About 10 days ago I went to a very inspiring workshop put on by SCL SW at Taunton Library, delivered by the brilliant Stella Duffy, it was all about how to make a Fun Palace.
Fun Palaces is a campaign for culture with an annual weekend (the first weekend in October) of community events at various sites around the country (and internationally).
The Fun Palaces Manifesto states:
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.
The activities are based around arts and sciences but above all Fun Palaces are made by local people for their communities and they are free and fun! In 2015 there were 280 Fun Palaces with over 90,000 people taking part. A Fun Palace can be made anywhere in a community, at parks, museums, libraries or even people’s gardens.
At the end of the workshop Stella, who is very persuasive, asked us all to make a pledge based on what we’d learnt. As the baton went round the tables I thought, I can sit on this and plan for next year or perhaps I could just do this in two weeks. After all Stella did make it sound really quite easy!
I pledged to make it happen at a library in North Somerset, hoping that the library team would be equally enthused when I told them all about it. I’m lucky that my team at Yatton Library have a very can-do attitude.
Since my study tour of the States last year, where I saw skills-sharing on a large scale in libraries, we have been piloting skills-sharing workshops at Yatton Library. Making a Fun Palace didn’t seem a million miles away from this idea. Earlier in the year we had put up a flip chart asking the community what events and activities they would like to see in the library. We then put up another chart asking people what skills they might be able to share to fulfil these. The responses we had were great with people prepared to offer spinning, weaving, languages, dress-making, wildlife information, creative writing and nutrition advice.
After I’d floated the idea of a Fun Palace with Fen, the Library Supervisor and she wasn’t too shocked (thanks Fen, you’re a star!), we sat down to see if we could pull a Fun Palace together in two weeks. For us, the beauty of it was that we had a head start, as we already had a list of people who were happy to run workshops in the library and combining this with some of the regular library volunteer activities, we just had to see who might be available on the Saturday.
Fen and I phoned and emailed and the library staff enthusiastically talked to people, within a few days we had a fabulous list of activities and our Fun Palace programme is now looking like this:
I can’t pretend that making a Fun Palace hasn’t added to our already busy workloads this last week but it’s not been unmanageable and we have been able to do it without any additional staffing and a zero budget.
Fun Palaces give libraries a perfect opportunity for community engagement work, putting the library right at the heart of the community, as a place where people can try something different and learn something new. We’re really looking forward to ours next Saturday and we’re also looking forward to welcoming Conni from Fun Palaces HQ, who is coming along to see our last minute village library Fun Palace…no pressure then!
Information on Yatton Library’s Fun Palace can be found here.
My colleague Sophia Richards, is also making an exciting short notice Fun Palace at Pill Library