Today we launch signups for our sixth weekend of Fun Palaces. In just over six years we have grown from a tiny idea to an annual weekend of action and an ongoing campaign for community at the heart of culture. To date there have been 1367 Fun Palaces made by 32,800 Makers with 450,000 people taking part in 11 countries, and we’re grateful to every one of you for joining in and making Fun Palaces your own.
We also have very good news. We have secured National Lottery funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. The £1.5m grant will support the work of the Fun Palaces campaign over the next 5 years (2019 – 2024). Central to this is a part-time team of twelve, six of whom will be new Fun Palaces Ambassadors based in partner organisations across the UK, while continuing three of our current Ambassador roles.
Building on our present Ambassadors Programme funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Wellcome, by 2021 we will have supported Ambassadors in Cornwall, Bristol, Stoke, Sheffield, Scotland (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Central Belt), Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland (Inverness, Highlands & Islands), Rotherham, Devon and Gateshead.
This is a rolling and sustainable programme working with new partners – from 2019, National Trust Wales, Big Telly Theatre Company in Northern Ireland and Eden Court, Inverness; from 2021, Rotherham Council, Sage Gateshead and Libraries Unlimited in Devon.
Fun Palaces Ambassadors are all local people, already-connected and working with their own communities. This funding will support them to do even more on a local, grassroots basis. It will help them share learning between Ambassadors and their communities, with Fun Palaces’ Makers, and with other organisations also focused on community and cultural equality and inclusivity, who understand that local people are the core of our work.
Makers will also be delighted to know this gives us some funding to re-develop the website over the next few years, giving us lots of time for your feedback and suggestions about how to improve it for you.
We are enormously grateful to National Lottery, who not only understand our vision for even more deeply-rooted local work, but supported us with a development grant in 2018, enabling us to meet more people, making connections in communities that can most benefit from this work and with organisations that understand the value of local people being in the lead.
So, this is huge. Those of you who know how tough it’s been for us without regular core funding will understand it’s also a huge relief. And it’s very simple – believing in the genius in everyone and everyone’s ability to create the culture and develop the community connections that best serve their own locality.
It also means that Fun Palaces continue to grow horizontally not vertically. While this funding gives us dedicated core support for the first time in years (we’ll bring on a new administrator/producer!) we’re staying small, part-time, accessible. The core team will continue to be here for ALL Fun Palaces Makers. You’ll still have our phone numbers and always welcome to get in touch directly with questions, concerns or simply to hear us say, ‘Yes, that’s a great idea. That will be brilliant in your Fun Palace.’ Sometimes this feels like the most important part of our work – assuring potential Makers, often people who have only ever heard ‘No’, that ‘Yes, you can do it’, ‘Yes, your idea is workable’, ‘Yes, we can connect you with another Maker with a similar idea and between you, you’ll make it even more inclusive, even more of and for your communities.’
There is loads to do. We’ll be working with partner organisations to make sure we find the right local Ambassadors and hopefully they’ll be in place for Fun Palaces weekend 2019 – visiting Fun Palaces to learn from you. (Unless of course, the new Ambassador is you?!) We’ll work with the new and current Ambassadors to ensure learning is passed on and built on. We’ll learn so much ourselves as we do.
Fun Palaces has grown enormously and organically since we started in 2013, we fully expect it to grow and change even more. We welcome the challenges that will bring, the new experiences and the new joys – and we promise we will always be here for the Makers, wherever you are. You are the heart of our work.
Thank you for joining in, for celebrating your own communities, for making a difference right where you live. We look forward to seeing you on the map!
Stella, Sarah-Jane, Kirsty and Dan xx