What is a Fun Palace?

What is a Fun Palace?

Fun Palaces is an ongoing campaign for community at the heart of culture and culture at the heart of every community – led by and for that community, and an annual Weekend of Celebration – arts, science, craft, tech, digital, heritage 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 4th-6th October 2024. If this weekend doesn’t work for you, you can have a Fun Palace at another time.

A Fun Palace IS

Free: Free to enter, free to take part.

Local: A Fun Palace is by local people for local people – perhaps a group of neighbours, a residents’ association or friends getting together. If you are a venue, building or organisation, ‘local’ might mean your staff, the cleaners and businesses nearby. It also means those  who live close but never visit, because they don’t think your space is for them. If you’re making a Fun Palace, we’d say don’t ‘deliver’ an event for those people hoping they will come, instead hand your space over and let them decide what happens. 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 children. What about the 17-year-old who doesn’t consider themselves a child or the 75-year-old who never gets to play? Can we make Fun Palaces for everyone? We 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, as was Morden Hall Park’s Fun Palace at their National Trust property in 2017.

Inclusive: Most Fun Palaces are made with little or no budget, and even the smallest effort can help. 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? Thinking outside your usual circle can make a massive difference.

Hands-on: Fun Palaces are about joining in with whatever your version of ‘culture’ may be (arts, science, craft, tech, digital, heritage, sports), whatever brings people together. We had this feedback from South Elmsall Library’s 2016 Fun Palace: 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: Of course the weekend event matters, but the real Fun Palace is what you and your community do to make it happen, the meetings, the cups of tea, the organising, the conversations. 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. If you want some help get in touch, we might know someone who’s done something similar – it can be useful 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 and your Fun Palace is part of a worldwide shout for access and inclusion for and with everyone.

A Fun Palace IS NOT

A fête or an Open Day: Whether you are making a Fun Palace in a building, in a community group or as an individual, part of the role is to help other people understand that they too can make a Fun Palace, they too can feel ownership of your library, museum, school, gallery, shop, town square, football pitch …

A community arts project or sci-comm: it’s both and neither. We encourage people to share their skills, hobbies, enthusiasms as well as their professional abilities in culture, science or sport. This way we support many more people to join in 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 take an ordinary activity and make something totally new by and for YOUR community?)

A show, performance or lecture: If you have a band playing and people singing, that’s lovely. If you have a band playing, people singing 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, lecture, talk, show or match – can everyone join in?

Audience development: We’re not about audiences, we’re about participation. Yes, our statistics show that venue-led Fun Palaces bring in 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 you are not in control of, something where you truly welcome the local community to have ownership of your space. It’s scary AND it’s worth it.