When you think community hubs or centres, what places do you envision? Your leisure centre? The local school? Your library? Now imagine there was a campaign promoting community in areas like this, culture at the heart of community. Such a campaign already exists in the form of Fun Palaces.


Fun Palaces is a campaign for cultural democracy, with an annual weekend of action every October. The weekend uses the combination of arts, craft, science, tech, digital, heritage and sports activities, led by local people for local people, sharing their own passions and skills, as a catalyst for community-led transformation, with active participation for all ages. The aim of the organisation is to equally value everyone’s creativity and every community, through working together, handing over control and challenging the status quo.


Since the Fun Palaces campaign started in 2013, there has been overall 1367 Fun Palaces made by approximately 32,800 local people enjoyed by approximately 450,000 participants worldwide.


The idea of Fun Palaces began back in the 60s, with theatre producer, Joan Littlewood and her architect husband Cedric Price conceiving the never-built ‘Fun Palace’ as a ‘laboratory of fun’ and ‘a university of the streets’. It was to be a home to arts and sciences, open and welcome to all. For a plethora of reasons however it wasn't possible in 1961 and the event space was never created. Littlewood is known to have said, “I do really believe in the community. I really do believe in the genius in every person.” Hence in 2013, the Fun Palace was re-imagined as a space that anyone could make, wherever they lived, utilising under-used buildings and public spaces for community-led activities. 


October 5th and 6th marked this year's weekend of action, and one particular library that took part was the Eltham Centre Library in the Royal Borough of Greenwich South East London (there are in fact two other ‘Eltham libraries’ in New Zealand and Australia respectively which also participated in Fun Palaces). Ironically coinciding with the start of World Space Week 4th-10th of October, the library was invaded by a Dalek from Doctor Who-and as anyone who’s seen the show will know, wherever the Daleks are, the Doctor can be found to stop them. However, in this case there were actually  two Doctors, the 7th (Sylvester McCoy) and 11th Incarnation (Matt Smith) and the Dalek,who was collecting for the local Foodbank, was kept in line.


Amongst other activities the children enjoyed hearing Dr Who stories read to them by the Doctor and the Dalek in its iconic, maniacal, shrill voice. The Doctor even got the Dalek to say ‘sausages’ to the delight of all involved. Afterwards, the Dalek announced and reminded all that it was Observe the Moon Night, yet again coincidentally coinciding with the weekend of action and directly correlating to the stories of sci-fi and space exploration that the show is known for.


Miriam Storey, manager of the Eltham Centre Library said of her experience with Fun Palaces, “We built new relationships, made new contacts and talked to so many people who perhaps otherwise we would not have seen. We have had some fabulous heart-wrenching, scary, wonderful moments being part of Fun Palaces. And a big part of that was letting go and handing over our library space to the community and saying it's yours, what would you like to do”


In many ways the event, and all the entertainment had, is exactly what Littlewood and Price had intended with the Fun Palace concept, the principle of bringing a community together, sharing the wonderful talents of many people from different generations and backgrounds, and most importantly having fun are still as ingrained in the campaign as it was in the early blueprints of the 60s. So when October rolls round, keep a look out in your local community and join in for a weekend of fun packed action,  the simple objective of Fun Palaces is to to create together, have chats over a cup of tea,  to get to know and understand our neighbours a bit better through sharing some fun together and that can literally happen anywhere.