Putting culture at the heart of Hounslow’s community

Keiko Higashi is Programme Manager at Creative People and Places in Hounslow. She has worked in participation and programming roles for over 12 years. At her Fun Palace, Keiko learnt how to read tea leaves and had a philosophical conversation with a mystical dog.

Keiko Higashi has worked for over 12 years in Museums and Galleries.
She started as a freelance artist at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which sparked her passion to work with inspiring artists and making the arts more accessible. She has been involved in several capitol projects including the launch of Turner Contemporary based in Margate.
Keiko is currently Programme Manager for Creative People and Places in Hounslow, programming outdoor arts, events and exhibitions with the community.
At her Fun Palace, Keiko learnt how to read tea leaves and had a philosophical conversation with a mystical dog.

How did you discover Fun Palaces?

In August 2015, the Community Arts Workers and I started working for Creative People and Places in Hounslow. We heard from the Watermans team about the amazing success of the previous year’s Fun Palace and wanted to take on the challenge of running one ourselves.

As we were a new team and yet to build relationships with the local community, we wanted to use this event to test out ways of including our audience and give communities an opportunity to voice their opinions and help us to program things that people genuinely want.

What happened at your Fun Palace?

In line with the Fun Palace ethos, CPP Hounslow is all about programming events and activities in the borough that are lead by the views and desires of the community. The day consisted of working with 25 quality makers who all had community interest and participation at the heart of their practice. The activities took on a range of art forms including physical theatre, music, arts and crafts. The Makers were all briefed to come up with activities that would require the public’s input in order for the workshop to work. For example we had Mystic Sid, a very clever fortune telling dog who gave advice to members of the public via his trusted owner, Arthur.  Sid gave me the advice “Your problems are immaterial” This did prompt me to stop running around like a headless chicken and start relaxing and enjoying the day!

Another example was the compliments and complaints quartet, a group of Opera singers who collected compliments and complaints from the public throughout the day and sung the lines back to them as operatic verse.

“The whole day brought a fresh energy to Watermans”

What kind of learning did making a Fun Palace give you?

We have learnt a lot of lessons to improve on for next time, the main lessons were timing and communication. For example we had programmed in lunch breaks for our makers around the same time so there were moments in the day where the activities felt quite sparse.

The whole day brought a fresh energy to Watermans and clearly set out CPP Hounslow’s intention of listening and including the public with the decision making process. This was the CPP teams first event to organise together so it was great to see how all our personalities and experiences fed into the day. 26% of attendees had not attended an arts event in the past 12 months which suggests the event was an effective way of engaging new audiences.

What’s next..?

We have decided to set ourselves an even bigger challenge for this year’s Fun Palace and will be running 4 Fun Palaces across four hubs in Hounslow. We have now formed local advisory groups made up of over 50 local residents who will be making all the key decisions on the programme and how we spend our budget, so watch this space!

Creative People and Places Hounslow

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