bakers who fuelled the visitors with cake throughout the afternoon.

In the kitchen the kettles were kept on a rolling boil to refill coffee and tea pots. The Lumb Bank crockery was put through its paces – used to providing refreshment to 20 writers at a time the cups were in high demand. Duty called and I sunk my hands into the washing up bowl.

Music, words and fire

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The soundtrack to the afternoon was provided by local players including Hebden Bridge Junior Brass Band, the Norden Saxophone Quartet, and songs from ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ sung by Halifax Thespians.

The fun cumulated with an open mic session and a fire garden finale. A huge amount of work went into organising the event. Assistant centre director Jill Penny coordinated it all with support from Lumb Bank and Arvon staff, volunteers and the local community. She told me she was amazed how generous everyone had been volunteering ideas, creativity, time, bunting and cake to make the event happen – and a huge success.

As we walked back through the woods I asked my nine-year-old niece what she thought. “It was fun.” She replied. I think Joan Littlewood would be happy with that.

A Laboratory of Fun

The Fun Palace was conceived by Joan Littlewood and Cedric Price in 1961 as a temporary and moveable home to the arts and sciences. The idea was revived by writer, theatremaker and regular Arvon tutor Stella Duffy (who is teaching at Arvon next month – details here). Lumb Bank was one of over 100 Fun Palaces that hosted free events over the weekend. Made by the people for the people there was something for everyone – children and adults alike. As Joan Littlewood said, “everyone an artist – everyone a scientist.”

Find out more at funpalaces.co.uk

“Choose what you want to do… dance, talk or be lifted up to where you can see how other people make things work. Sit out over space with a drink and tune into to what’s happening elsewhere in the city. Try starting a riot or beginning a painting – or just lie back at stare at the sky.” Joan Littlewood

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