Last night we had a Fun Palaces event at OvalHouse, inviting London Fun Palace makers to come along and meet each other. In July our roadtrip (Exeter, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Leicester – in 2.5 days, 4 women & one toddler), we confirmed what we’d already guessed – that we (FPHQ) can – and do – send out all the mailouts and emails and support and ideas and help we can manage, but the real connections happen when people can get together and talk. So we decided we would hold one in London too. OvalHouse very kindly gave us their cafe/bar space, we bought pound-shop nuts & crisps, and invited them in.
A lot of what Sarah-Jane, Kirsty, Hannah and I from FPHQ were doing was making introductions at first, knowing some people only had half an hour before their train and needed to meet others quickly, or that this person had a Fun palace idea and that person had a space that needed an idea to go in it – and then, after a while, as ever, it took its own course. SouthBank (producer-led FP) talking to Whitstable (community-led), individual artists linking with others and with FPs they might join in, Deptford talking to Glasgow about how to get more sciences engaged and how to be an artist who isn’t worried about ‘getting science wrong’ (and vice versa), great ideas shared, links made. And maybe those links will feed Fun Palaces this year, or next, or never. Maybe they’re about other things. It doesn’t matter. What is becoming increasingly evident to me, to all of us working on Fun Palaces, is that we are unearthing what is already there, unearthing passions for working in community, for making hyper-locally, for making and doing and participating. Fun Palaces is simply providing a framework for people who want to engage, who want to engage locally and in community, to do so – and to help each other do so, whatever community they’re in. And the most exciting bit about it, for me, after 30+ years of working in the arts, 30+ years of seeing the gap between maker and audience too-rarely crossed, too-rarely closed, is how many people who don’t self-identify as artists or scientists or makers want to join in, want to create. How irrelevant the title we give ourselves.
Joan said “everyone an artist, or a scientist”, we’re saying “everyone an artist, everyone a scientist”. We mean it.
This incarnation of Fun Palace(s) was born at a D&D, an Open Space event. And Harrison Owen who found and shared Open Space as a format always says he wasn’t inventing anything new, but sharing what he (and many others over the years) have observed to be there – that people will gravitate towards what interests them, that we work best where our passion is, that left to our own devices we will create, together. Fun Palaces is that too. I’m sure Joan Littlewood and Cedric Price didn’t think they invented the idea of people coming together in one space to share ideas, passions, any more than Harrison thinks he ‘invented’ Open Space. Joan and Cedric were both smart, bright people and would have known we’ve done this for millennia, when we lived in roundhouses, when we lived communally, when we created the festivals that marked the seasons. Because human beings make, and we want to share that making. Long before anyone self-defined as an artist or a scientist, people made (food, bridges, hunting spears, crop fields, families) and shared them.
What Open Space does is offer a forum for people to come together and meet, to create their own agendas, in the moment. To make their difference, together.
What Fun Palaces do is offer a forum for people to come together and create, on their own terms, whatever they want to create – an experiment in the physics of swimming (Brockwell Lido), or an international community-shared banquet (Farnham), or a discussion on social conflict and the development of theatre (Darlington).
This is a great price on Price’s architecture – Open Spacers reading this will find loads of links.
If you want to join in with a local Fun Palace, or to make your own (wherever you are, UK-wide or elsewhere, we have FPs in Australia, France, Canada …) there’s still plenty of time, and everything you need to know is here, on the website.
And if you can’t get to a Fun Palace near you (check the map, there’s loads), or don’t want to make one, but do want to do something, perhaps by yourself – 53 Million Artists have a great way for you to make a solo fun palace.