Why fun matters when the going gets tough

The Cost of Living crisis is having catastrophic effects across the UK, far deepening the existing inequality resulting from 13 years of austerity. Costs rise and opportunities narrow, “just enough” shrinks to become “not enough” and millions of people’s brilliance, genius and creativity is being wasted on surviving, when there is so much more that they could be contributing. 

COVID-19 has already had a huge impact on arts and culture, making it even harder for people working in the sectors to carry on (in particular freelancers), and making it even harder for people to get their voice heard. Everyone’s budgets are tight, nobody can afford to take risks, and it’s the people who are already most likely to be shut out of the cultural sectors who are falling off the edge.  

So why is it worth making a Fun Palace when everything is hard?  Well, making Fun Palaces is one way of reminding ourselves and the world that we ALL have a right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community (really- it’s article 27.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). And (as long-time friend of Fun Palaces François Matarasso writes) it’s being part of that cultural life that gives us our voices, and lets us fight for all the other rights we need too. Making Fun Palaces reminds us that culture is at the heart of EVERY community, and community has to be at the heart of culture. It recognises the genius in everyone; everyone an artist, everyone a scientist. It proves that you don’t need to pay to go into the nearest big city or town, or bring in experts to access culture; that culture is within all of us, right where we are, in our local communities.

And we know that a lot of the time, all of that stuff is already happening; the Fun Palaces weekend, which takes place annually over the first weekend of October, aims to amplify the already brilliant culture happening in communities; by coming together and making Fun Palaces on the first weekend of October, communities stand up and say ‘we are here, we are experts, and our culture counts.’

Fun Palaces don’t need to be big, and they don’t need to be expensive. Yes they can happen in theatres, libraries, museums and universities, but they can also happen in gardens, on housing estates and at cafe tables. There’s no reason a revolution cannot begin quietly in the corner of a cafe, in fact I suspect that is how many of the best ones begin. 

Share a skill, share a story, share a new idea or thought with someone. You don’t need to spend a fortune on materials. Fun Palaces can be an act of resistance. There is no austerity of brilliant people (as our founder Stella Duffy says!), but even brilliant people need a rest, so perhaps your Fun Palace this year will be lying back and staring at the sky. That is still a Fun Palace, if you want it to be. Perhaps this is how Fun Palaces need to be in 2022. 

If time is short or sparse or you’re just tired, you don’t need to spend hours planning a Fun Palace. In 2021 one Fun Palace decided they were happening the day before and made it happen on the day. And although getting yourself on the map a bit sooner means that people can find you and we can be in touch to support should you need it, send posters, invite you to free workshops and so on; a Fun Palace is no more a Fun Palace if it’s had 6 months, 6 days or 6 minutes of planning. We always run a workshop in September on how to make a last minute Fun Palace, because it is possible. Maybe you will find out what your Fun Palace is in the moments of making it happen. Or maybe you make it really slowly, over months and months, a cup of tea and a conversation here and there, building and making something tiny, but mighty for the first weekend of October. Fun Palaces are about process as much as product: communities coming together, sharing skills, talents, ideas and becoming stronger through that process. They’re about meeting your neighbours, making new connections and starting tiny revolutions right where you are. 

So join us, this October, to make a statement. This is a call to action, to say that all culture is welcome, all culture is valued, all culture is important and all culture is vital. Now more than ever before. We need our voices!

Choose what you want to do – or watch someone else doing it. Learn how to handle tools, paint, babies, machinery, or just listen to your favourite tune. Dance, talk or be lifted up to where you can see how other people make things work. Sit out over space with a drink and tune in to what’s happening elsewhere in the city. Try starting a riot or beginning a painting – or just lie back and stare at the sky.” – Joan Littlewood

If you want talk to us about your Fun Palace or ideas, get in touch, we love chatting. Email hello@funpalaces.co.uk or call the office and leave a message on 0208 692 4446, ext 203. 

(If you want and need to get hold of ‘stuff’ our sustainability toolkit has lots of ideas of how you can source things for low-cost or no-cost – because economically friendly is usually also good for the environment. We will also soon be updating your funding toolkit, so if you do need funding to make your Fun Palace happen, keep an eye out for that.)

Illustration of people huddled together, smiling and embracing under red bunting and a Fun Palaces banner.
© Emily Medley