Fun Palaces: fostering culture and community

| Azad Sharma

We spent a lot of 2019 thinking about co-production in the arts and we want to begin 2020 with the same creativity at the front of our minds. Creativity in a community setting encourages togetherness and often the sharing of valuable skills to nurture arts and sciences at a grassroots level. 

We were delighted to find Fun Palaces, an organisation which believes that creativity in the community can change the world and their manifesto is premised on ‘radical fun’. They have a great website and we were keen to find out more.

Fun Palaces is both an annual weekend of action and an on-going campaign that champions culture at the heart of community and community at the heart of culture. Their weekends of action happen on the first weekend of October every year and involves skill sharing and creating tiny revolutions! Their aim is to value everyone’s creativity and community equally, to foster togetherness and challenging the status quo. 

A little history

The story behind Fun Palaces begins in the 1960s. Theatre director Joan Littlewood and architect Cedric Price conceived the original, never-built Fun Palace as a ‘laboratory of fun’ and ‘a university of the streets’. It was to be a local building, home to the arts and sciences, open and welcoming to all. They imagined a building linked through technology to other spaces, accessible to those who wouldn’t normally go to arts venues or great centres of learning. For various reasons it wasn’t possible and the Fun Palace never materialised as planned. 

However, the concept of a space welcoming and open to all, led by and for local people, remained a great idea. Fun Palaces began its weekend of action and national campaign in 2013. In keeping with its radical roots, the new vision for Fun Palaces was to open it up to include everyone so that Fun Palaces was a portable and workable campaign for any community to pick up and, as Co-Director Stella Duffy states: to “support the development of cultural democracy, culture – arts, science, craft, tech, digital – genuinely led and made by, for and with every community”. It’s testament to the success of this idea that Fun Palaces are now operating in New Zealand and Norway and that the campaign is international.

How does it work?

Fun Palaces run workshops to encourage groups to get together supporting local spaces as places of culture and creativity. They have a successful an Ambassadors Programme which offers training and personal development to a cohort of people working part-time and in close proximity to local and regional organisations. All of which contribute to their mission to support communities to create by and for themselves; developing local networks, linking individuals and organisations, encouraging venues to co-create with local people, and helping small groups to shout about their value as grassroots community activists. They all work towards the following objectives:

– To shine a light on and value everyone’s existing creative skills and activities.
– To reclaim local and regional public spaces for all.
– To connect people (and organisations) to collaborate for change in their communities.
– To make the most of local, regional and national strengths and assets, including individuals’ abilities.
– To shift the perception of culture to one that embraces and values everyone’s cultural participation and production, and for resources to be apportioned accordingly.

All of these activities are concentrated in the inclusive weekends of action. 

We really enjoyed learning about Fun Palaces through their 2019 video:

To find out more about Fun Palaces and how you can get involved follow them on Twitter or get in touch with them here.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel

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