Fun Palaces are not: Doing your Job for Free on the weekend

At Fun Palaces there has always been a firm belief ‘Everyone an artist, everyone a scientist,’ however, the Fun Palaces invitation is never one for artists or scientists (or anyone) to do their job for free at the weekend.

At Fun Palaces we spend a lot of time talking about Secret Skills. Secret Skills are a great way for communities to connect with one another; by taking what it is you do for fun and sharing it with your community you get the opportunity to know each other a little better. 

Fun Palaces are all about about the usual artists, scientists and leaders stepping aside and letting someone else have a turn. So if you’re an artist delivering an activity at a Fun Palace – can you do something science or climate or history related – and let someone else have a go at being the artist for a change, because when we say ‘Everyone an artist’ we really do mean Everyone – and not just the artists leading the events like they always do; afterall if Fun Palaces are anything, surely they are a little bit about us learning what we can be, rather than who we already know we are. 

The whole point of a Fun Palace is to step into the unknown and make something extraordinary. Extraordinary doesn’t have to be big or costly. It just has to be different. Let the kids paint the adults faces or teach the adults how to play Minecraft. Let the artists teach the science and the scientists teach the art. Spin everything on its head, just for a day! (And then maybe more, if you enjoy that day.) 

Although I now work for Fun Palaces, I started off as a Maker at Brockwell Lido Fun Palace. At the time I worked in theatre, mostly as a drama teacher. But I’d never taught or done shadow puppetry – I’d just started playing around with the idea a bit in my free time. I decided to offer this as an activity at our Fun Palace. I made a slightly shoddy shadow screen out of a vegetable box I obtained from my local greengrocers (and sanded it down carefully so that nobody would get a splinter) and used some white fabric I had lying around to make the screen. I gathered some card I’d collected, some cellophane sweet wrappers I’d been saving and bought a box of art straws and some sellotape for a few quick. Funding from our Fun Palace (which we got from local businesses) was used to buy scissors and I was away. I wasn’t by any means an expert in shadow puppetry, but I had a curiosity around it and wanted to get better. I learnt in the moment, and I learnt with the people that showed up, and I got a lot better at shadow puppetry that day. For me a Fun Palace was a chance to try out something new. 

So what are your secret skills? Do you have a great home karaoke set-up that you could share with others?  Do you have the best recipe for barra brith / scones / spaghetti bolognaise that you could share?  Are you good at putting up shelves? Do you know how to propagate succulents or knit a scarf?  Do you speak (at least a bit) of a second language that you could teach (or a first language that you could share). Can you make sculptures out of matchsticks, marshmallows or mashed potato? Do you know everything on a specialist subject ie: Whales, local history, photosynthesis or photography – could you do a mini-TED talk about it?

And if you’re still stuck as to what your secret skill might be, ask yourself:  What do I do for fun? What do people ring me up for advice on? What’s my passion? What do I like to do on a Sunday? What are my favourite non-fiction books? What’s the thing I always wanted to learn, but never have? Could now be the time, could I learn it with someone? (And once you’ve worked out your secret skill, perhaps you can help someone else work out theirs too.) 

Shadow Puppetry at Brockwell Lido Fun Palace

Fun Palaces are currently running a ‘Share your Secret Skill’ challenge on Instagram and Facebook. Head over to @FunPalaces on Instagram to find out how to join in (and have the chance to win a £50 voucher).