Making a Fun Palace as a family

17 January 2017

Richard (54), Joanna (54), William (18) and Arthur (14) set up a nature related event at Brockwell Lido Fun Palace, South London in 2015 and returned in 2016. Joanna and Arthur have learned to make very good signs and Richard’s learned that when it’s something he’s passionate about – like the relationships between different plants, how plants are used in unexpected ways in our daily lives – he’s not really shy at all.

Richard (54), Joanna (54), William (18) and Arthur (14) set up a nature related event at Brockwell Lido in 2015 with two elements: (i) a scavenger hunt in Brockwell Park, where people had to find particular seeds or leaves and bring them back in a bag, and (ii) a quiz where participants had to work out what various plants were from photos, including identifying what plants or seeds are in common foods. They returned for the Fun Palaces 2016 weekend.

"Something that is surprising – but also liberating – is that no-one tells you what you should do."

How we discovered Fun Palaces

We were going to look into helping at one near us in North London but then Shelley (Brockwell Lido Fun Palace Maker) suggested we join in with them.  She was so confident that what we knew – particularly what Richard knew about horticulture – could be turned into a Fun Palace event, we said we’d do one.

Why it was important to us to make one

We wanted to do something the boys could get involved in and they’re both quite ‘science’ focused.  We’d also noticed that there’s a lot around that’s fun and engaging for people who want to get involved in the arts – poetry, drama, art exhibitions – but not so much that’s science related.  The other reason I (Joanna) volunteered us was that Richard has a phenomenal plant knowledge as he trained at Kew Gardens; he shares that with the family - when we’re out walking, he’ll keep stopping to point out unusual plants – we’ve all learned from Richard and I thought it would be nice if he could spread that knowledge a bit further.

Has anything about Fun Palaces surprised you?

Something that is surprising – but also liberating – is that no-one tells you what you should do.  We came up with the ideas and although Shelley gave us some guidance about what might work and what might not, in the end, it was about what we wanted to do and although that was scary – what if no-one came, what if we’d completely missed the point – it also left us free to do what we knew most about.

"Don’t be scared by the fact that the Fun Palace idea is so open-ended"

Has making a Fun Palace taught you anything? 

Joanna and Arthur have learned to make very good signs; William’s learned that he’s very good at encouraging children – although the plant quiz was quite hard, he had quite a few under tens attempting it; Richard’s learned that, although he is quite shy and would never want to march up to strangers and start talking to them, when it’s something he’s passionate about – like the relationships between different plants, how plants are used in unexpected ways in our daily lives – he’s not really shy at all.

Any advice for anyone wanting to be a Maker this year?

Don’t be scared by the fact that the Fun Palace idea is so open-ended, that there doesn’t seem to be a right or a wrong way to do it.  The people around can give you a bit of guidance and make sure you’re not too far off track.  And it doesn’t really matter if you don’t get it exactly right – the first year some of our quiz was a bit too difficult so last year we made the plant part shorter and focused more on identifying seeds and plants in the foods we eat.