Our Fun Palaces Are Showing Creativity In Community Can Change The World For The Better

26/09/2016 09:59 | Updated 26 September 2016

It's 4.30pm on Saturday afternoon, one week until Fun Palaces' weekend. I've just checked the back end of our website and I see that there are 200 Fun Palaces on the map. They are all across the UK, in Australia, New Zealand, France and Norway. And each of them was started by one person.

One person who, perhaps as part of an organisation, decided that their company or building could hand over more programming, curating, creating to the public than they already do, could welcome people in - not for yet another Open Day or fête - but genuinely to have ownership of a space, of an idea. Fun Palaces is about the shared ownership of culture, not an elite telling us what matters, but each of us, in each of our communities, working out what culture means to us, right where we live.

fun palaces

Or perhaps that one person is part of the very many smaller Fun Palaces, started by a single individual who thought my town, village, street, school, library, theatre, laboratory, university could be more inclusive, more welcoming. Perhaps they saw a Fun Palace somewhere else and thought 'we can do that here' - and then they gave it a try.

Fun Palaces are all about people having a go, trying to share culture more widely. Not in the way the arts and sciences have done traditionally, where someone who is judged 'good enough' to lead shares their wisdom or art or inspiration with the rest of us, but in a way that truly allows everyone to get involved, assuring anyone that they are welcome to do - to make art, play with science, create crafts, have a go at tech. This is a way that says each of us can not only contribute to our communities through culture, but that we are welcome to do so - and when we do so, it can make a difference. It can make our communities feel more inclusive, it can make each of us feel more capable, and in turn, that changes everything.

fun palace

I know that not every Fun Palace will be quite as open and participatory and fully community-led as they might like. There are gatekeepers and traditional structures and formal ways of doing things to get around. But every Fun Palace is helping a building or a venue or an organisation or a community become more welcoming, more open. Every Fun Palace makes a commitment to be inclusive, to be participatory, to reach out and share the creativity that exists at the heart of all our communities - and in a Britain that feels more fractured than ever, this is hugely welcome.

This is our third annual weekend of action and people who are now making their third Fun Palace tell us that every year they try to be more open, more welcoming, braver with the participatory arts and science activities they put on, braver about asking people to create with them. They are learning to share programming and curating, to welcome everyone's creative input, to make their Fun Palace not just for their community - but for, by and with their community. And they also tell us that this openness is showing up in the rest of their lives, in the new friends where they live and work, in the new things they are surprised they now have the courage to do - change patterns at work and home, quite a tedious job, start a brand new one.

fun palace

When we began Fun Palaces in 2013 it was with the dream of making culture more accessible, more genuinely open to all. After working in the arts for over 30 years, I still have that dream, but I know that what we are trying to do is so much more.

This is our manifesto. I remember that it took most of a day to agree on these words. I remember writing them on a piece of flip-chart paper on the floor, with a fat felt pen, hoping we'd got it right, if not forever, then at least until we decided we could do better. Person by person, community by community, trying to make a difference.

We believe in the genius in everyone, in everyone an artist and everyone a scientist, and that creativity in community can change the world for the better.

We believe we can do this together, locally, with radical fun - and that anyone, anywhere, can make a Fun Palace.

Fun Palaces Weekend 2015 is 1 and 2 October, check the map to find (or create!) your local Fun Palace: