Celebrated author, actress and performer Stella Duffy has become one of the most versatile and enduring writers and performers of her generation whether writing a novel or performing. Born in a Woolwich council estate in 1963, Stella was quick to learn the many advantages of being forced to graft for a living. Her father was a labourer all his life and still worked hard to make a career in order to provide for his family, something which Stella always admires about him. Manual labour has been something which Stella has experienced her fair share of, being a cleaner and housekeeper for seven years. At the age of five, Stella and her family emigrated to New Zealand in search of a better way of life. It was here that she learned how to respect and live alongside people from a whole range of different cultures and abilities. Her town in New Zealand had no special education for people with disabilities so everyone was just in together irrespective of race, religion or ability so Stella befriended people from a variety of different backgrounds and this in turn helped to inform her outlook on the world.
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On leaving school, Stella attended the Victoria University of Wellington where she studied English Literature and Drama which was to stand her in good stead for her later career. Returning to the UK, Stella became interested in the world of performing and in 1988 became invested into the comedy improvisational group Spontaneous Combustion. This gave her a taste for live performance and honed her ability to think on her feet. To Stella, improvisation is just writing being instantly acted upon and writing is improvisation on paper so therefore it’s very difficult for the two to be mutually exclusive. Over thirty years later Spontaneous Combustion is still going strong and whilst productions aren’t as frequent as they once were, it’s always fun when they do reunite. Stella is currently preparing to join a few members for another run of shows which hopefully will be gratefully received.
Beyond writing and performing, Stella is also the founder and inspiration behind the community initiative Fun Palaces which gives the public the opportunity to come together and teach others their chosen talent absolutely free of charge. Open to everyone and anyone, Fun Palaces was created in 2014 by Stella and was arranged to commemorate the centenary of theatrical supremo Joan Littlewood who believed that art should be right at the very heart of the community and universally accessible to all. Bringing Arts and sciences together in one big national celebration is a growing tribute to such a formidable figure in entertainment. Sadly, Littlewood is no longer around to see her social ideology come to fruition but with the steady rise of Fun Palaces, hopefully her legacy will be felt for many years to come.
You would think this would be enough work for the busiest people to be getting on with but a force of nature like Stella Duffy can’t be content on just the above achievements. Since 1994 she has written a total of sixteen novels and in 2017 released The Hidden Room to rave reviews surrounding wives Laurie and Martha and their troubled teenage daughter Hope. She loves the process of writing and still thrives upon the excitement of not knowing where she’s going to end up. Being in the presence of Stella becoming passionate about the writing process is a real joy to behold and her unique perception of creativity is a true eye opener. It was great to meet and interview Stella Duffy and wish her all the very best with the rest of her glittering career.