“Generous, radical creativity in action …”

4 September 2019

Emma Rucastle is a theatre director and creative practitioner who works in Lancaster and around the UK on a wide range of drama and community arts projects with people of all ages. She began her working life as a teacher of English and Drama and education in its broadest sense remains central to much of her work. She has been a Fun Palace Maker, helping to create Lancaster Fun Palace, which is largely housed in Lancaster Central Library, since 2014.

I’m a juggler. Not brilliant by any means, but competent at keeping 3 – and occasionally 4 or 5 – items in the air at once. It’s a challenging, fun activity that involves a kind of mindful focus that is, I think, very good for me because… I’m a juggler in everyday life too. As a freelance Arts professional, I have to juggle constantly – rarely having fewer than three or four jobs on the go simultaneously, often more – and that is without all the “future possibilities” that are being juggled as part of the pattern too.

"Fun Palaces are all about process rather than product."

So, how does Lancaster Fun Palace – and #funpalaces generally – fit into this? Well, Lancaster Fun Palace is one of the things I juggle for most of the year and is, in itself, a juggling act for the Makers: co-ordination of a large number of individual items into one exciting whole. These separate items are all unique, led by brilliant individuals of all ages and backgrounds, with different skill-sets, interests, talents and passions (see our blog site for some of our fantastic Makers this year). Lancaster’s 2019 Fun Palace will include contributions, we hope, from the following and more: the RSPB; the Royal Society of Chemists; a performance artist raising awareness of dyslexia issues; our Syrian People’s Cafe and an 18 year old carpenter and anti-bullying campaigner. There will be crafting for all, technology for all, dancing for all, singing for all, drama for all and much, much more and, based on other years, there will be lots and lots of people of all ages and abilities who want to have a go. Fun Palaces are like that; people find themselves doing all kinds of unexpected things, perhaps because Fun Palaces are all about process rather than product and everyone is given permission to take part/achieve/fail at their own rate and in a supportive fun-focused atmosphere.

So, I love that Lancaster Fun Palace is part of my day-to-day juggling. It’s also good for me, I think, as it connects me with all the aforementioned brilliant people and organisations and, indeed, gives me the confidence to approach anyone with ideas and requests. (Imposter Syndrome, anyone? The “Fun Palace Maker” hat is really helpful as it’s a conversation starter and there is enormous strength in being part of an ever-growing international movement.)

"Fun Palaces can empower us all to take our part."

Finally, if I’m having a low or quiet day, the #funpalaces online thread is always a quick and easy shot of positivity – as is a conversation with a fellow Lancaster Fun Palace Maker. The Fun Palace movement’s belief in generous, radical creativity in action, “community at the heart of culture” and celebrating “the genius in everyone” can’t, perhaps, solve all the world’s problems, but I honestly think they are a pretty good start for many of them and #funpalaces can empower us all to take our part.