This will be the second year of Fun Palaces, which last year saw 40,000 take part in in 130 events in a celebration of engagement in art and science. The Fun Palaces encourage local groups to come together and invite their communities to take part in fun-filled activities revolving around the theme ‘everyone an artist, everyone a scientist’.
Events at the weekend will see young and old discover the science of swimming, make music with concrete pipes, dance like they’re on Strictly, build a rocket with Network Rail engineers, learn to hang a (real) Turner painting, reveal the secrets of forensics and run Scalextrics through your town.
This Fun Palces ethos that has its origins in 1961 with theatre director Joan Littlewood who imagined a fun palace where people could get involved or watch a whole range of activities of their choosing.
This 21st century incarnation of the Fun Palace dream was kick-started by writer and theatre-maker Stella Duffy and producer Sarah-Jane Rawlings, both passionate about full access to all culture, and determined to turn Littlewood and Price’s 1960s vision of a ‘university of the streets’ and ‘laboratory of fun’ into reality.
“This weekend marks the beginning of our year-round campaign to empower people to create and own meaningful and relevant culture in their communities, tapping into the emerging zeitgeist of cultural participation and community activism – thereby widening inclusive participation and access to the arts and sciences,” said co-director Duffy.
This year promises to be bigger and better with events taking place in Cornwall to Kent and Sunderland to Scotland and on the other side of the world from Christchurch to Brisbane. The Fun Places team have been delighted with the take-up – as with 2014 the range across theatres, galleries, museums and libraries is strong, as is the purely community-led Fun Palaces.
“What we have seen this year however, is that there are less usual suspects – ie, the big venues one might think would jump in, and more of those who might have been a little shy of us last year,” said Duffy. “Many more libraries, museums, galleries and community groups are in. Much as we welcome traditional public art spaces, the real hero of Fun Palaces is the community, so we are especially thrilled to see public buildings and organisations working with (rather than for) communities – and vice versa.”
The Fun Palaces team of four will visit 37 Fun Palaces between them, Duffy will also lead a Lambeth walk between the 11 Library Fun Palaces in the borough – from Waterloo to Upper Norwood, stopping by Joan Littlewood’s birthplace in Stockwell – welcoming writers and would-be writers to co-create a piece of live-written work as they walk.
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