In the late 60s Ken and Mary Turner founded performance art group Action Space, using multi-coloured inflatables as the stage for improvised performances in parks, squares and council estates. Ken’s son Huw Wahl has now made a film about the group, and created an all-new inflatable that will serve as a temporary Flatpack venue in Victoria Square from 22-24 April.
For the last three days of this year’s festival, Flatpack are honoured to explore the legacy of these art pioneers, including the World premiere of a new documentary Action Space (23 April, The Electric), looking at the story of the group and an activity programme of related screenings, talks, performances and workshops located inside a newly-commissioned inflatable. This blow-up behemoth sets up home in Birmingham’s Victoria Square outside the Council House, and will function variously as a screening room, playground and performance space where all Action Space events and screenings are free to enter (22-24 April).
The son of Ken Turner, Huw Wahl, will be present to unveil this inflatable and a new feature documentary, also titled Action Space. Drawing from a mountain of wonderful archive footage as well as testimonies from those involved, Wahl’s thought-provoking film transports the viewer into another world, a world before risk-assessments and where questioning authority was the norm. It poses questions that are just as relevant half a century on. How do children learn to manage risk? What do we mean by community art? How public is our public space?
As well as being a portrait of a movement, the film is also a portrait of a family. Ken and Mary managed to raise two children while pulling off increasingly ambitious inflatable projects, and there are bittersweet reflections from all four of them – particularly when it comes to the demise of Action Space at London’s Drill Hall venue, which sadly coincided with Ken and Mary’s separation. Their children have subsequently ended up working in the fields of dance and play, and both talk about how this unique period provided them with creative fuel for a lifetime.
Other highlights from the weekend’s celebrations include: an in conversation event, Action Space Revisited (24 April), giving a chance to explore the history of Action Space further with special guests including founder Ken Turner; a discussion looking at how we might nurture the conditions of risky play for children including Erin Davis’ short documentary The Land (a snapshot of the groundbreaking Plas Madoc adventure playground); and a performance by Japanese AV duo OvO, featuring members of Bo Ningen (22 April).
Action Space can be found at: Victoria Square, Birmingham, West Midlands B1 1BD and for further information on this please see here.