Fun Palaces, Sustainability and Local Culture

Outside of my Fun Palaces work (but entirely joined up with it) I am working on a project exploring the 20 minute neighbourhood (or 15 minute city) model. The idea being that residents of a 20 minute neighbourhood can meet most of their daily needs within a 20 minute stroll, roll or cycle. It’s great for local businesses, cultivates a better quality of life for residents and ultimately cuts back on pollution and carbon emissions. Neighbourhoods need housing diversity (including affordable), schools, safe streets and spaces, sports facilities, health services, local shops, playgrounds, parks, local employment opportunities and of course culture. 

For me there is a clear link between Fun Palaces and 20 minute neighbourhoods. Fun Palaces have always been about celebrating the culture we have right here on our doorsteps. It’s about saying we don’t need to travel to big cities to experience culture, and we don’t need to fly in experts. We are the experts and our communities are already rich in culture, creativity, arts, sciences, heritage and more. Part of my Fun Palaces work over the past six months has been to look at our HQ and Ambassador sustainability policies and to create a sustainable Fun Palaces toolkit, because I really do believe that Fun Palaces can play a part in creating climate-friendly arts, sciences and culture. 

A couple of weeks ago I attended the London Culture and Climate Crisis Conference: Create for Tomorrow, organised by the Greater London Authority (GLA).  It was a day of talks from experts and activists across the cultural sector on climate crisis and there was much to think about after. 

Something that many of the speakers came back to time and time again at the Create For Tomorrow Conference, was that we can address climate change, but there’s no point it doing that if we don’t address white supremacy, ableism, classism, capitalism and patriarchy while we’re at it, because these are the driving factors behind climate change. Dominique Palmer and others spoke about inclusivity and how it doesn’t work, because people are invited into systems that by their very nature exclude; there was talk about not changing these systems, but disrupting them, dismantling them and building them again, but fairer and inclusive from the beginning.

“I face a lot of tokenism in these spaces; the permission to be invited in and having a seat at the table, but this table that is causing this destruction and we actually need to shake up the table, smash it and build a new one.” – Dominique Palmer, Climate Activist, Storyteller, Writer, Actor, Model. 

Some of this is going to start sounding very familiar to the Fun Palaces community. Interestingly, but unsurprisingly, these are also the factors that tend to make culture seem inaccessible to many, in fact these are the factors driving most social, ecological and economical inequality on our planet. 

Dismantling the systems that exclude and keep people out is a radical idea, but probably the only way to effectively tackle climate change. It is also the only way we can achieve cultural democracy.  And Fun Palaces do just this – in the campaign for cultural democracy Fun Palaces restructure cultural systems – they get rid of gatekeepers and keyholders – because they acknowledge everyone is an expert in their own right when it comes to their culture and anyone can make a Fun Palace. 

“That means we’re not trying to ’empower’ people in a paternalistic way, but rather trying to help wider society see ALL people as the already-empowered, already-with-agency, already-capable human beings they are. Just not, perhaps, in traditional capitalist society’s terms …!” – Stella Duffy, Fun Palaces co-founder

A rich, fair cultural life is a sustainable one too – in which we can walk or wheel to the places we need to be; to gather, to work, to learn, to share, and to have fun. And when our voices are strong from singing together, from sharing our brilliance, from taking part in and leading culture- well, they are strong for protesting, for leading change of every sort and for inventing the solutions that will take us into the future.

There is a toolkit on the Fun Palaces website with ideas and suggestions of how to be more sustainable, there are also ideas for Getting Started with making your Fun Palace. Likewise, if you have any tips or suggestions for this, send them to and we can share them with other makers.  We also have a sustainability workshop taking place on Thursday 21st July 2022, 5.30-6.15pm on Zoom 

© Emily Medley