Lewis is a part-time neuroscience researcher, full-time science communicator and a fiddle player based in Edinburgh. He believes that science is culture that everyone can engage with, and loves mixing science with the unexpected. Last Fun Palace, he learnt how to make felt, why there aren’t so many red squirrels any more and that he was a ‘super-taster’.
Lewis is a part-time neuroscience researcher, full-time science communicator and a fiddle player based in Edinburgh. He believes that science is culture that everyone can engage with, and loves mixing science with the unexpected – from immersive theatre to festivals, comedy to crafting, and technology to Scottish dance with the Science Ceilidh project. Last Fun Palace, he learnt how to make felt, why there aren’t so many red squirrels any more and that he was a super-taster. However, his favourite vegetable is still broccoli.
How did you discover Fun Palaces and why was it important to you to make one?
“Everyone an Artist, Everyone a Scientist” popped up on my twitter feed, I sent Stella a wee message, and the rest was history. Working between the sciences and arts is something I do every day in my line of work, and though community engagement already happens all the time, there’s a power in bringing that together under one banner, over one weekend, across physical space, which means that the collective cultural momentum is greater than the sum of its parts.
How has the process of making a Fun Palace challenged and surprised you?
I wanted to be quite ambitious in promoting more Fun Palaces to happen in Scotland, as in 2014 only 3 of the UK Fun Palaces happened past the wall! I set up the Fun Palaces Scotland group for this purpose, a collective of people passionate about culture. However, community engagement takes time, and it was a real challenge in the time frame and with the resources available to be able to extend the geographic reach into other parts of Scotland. There’s much to be said for cups of teas, chats in person and building relationships and this is something we need to focus on, even in the digital age.
Another challenge, even when people are interested, is that the idea of a Fun Palace can be so open that it’s hard to pin down into something concrete – facilitation needs to happen in these cases.
“If home is where the heart is, Fun Palaces are where many hearts are, the collective beating core of community and culture”
- Cups of tea and coffee, along with sweet treats and crisps work wonders.
- Online presence is vital, but don’t forget the physical meetings with people (and physical maps!)
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help, you’ll be surprised.
- Arts and culture are perennially underfunded. Tackle the issue head-on, be realistic with what you can offer/expect – honesty goes a long way in respecting boundaries.
What difference has Fun Palace made to you?
It’s been great to be part of a network as passionate about culture as I am, albeit expressed in many different ways. In Edinburgh, I now know people passionate about lots of exciting things…from circus skills to university research, from crafting and felt-making to the science of chocolate. The Fun Palaces weekend is one annual activity we can come together and long-term projects have developed, including a burgeoning scientist-in-residence programme in a local shopping mall, and a roaming Curiosity Forest!
My point of reference is organising events that engage new audiences in science, be it science festivals, theatre or ceilidhs. Whilst there is a similar core desire to reach out to the inner scientist or artist as in Fun Palaces, there’s an organic nature of Fun Palaces that makes it a little different especially when people are actively part of it.
Any advice for anyone wanting to be a Maker?
Do it! If you have an idea, however half-formed, or a passion for something, share it with your community, you won’t look back! If you’re in Scotland, join our facebook group and say hello, but anywhere you are, get together.