What is a Fun Palace?

Fun Palaces is both an ongoing campaign for culture at the heart of every community, and an annual weekend of action – arts, science, craft, tech, digital and sports events and activities – run by and for local communities. Fun Palaces weekend is the first weekend of October every year. The next Fun Palaces weekend is 7th & 8th October 2017.

A Fun Palace IS

Free : Free to enter, free to take part.

Local : Ideally a Fun Palace is by local people for local people – perhaps a group of neighbours, a residents association, some friends getting together, or strangers who have decided to join up to create a local Fun Palace. If you are a venue, building or organisation, ‘local’ might mean your staff, the night cleaners, businesses nearby. It also means those people who live close but never visit, because they don’t think it is for them. If you’re making a Fun Palace, we’d say don’t produce something ‘for’ those people, hoping they will come, instead hand your space over and let them decide what to do. Pretty soon they’ll feel they own it. For TwoCan’s Fun Palace in Gloucester it meant working with the homeless person who slept in the doorway of their Fun Palace space – he joined in and it was his Fun Palace too.

For all ages : It’s often easier to think up activities for kids, especially around crafts and tech. What about the 17 year old who doesn’t consider themselves a kid? What about the 75 year old who never gets to play? Can we make our Fun Palaces for everyone? We also welcome children and young people as Makers in their own right, Arc Stockton’s 2016 Fun Palace was run by their young people’s group.

Inclusive : If you’re running a Fun Palace on little or no budget this can seem hard, but even the smallest effort make a difference. Can you find someone in your community who uses sign language and ask them to get involved? Can you make sure your signs are easy to read? Consider access for wheelchair users? Are there groups in your local community you can invite to take part, who can share their own cultural interests?

Hands-on : Fun Palaces are about joining in with whatever your version of ‘culture’ (arts, science, craft, tech, digital, sports) turns out to be – whatever brings people together. (We’ve found a mix works best for most communities.) We had this feedback from South Elmsall Library’s 2016 Fun Palace, from an older woman who ran a knitting activity: “I’ve met a young girl today who I’ve never spoken to before and she lives on my street, through chatting I’ve found out her Grandma was my best friend at school.” Doing something together gave them a chance to talk.

Process as much as product : A Fun Palace is an opportunity to create with your local community or workplace. Of course you’ll want the weekend to go well, but the real Fun Palace is what you and your community do to make it happen, the meetings, the cups of tea, the organising. It’s the thinking and the linking that count.

Yours : We don’t know where you live, your workplace, or your local community. You do. You know how to make YOUR local Fun Palace. But if you want some help, check our Maker section or get in touch, we might know someone who’s done something similar – it can help to speak to a fellow Maker and we can make those links.

Part of a Campaign : What you do locally will be influenced by your area, your interests – you are also part of a national and international campaign for culture at the heart of every community, and for everyone to have the opportunity to join in with arts, science, crafts and tech. Your Fun Palace is part of an international shout for access and inclusion.

A Fun Palace IS NOT

A fête or an Open Day : We’re not just inviting people to have a nice time, we’re inviting them to have ownership of a place or an idea in their community. Whether you are making a Fun Palace in a building, as a community group, or as an individual, part of your role is to help other people understand that they too are an artist, a scientist, a craftsperson, a techie – that they too can make a Fun Palace. That they too have a right to feel ownership of your library, museum, school, gallery, shop, town square, forest, beach …

A community arts project or sci-comm : it’s both and neither. If someone in a community is an artist or a scientist, it’s great if they want to make a local Fun Palace – we also welcome those who have never done any arts or science. This way we support many more people to join in arts and sciences, and to create with our own local communities.

(ordinary) Facepainting : Fun Palaces are about turning the ordinary upside down – so let the kids paint the adults’ faces. Brixton Library’s 2015 Fun Palace showed everyone how to paint their own bones, muscles and veins on their skin – learning about the body and being artists at the same time. (See also : balloon modeling, bunting, fairy cakes – can you hack an ordinary activity to make something totally new by and for YOUR community?)

A show, performance or lecture : If you have a band playing and people singing along, that’s brilliant. If you have a band playing, people singing along, AND the band sharing instruments to teach the chords to people who’ve never played before – THAT’s a Fun Palace! This applies to anything that is a performance or lecture or talk – how can everyone join in, take part, get hands-on?

Audience development : We’re not about audiences, we’re about participation. And yes, our statistics show that venue-led Fun Palaces get loads of new people, but we’re not about getting numbers through the door. We want to help venues or organisations be really brave, try something that they are not in control of, something where they truly welcome the local community to have ownership of their space. (It’s scary AND it’s worth it.)

In the 2014 Fun Palaces weekend on 4/5 October there were Fun Palaces in 138 community locations, led by 3183 Fun Palaces Makers, over 40,000 people took part. Here’s the film of the 2014 Fun Palaces.

In the 2015 weekend on 3/4 October there were 142 Fun Palaces led by approx 2500 Fun Palaces Makers, with over 50,000 participants. Our 2015 film asked Fun Palaces Makers how it was for them.

On the weekend of 1/2 October 2016 there were 292 Fun Palaces in nine nations, led by 4800 Makers, with 124,000 people. Our 2016 film asked Makers why making a Fun palace is important to them. Our 2016 evaluation has loads of interesting stats and testimonials from Makers and participants.

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