Lancaster Fun Palace 2020
Isolation has been one of the key words of 2020. We’ve been social distancing, self-isolating, quarantining, shielding and generally keeping away from each other. And, of course, we still are: we are in the middle of a pandemic.
This year, then, more than ever it seems, we need #funpalaces. In Lancaster, we’ve been Fun Palace-ing since 2014, the beginning of the current movement, so this is our seventh year. In years one to six, we were largely housed in Lancaster Central Library, with some lovely additional venues popping up around the city from time to time, including our local museums and The Dukes Theatre. Over the years at our Fun Palace, participants of all ages have played ukuleles, word games, drums; made flashing robotic bugs, mandalas, bird-feeders; tried out dance steps, Meccano, martial arts; learned about blood, local authors, Syrian food ….and much, much, much more. Every year has been unique. Every year has been an exciting, messy, fun celebration of some of the arts, sciences and technology our city has to offer. It has shone a light on the wealth of activities going on all around us all the time, on how much individuals have to offer, on the genius in everyone. The first weekend of October has become one of my very favourite times of the year and, last year’s feedback from well over a thousand participants overwhelmingly showed that they had loved it too.
The lead Lancaster Fun Palace Makers decided early in 2020, not long after lockdown, that we were determined still to create a Fun Palace this year, even if it had to be very different. We held regular planning meetings, more or less to our now-regular schedule, but hosted this year on zoom. It’s not been quite as easy as usual, of course — people don’t generally freeze during face to face meetings or lose their audio! — but we have largely coped. We’ve made plans, discarded them in the light of changes of regulations, made new ones, discarded those… and have stumbled our way towards hosting a number of tiny fun palaces, both on and offline. It’s been challenging and frustrating at times, but also hugely exciting and rewarding and it has been wonderful to have something so positive on which to focus during a year that has been so difficult for so many of us — and not exclusively because of the pandemic.
Our planned tiny Fun Palaces for 2020 will include online drama — a workshop for all and an interactive performance for young children; a zoom quiz about Lancaster; an online q and a with our local Black Lives Matter organisation. A Lancaster artist is teaching her immediate neighbours on three streets to create decorative bats and other creatures out of tissue paper and craft materials to be displayed in their windows throughout the Fun Palaces weekend and on through October. We are organising a recipe swap, hoping to share, among others, recipes from the range of refugee communities who live in our city. The library, although unable to host our usual range of workshops, is nonetheless still a very important part of this year’s Fun Palace as they are the central point from which packs for an Engineering Trail, with maps of Lancaster and materials for suggested activities for families, can be collected, as well as crystal growing kits supported by the Royal Society of Chemists. We have been delighted with the range of events and activities we are still able to offer, all abiding by social distancing and other local regulations. There are more ideas still in the works too, even though the Fun Palace weekend is only days away — and, in fact, this is where the 2020 Fun Palace is very similar to every other year as it’s never, ever, too late to be a part of it all; we try to keep saying yes until the very last second!
The #funpalaces movement is the antithesis of isolation. It is about creating, recognising and celebrating the links between us and it encourages us to share our skills and passions and learn from each other, while having fun. These hopeful shoots of connection, respect and playfulness have never been more needed than now.