Terry Chinn grew up in Neath and now lives in Pontypridd where his community group made Fun Palaces in 2014 and 2015. Terry has worked as designer, teacher and visual artist all over the UK. His Fun Palaces experience brought so many strands together in Pontypridd – highlights were seeing people trying to ride a tandem, standing on their heads doing hip hop or just quietly watching.
Terry Chinn grew up in Neath where there was a lively tradition of community based musical and performance companies. He spent his teenage years making, performing, and catching up with education; having managed to avoid school as much as possible apart from the art and craft class. At nineteen he completed his engineering apprenticeship after spending four years making fairground rides and other mechanical based graft. Terry has worked as designer, teacher and visual artist all over the UK. His Fun Palaces experience brought so many strands together in Pontypridd – highlights were seeing people trying to ride a tandem, standing on their heads doing hip hop or just quietly watching.
Why was it important to you to make a Fun Palace?
As a long time fan of Joan Littlewood I jumped into the Fun Palaces idea when it was flagged up in a discussion a few years ago with Stella Duffy. The ethos of Fun Palaces matched our newly formed community group. We set ourselves up in Pontypridd to colonise underused spaces aiming to make additional cultural and social projects happen – all this achieved with small amounts of financial support. As volunteers we’ve led new local creative pilot projects that are prototypes for longer term work.
“it made what we did in Pontypridd valid and networked to a national campaign”
What’s been challenging about making Fun Palaces?
People’s preconceptions of Fun Palaces being for children or a Fun Day were unhelpful sometimes so we had to remind everyone about the radical, challenging side of Joan and Cedric Price’s vision. I personally found the biggest challenge of 2014 was that I’d ambitiously programmed 14 hours of stuff and all the contacts, conversations and logistics were quite demanding as an unpaid commitment. In our second year, we decided to cut the hours down to 8 hours with advertised drop-in times to help our volunteers. We were also a bit concerned about enough people participating…is it ok if only a few people turn up for something? However we did have good numbers and although Sunday was quieter, those who took part got a lot from trying something new or observing from the sidelines.
What happened at your Fun Palaces and who helped you to make them?
About 15 organisational partners were involved in the first year, including the brilliant National Theatre Wales TEAM, Astrocymru, Tenovus choir, a dozen writers, two venues and Avant Dance. We had quite a bit of poetry and spoken word.
Being a Fun Palace in 2015 meant we were the only Fun Palace in Wales. Our second year was easier to manage as the British Science Association became our main partner and they created science based experiments that drew in all ages with low and hi-tech gadgets including simple mirror kaleidoscopes. We also had some medieval cooking, hip hop dancing and Trinidadian Calypso. The ‘Science and Art’ content was part of our Fun Palace from day one, we’ve continued science and creative sessions over the year, some amazing conversations have happened in and around the bar, cooking sessions, and our making space projects.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to get involved?
Getting support from like-minded people who get the ethos of Fun Palaces is essential. The ethos of free space with open learning was sometimes tricky for people to grasp. The Fun Palaces website was excellent in giving a solid and convincing front window with ideas from all over the UK, it made what we did in Pontypridd valid and networked to a national campaign.