This morning Sarah-Jane (Fun Palaces co-maker) and I went to the Roundhouse for a speech Harriet Harman was giving as part of Labour’s policy review consultation on Young People and the Arts.
Here’s the full text.

It was great to hear her say many of the things I believe about arts and inclusion. She spoke very passionately, and these are some of the things I heard and scribbled down (so possibly ever so slightly incorrectly, what with doing so long-hand!, do check against the text) as they spoke not only to what I care about anyway, but also specifically to Fun Palaces. My comments are in italics.

“The arts are fundamental to what it means to be human.”
“How do we ensure ALL young people are engaged with arts and culture?”
“The good is a stepping stone to the best.”
“If you’re getting public money, people have to have a stake in what you do.”
“A widening pool of talent is needed – not shrinking.”
“Universal entitlement for young people.”
“We reject the binary choice between science and arts.” (How TOTALLY Fun Palaces is that??!!)
“The certainty that it (arts) is really getting to every child without being top-down, one size fits all.”
“Extending opportunity to the child brings the whole family in.” (or as Joan would have put it “Ask The Kids”!)

ALL of which is EXACTLY why Fun Palaces are about COMMUNITY in arts/sciences, & why we put LOCAL clearly and strongly in our guidelines.

But after her speech I was left thinking there seems to be a gap where community speaks to power.
We (the arts makers & arts educators) in the room (& I’ve never been invited into these rooms before now – I wasn’t actually invited to this one, I asked for an invitation!), are all passionate about inclusion, of course we are, we wouldn’t have been there otherwise. We care about accessibility, and arts for all. But we (arts makers/educators) are NOT ‘all’, and we KNOW we’re not ‘all’, not by a long shot.
So how do we get power (ie, government, parliamentarians, policy makers) to meet with community, how do we give community a voice about the arts?
How do we broker a place for community to say what it (we!) want in the arts?

I wonder if sometimes we (arts makers, arts educators) might need to get out of the way just a little bit?

I see the very locally-led Fun Palaces springing up all over the country, engaging in the way THEY know best with THEIR locality, and I see that many of the people making these very local Fun Palaces are not attached to an arts organisation, a theatre, museum, library or education establishment – and regardless, they DO know what to do.
They know how to reach into their communities. They know how to ‘do local’ and it thrills me, to see this under-used resource of people who care, stepping up and creating for their own locality in Alfreton and Crystal Palace and Lancaster and Deptford and Portstewart and Croydon and Pontypridd and Herne Hill and dozens of other places across the UK. Most of them with no resources, most of them from a pure desire to create locally, to share with the community, to work together.
These people are ALSO the arts makers. The artists. The educators.
(I don’t mean they don’t NEED money!, I mean it interests me that many of those who are doing so are doing it regardless of money or not, money would help them do it all so much bigger and probably better, and no doubt far less exhaustingly, but they want to make a difference ANYWAY.)

And I want to see more of these people in the rooms where power is speaking.
Fun Palaces is obviously one way of doing this, what are the others?