Hundreds of Fun Palaces to pop up this October as communities celebrate their culture and talents

• Community-made Fun Palaces return to celebrate arts, culture, science and creativity in the heart of communities.

• Events are a mix of in-person and online, big and tiny, following the success of Tiny Fun Palaces in 2020.

• 2021 marks 60 years since pioneering theatre maker Joan Littlewood conceived the idea of Fun Palaces, celebrating a lifelong legacy 

Friday 1st – Sunday 3rd October 2021, across the UK, worldwide and online

Every year in the first weekend of October, local people come together with their community to celebrate their culture, talents and passions in Fun Palaces. Designed to provide culture by, for, and with everyone, 2021 marks the eighth free annual Fun Palaces weekend of action, connecting people through arts, science, craft, tech, digital, and heritage activities.

All Fun Palaces are free to visit, made in and by each community. Celebrating richly diverse communities across the UK and worldwide, this year’s Fun Palaces range from Rap Battles in Manchester’s iconic indoor market, Afflecks, to a tiny Fun Palace inviting people to share words of love about their area for a window display in Redruth. Returning international Fun Palaces include Athens Comic Library, which once again will be throwing open their doors as a safe and creative space for refugee and migrant children and their caregivers. Meanwhile online, pop-ups will include Grand Constructions Fun Palace: where participants can build the Sydney Harbour Bridge out of paper. At its heart, Fun Palaces is about communities sharing and doing what they love, whilst blasting open access to culture of all kinds. Fun Palaces is supported by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Ross Bolwell-Williams, a Fun Palace Maker said:  “Someone in an interview asked me what has been the best arts event or festival I’ve ever experienced. Hands down, it’s Fun Palaces and it will always be Fun Palaces. 

Last year, despite all the uncertainty of 2020, over 2,000 people made Tiny Fun Palaces in their communities, on and offline. This year will also see a mixture of in person and online events, some still Tiny, some not so tiny! As well as school playgrounds, front gardens, and pubs, venues which will be hosting Fun Palaces this year will include Chichester Festival Theatre, Oxford Playhouse, Crewe Lyceum, Perth Theatre, Derby Museum, and Navy Museum Auckland. International Fun Palaces sign-ups include events taking place in Greece, Thailand, Denmark, and New Zealand. 

This year is the 60th anniversary of visionary theatre maker Joan Littlewood’s idea for a ‘laboratory of fun’ called a Fun Palace. Littlewood and architect Cedric Price imagined a building accessible to those who wouldn’t normally go to arts venues where people could lead and take part in their own activities. In 2013 Stella Duffy and Sarah-Jane Rawlings marked Littlewood’s centenary by reviving her Fun Palaces idea – not in one building, but in spaces and with communities across the UK. From the tiniest gazebo to the grandest public hall, forests, fields, and online spaces too, what matters when it comes to making a Fun Palace is that community is genuinely at the heart of it. Fun Palaces emphasise the importance of communities sharing their own genius and the value of ALL culture, and making the venues many people feel are ‘off limits’ to them (for instance, art galleries, theatres, and museums) welcoming and open to all, and celebrating the skills, enthusiasms, or passions inside everyone.

The annual Fun Palaces weekend has become a national and international campaign for cultural democracy and community connection, shining a spotlight on recognising the value of all culture. As Joan said, “I do really believe in the community. I really do believe in the genius in every person. And I’ve heard that greatness come out of them, that great thing which is in people.”

Co-director Kirsty Lothian said, “I can’t wait for this year’s Fun Palaces Weekend. In many ways, 2021 feels even harder than 2020, it’s been such a long slog for everyone, and communities rallying round is what is getting us through. We need everyone’s genius – and fun! – to navigate this new world, to come up with the solutions we need, and to do so fairly. I am endlessly inspired by the people making Fun Palaces in their communities, connecting with their neighbours, sharing their skills, opening their doors (and their garden gates, and their web-links), celebrating their brilliance and helping each other heal.”

Co-director Makala Cheung said, “I’ve always loved meeting new people and places and always seen how every community has its own rich culture. Fun Palaces everywhere showcase the talents and passions and skills we all have to share, (Plus we all have a whole load of fun while doing it and see the joy that community connection brings!)”