Fun Palaces

Stella Duffy

An ongoing, national campaign for culture at the heart of community; cultural activity created by and for local communities, with an annual weekend of action every October.

2014 and 2015: 280 Fun Palaces in 11 nations (primarily UK), led by 5262 local people, with 90,000 people taking part.

Founded in 2013, we have been funded by ACE, Foyle Foundation, Wellcome.

Our 2015 Evaluation shows the value of community-led engagement for individual and community health and wellbeing:

1. People feel empowered as a result of national and local activity
62% of Makers found making a Fun Palace showed them they were capable of more than they expected.
“It makes people who don't think they're creative discover that they are – what else can they achieve? It's not just about the personal. The community is emboldened too. It makes us realise we can make something, do something.” Whitstable FP Maker
2. People take responsibility for the area in which they live, want to contribute to its cohesion.
"We wanted to make a Fun Palace to bring some community spirit back to our town" The Heathen’s FP, West Midlands
• 88% felt it was important that their Fun Palace happened where it did
• 80% felt part of a community at their Fun Palace
3.  Stronger local ties and social assets
Fun Palaces enables a wide range of local relationships with different types of people, eg local businesses and universities, benefitting not only the quantity of social assets gained but also the quality across relationships.
• 78% of Makers were proud of the area where their Fun Palace happened
• 85% felt connected to their community
•  “We are excited by the legacy – the potential and willing for more community involvement and a realisation that some of our local businesses hold the most incredible knowledge and joy if we just tap into it! Crystal FP Maker
• “I’ve lived here 17 years and I’ve never felt in my life totally part of any community and now I do.” Brockwell Lido FP Maker

4. People are happy, learning and teaching (and increased community knowledge)
Makers gained skills development, sense of self, knowledge of their communities.
• 84% felt motivated to do more creative things in future
• 62% found making a Fun Palace showed them they were capable of more than they expected
• 64% found making a Fun Palace revealed resources they did not know their communities had.

5. Inclusion/Diversity
Fun Palaces necessarily involves ALL members of the community :
• the ethnic background of Fun Palace Makers is within 1.5% of the national distribution for all groups
• participants come from all deciles of the Index of Multiple Deprivation, with most deciles within 3% of the national distribution.

In November 2016 we launch our three-year Ambassadors Programme, funded by PHF and Wellcome – while continuing our work across the UK we (Fun Palaces, five host organisations and ambassadors in Cornwall, Stoke, Sheffield, Bristol and Scotland) will co-create a programme developing community engagement from the grassroots up.
Statistics and testimonials from UK Fun Palaces Makers suggest this will increase social cohesion, local engagement, and therefore individual and community health and wellbeing.
The Ambassadors Programme Action Research element is led by Professor Eleonora Belfiore (Centre for Research in Communication and Culture at Loughborough University) ensuring robust analysis and learning dissemination.

Description of the arts activity

Fun Palaces are community-led, therefore the participation offered depends on the interests of each community. The range is as wide as the arts, most Fun Palaces offer participation in 10-15 art forms.

Our motto ‘everyone an artist, everyone a scientist’ enables Fun Palaces to include health and wellbeing as ‘sciences’.
Health organisations working with Fun Palaces have included:

  • South Lambeth Library Fun Palace, Alzheimer’s Society
  • Brockwell Lido Fun Palace, neuroscience researchers from Kings College/Maudsley Hospital; the Stroke Association (gathered vital local data from a diverse demographic)
  • Meet me at the Albany, Deptford (an older people-led Fun Palace contributing to wellbeing and engagement)
  • ActionSpace Fun Palace (led by artist with learning disabilities)
  • Lewisham Disability and Arts Network Fun Palace (led by people with disabilities and a mental health charity working together)
  • Vital Arts (Barts childrens’ ward Fun Palace)
  • Winter’s Park Fun Palace (BUPA care home, residents creating their own event)
  • StopHit Battersea Fun Palace (raising awareness of domestic violence)
  • Tameside Fun Palace – working with services veterans, some of whom suffer from PTSD, to co-create their Fun Palace, supporting community engagement and re-integration

Details of the project participants

We welcome anyone, anywhere to create a Fun Palace.  
Our map lists those signed up for Fun Palaces in 2016.
We support local Fun Palaces with PR/comms, Maker site, and a dedicated Producer.
People discover Fun Palaces through social media, press, word of mouth, and – as we develop the Ambassadors Programme – l
learning disseminated from this work.

Project management

Fun Palaces is hosted by the Albany, Deptford (registered charity no 1112521) as a discrete organisation with a ring-fenced budget. The Albany gains benefit and profile of a national participation organisation, Fun Palaces benefits from charity status without the additional costs.
This has enabled us to deliver large-scale public participation at a fraction of the cost of organisations with similar reach – approx £120,000 per year over the past 3 years.

Fun Palaces is run by five people part-time (2-3 days/week)
Stella Duffy : co-director, thought leadership and public engagement
Sarah-Jane Rawlings : co-director, strategy and development
Hannah Lambert : producer, Maker support
Kirsty Lothian : producer, evaluation
Conni Rosewarne : administrator

Fun Palaces is free to Makers who want to create a Fun Palace locally AND it is free to participants.

We have robust Terms and Conditions regarding engagement and consent.

Evaluation methods and findings

Evaluation methods and findings
Evaluation 2014 by Mandy Barnet Associates
Evaluation 2015 run internally using Culture Counts
Action Research beginning November 2016 for the Ambassadors Programme led by Professor Eleonora Belfiore.

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England