Rupesh Shah had his idea for a Fun Palace during lockdown. The Boulevard of Broken Dreams was borne from a catastrophic day in which he’d been trying to fix a couple of lamps, and no matter how hard he tried, couldn’t. Having attended Arts Depot Fun Palace as a visitor for numerous years, he was going to join in with theirs, but realised that maybe better than travelling to Finchley, he could make a Fun Palace in his own area – Harrow.
“The Boulevard of Broken Dreams came out of a bit of a nightmare. It was in the middle of lockdown and my daughters had a couple of lamps in their bedroom which were broken, they weren’t standing upright. It was a Sunday morning and there wasn’t much else to do, so I thought I’d try to fix the lamps. Basically I failed miserably, four hours later I was stuck with this bolt that wouldn’t open and I was in floods of tears, because lockdown was already an emotional time. It was about feeling incapable, but also that the bolts holding the lamp together couldn’t be undone with a normal spanner to be fixed, so I felt frustration at the manufacturers; I was thinking about my daughters futures and a world where we just seem to throw away more and more stuff. So that night I dreamed of this Boulevard of Broken Dreams where people could learn to live with what’s broken in their lives by transforming their experience through celebration, play and creativity.”
Rupesh had considered a number of venues in which to host his Fun Palace, but eventually settled on Harrow Arts Centre, who offered their workshop space up for free and advertised it on their website. Lots of signposting on the day meant a lot of people had arrived at the Arts Centre, or nearby swimming pool and discovered (and visited) the Fun Palace. He recruited the Maker Team from WRAP (Watford Recycling Arts Project) who he works for and his own personal contacts. WRAP has a list of its members and he emailed that list saying that he was looking for makers and artists who would be interested in taking part in the Fun Palace. People got in touch with him and he talked to them about the idea. Some people dropped out along the way, but there was a strong Maker team on the day ready to support people to repurpose their broken objects.
“It’s been a spectacular day. It started off quite quiet and I was a bit anxious and worried, there are all of these magicians and alchemists here to help repurpose stuff, and I was worried about what they were going to be doing if no one turned up. But then people started coming in and we started making stuff and remaking stuff and transforming things.
The conversations that we’ve had have been really special; conversations with people about the objects in their lives and their journeys and stories. And the skill-sharing that’s been going on between people has been brilliant too.
We had single shoes that people could transform in to different things – and someone wanted to put a hole through a shoe and it became a project that went on for an hour between four or five different people trying to work out how to get a hole through the shoe.“
One of the notable things about the Fun Palace was intergenerational engagement – from young children to retired adults aged 70+ – it brought a load of people together to skills share and problem solve. Because it was a more advanced activity with a purpose, it didn’t just see parents push children to the front and watch them, but required them to actively engage together, all ages bringing their own expertise to the task.
“Sometimes you just need to do something fun and creative and give people space in their lives to have fun and explore. The really nice thing has been welcoming families, particularly Dads working alongside their kids, which is great, because they perhaps don’t always have the time or the permission to do that.
The day ended in celebration as some of the Maker team put the finishing touches to Rupesh’s broken lamps – repurposed and redesigned ready to take home.