Everyone an Artist, Everyone a Scientist

5 July 2016

Dr Elizabeth Glennon is a scientist at King’s College London researching Alzheimer’s disease (her full title is Alzheimer’s Research UK fellow, but that doesn’t really tell people what she does!). Lizzie spends most days in the lab looking after tiny brain cells and peering at them under a microscope to try and find out how genes are involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Outside of work she sings in a choir, occasionally does ballet, and exercises a lot. At Brockwell Lido Fun Palace, Lizzie learnt how to make amazing shadow puppets! And how to put up and take down marquees in the rain.

I discovered Fun Palaces when someone I didn’t know all that well posted a link on my facebook page and told me to “come to a meeting”. I’ll admit that I had no idea really what a Fun Palace was. And I’ll also admit that few things terrified me more than the idea of going to a meeting run by artists. I was expecting spontaneous role play, interpretive dance and some crazy pseudo-science thrown into the mix. What I found, was a group of amazingly talented people, bouncing ideas off each other with tons of enthusiasm, all determined to make our little bit of the world a slightly better place.

"I think it has changed the way I approach my work"

I have done a lot of engaging the public with science during my job, but none of it is like what we have done in our Fun Palace. Too often public engagement is “scientists teach you a thing we have decided you should know”. We invite people, who are already interested in science, into our fancy buildings, teach them a few things, then pat ourselves on the back for doing a good thing. But science isn’t a list of facts, determined by people with several degrees and a lot of expensive equipment. Science is asking questions, and looking for answers and trying to understand our world. The Fun Palace mantra “everyone an artist everyone a scientist” really stuck with me, and I knew it was something I wanted to be involved with.

I have been involved with the Brockwell Lido Fun Palace since it started, and I think it has changed the way I approach my work – I’m more open minded and less afraid to make mistakes and try new ideas. I definitely spend more time discussing my work and the problem I’m trying to solve with my some of my new artist friends which has helped me think about it in different ways and leads to new ideas.

A Fun Palace is more empowering than a fair. We don’t make an event for people, we make it with people. And I hope it gives the people who come a sense of “this is really science and I am really doing it my self”. Our Fun Palace pulls together people from the local community in ways that I don’t think a regular fair or open day does. In making the Fun Palace I have met amazing people - from triathletes to CSI officers, writers and theatre makers who I have lived close to for 3 years and never met.

"We don’t make an event for people, we make it with people."

For anyone thinking of making a Fun Palace next year I would say just try it! It doesn’t matter how small or big your contribution is, without you it wouldn’t be there at all. What is the worst that could happen!