Last week, some of us, Fun Palaces Makers and many not, shared ideas around the 50th anniversary of Jennie Lee’s White Paper, A Policy for the Arts, First Steps.
Loads of people all over the UK shared dreams and despairs, put thoughts out on social media, talked about where we’d come from and where we’re going with the arts and policy, and how much more there is still to do, how much hasn’t been done. I loved that it took minimal pushing (compared to the work it took to make Fun Palaces happen!, diff size thing, I know) and happened regardless – because people care.
And, out of it, I had an email conversation with a 2014 Fun Palaces Maker, Carine, who has been very honest with us about her experience of making a Fun Palace last year, the challenges as well as the great bits. I found the conversation both moving and invigorating, and asked Carine if I could share it more widely. Here it is, with her permission. (nb, Carine is not an arts professional and the Fun Palace she co-made last year was her first work in creating a public event of this nature. These are the people Fun Palaces are for, AND the people we’re learning from about how to make the whole thing work!)
I hope it’s useful to those of you thinking you want to make a Fun Palace (or wanting to make anything at all!) and worrying about doing it right. There is no ‘right’!
Carine : I shared #ArtsPolicy 50 with non-arts people today. They were interested but too busy/not bothered enough to get involved. It made me think I wasn’t sending the right message. Or I haven’t found the right way to send it. This brought me to think about how Alex and I are talking about/sharing the Fun Palaces. We did not manage to get the #everyoneanartist #everyoneascientist message across in 2014. And though we’re quite pleased with what we managed to do, there is huge space for improvement re getting people engaged and involved, lots to achieve in 2015.
And this led me to realise that’s why the Fun Palaces are unique : they give us the space to learn, grow, make mistakes (and sometimes turn them into happy accidents), improve, make things better the following year; but since there is no expectation, there can’t be failure or competition. The structure of the FP (and the HQ) act like a safety net for when we need reassurance, guidance.
Voilà. That’s what the #ArtsPolicy50 thing got me thinking about today. I wish I could find better words to express my thoughts! I guess the main idea is : I found something I’m passionate about, something that is changing me. And while I’m learning to be a Maker I need to find a way to pass on why it matters (and not only to me) and I haven’t found it. Not yet…
Stella : Carine, this made me cry. I really hope you understand how useful, important and valuable your open-ness is to us, to all of us, (you included I hope?) who are trying to make whatever this “Fun Palace” thing is. Because NONE of us know. I certainly don’t. And I go to these big meetings and tell very posh/’high-powered’ people : “I don’t know – but I’m ok to not know, to learn, to make mistakes, to develop it”, and they don’t understand how I can be so honest about what I don’t know.
And I don’t understand how they can not realise what a HUGE thing we are beginning, and how weird it is of them to think anyone might fully KNOW how to do Fun Palaces yet. Ever.
Carine : Being okay about my mistakes, and open about them is one of the most valuable things the Fun Palaces have taught me. Seeing writers/theatre makers like you being open about them too only makes you closer to your audience I think. It doesn’t stop us admiring your work, but it shows it comes from work, not a magic trick. I suspect one of the reasons we’re afraid to admit we’re sometimes wrong is the competitive system we’re brought up in (school, grades, etc…) that teaches us to be better than the others, work against them rather than with them. So Fun Palaces in schools could make such a massive difference (easier said than done I guess!!).
I love the Fun Palaces Makers – the guts it takes to get out in our own community, right where we live, and risk getting it wrong, risk getting it right, risk getting involved, risk our neighbours knowing us. I bloody love them for their daring.