Online Fun Palaces

Last year Fun Palaces looked a little different, some were socially distanced, some went ahead online, some took place in the form of window displays and some were a mix of all three. Victoria Beesley at the Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre in Scotland shares how they handed over a digital space to their Makers in order to host a jam packed weekend of Fun Palace action. 

“Despite the pandemic, we still wanted to be connecting with people; the communities that would usually come into our venues were being denied the opportunity to do that, but we still wanted to be able to make them an offer. What we love about Fun Palaces is that it hands things over to the local community, and we want our venue to be a space that our communities can utilise and get out of it whatever they want to. We didn’t want the pandemic to stop our journey to becoming that kind of venue.  In light of this, we decided to hold a digital Fun Palace. 

We organised for one day to take place online, but also encouraged people to do window decorating across the whole weekend.

A window design at the AK Bell Library by Sarah Draper

We had a few different tactics in order to find Makers for the Fun Palace: we held an open call online so people could sign up and run an activity, and we targeted organisations who we thought might connect with people who would be keen to run something, so for example an artists studios. We also directly approached individuals who we’d worked with in the past and contacted partner organisations we work with regularly. We tried to spread the message as widely as possible. We didn’t put any parameters in place, we just said ‘whatever you want to share is fine with us’. 

I think by holding a digital Fun Palace, we reached audiences that we wouldn’t normally reach, I think people found it quite nice being able to join from their own homes.

The total joy of it was watching the people who had come along as audiences enjoying participating in the activities, there was a real mixture of ages and people coming together.

It felt like a true community event and was really wonderful to watch people responding, laughing together. 

At one point there was a ukulele lesson and loads of people, many of whom had been there for a huge chunk of the day, disappeared into their homes and came back with a ukulele, which was a real surprise. There was also a Dance for Parkinsons class; we got lots of responses from people saying what a lovely way it was to start the day, and although it was specifically for people with Parkinson’s, it was accessible to everybody; I loved the idea of everybody in Perthshire and beyond doing this gentle exercise to start their Saturday morning. 

The whole act of handing over the space is the brilliant thing and I think you get lots of joyful surprises along the way

Surprises that if you had really tightly controlled things, you wouldn’t get. We found a format that worked well for us; I hosted the day, so that nobody felt that they had to do more than they were comfortable with and I could be on hand to support the person running the space at that particular moment. We also offered a technical rehearsal to the Makers if they wanted to practice the tech side so that they could feel confident on the day. And then we just let go and let the Makers take over the space. I would recommend to anyone doing an online Fun Palace to have that technical rehearsal in advance, and to use the same devices that you use in the rehearsal for the real thing. (I learnt that the hard way as my computer did surprising things for the first hour of the day!) And after that, just enjoy it; I got so much joy out of Fun Palaces, I’m so glad we did it.”

You can watch the entire Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre – Horsecross 2020 Fun Palace at this link here