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Fun Palaces 2021 launches, welcoming two new co-directors

As communities and culture across the UK and the world begin to re-emerge, Fun Palaces launch their 2021 campaign online and announce a brand new pair of co-directors. Fun Palaces will continue to celebrate the strength, solidarity and creativity in communities, which has been so vital in the last year. Launching online in April, the weekend of action this October will welcome both online and offline Fun Palaces from Makers across the country and worldwide to share skills, connect communities and create tiny revolutions.

The team also welcome new co-directors – Bristol-based community worker and musician Makala Cheung working alongside former Fun Palaces producer Kirsty Lothian – with Stella Duffy and Sarah Jane-Rawlings stepping down after seven years founding and growing the organisation. Kirsty Lothian has been Fun Palaces’ Producer since it began in 2014. Before that, she worked with the theatre company Improbable, directed operas for Bury Court Opera and the Anghiari Festival and is also the Co-op Member Pioneer supporting her community in South London. Makala Cheung is a community worker and music artist (known as KALA CHNG) from Bristol. Makala has been working in her community Knowle West for nearly twenty years and currently works part time at Filwood Community Centre leading Filwood Fantastic, a creative community project supported by Creative Civic Change. She’s also one of the city’s first voted Happiness Champions, was named a culture ambassador by Bristol & West of England China Bureau and helped create new YouTube channel BESEA TV to celebrate East and South East Asian talent in the UK.

2021 will mark the eighth free annual Fun Palaces weekend of action, bringing together Fun Palace makers to lead their own local events. Fun Palaces are led by, and for, local communities, connecting people through arts, science, craft, tech, digital and heritage activities. This year will see events taking place both online and in-person in order to remain accessible both to those who have faced digital exclusion during lockdown as well as continuing to support those who are not able to attend in-person activities. Alongside an established team of regional ambassadors working with partnership organisations across the UK, three new ambassadors, made possible thanks to funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, will be recruited in Devon, Rotherham and Sage Gateshead.

Kirsty Lothian said, “I am delighted to be welcoming Makala Cheung to Fun Palaces, and to step into the role of co-director with her. Over the last seven years, Fun Palaces has grown from an idea to a movement under the stewardship of Stella Duffy and Sarah-Jane Rawlings. Theirs are big shoes to fill, and also big shoulders to stand on, and with thousands of Fun Palaces Makers to walk alongside, Makala and I could not have a more exciting start to our journey. Each Fun Palace is as unique as the community who creates it, and over the years Makers sharing their skills have taught me the most amazing array of things – from extracting my DNA with orange squash in Edinburgh, to embroidering blanket stitch on the Wirral, to riding a tandem bike between local landmarks in Pontypridd. One thing they all have in common is the incredible power to bring people together, to highlight the extraordinary skills, creativity, talents and expertise that we all have within us. As we get the measure of how the world has changed over the last year, one thing is for sure: we need that creativity and that connection more than ever.

Makala Cheung said, “Fun Palaces believes in the same things I do; that everyone has amazing talents, that by coming together, being creative, inventive and building on local culture we can make positive community change and live happier lives. To me when I read Joan Littlewood’s original vision of being in a Fun Palace it just sounds like my community centre! Fun Palaces are the places we come together to have fun, make connections, learn and try new things, and make things happen together. I can’t wait to work with the existing team and new people all across the UK and beyond to develop the next evolution of Fun Palaces together. All my life, all I’ve ever cared about is spreading joy, connecting with people, being creative, encouraging everyone to be their fabulous selves, and being part of a community. I’m just so excited to see how I can take that love of people, community and creativity and work with even more amazing people (everyone is amazing!) to change the world, for the better, together. ”

Fun Palace maker Miriam Storey (Eltham Library London) said “It’s been the hardest year and it was hard to see what one week looked like from the next …. then Fun Palaces comes along and reminds you that you do not have to do everything, that there is value in the small things, that they are still done with great commitment and purpose, and love. And that while Fun Palaces weekend is a weekend of action, it doesn’t stop there, we can carry that action through the rest of the year, we can connect, we can plan, we can discover, we can be there for each other. I have ended the day more hopeful than I started, and more energised than I expected.”

Ambassadors Programme

In 2019, thanks to National Lottery players, Fun Palaces was awarded £1.5 million from The National Lottery Community Fund. Over a five-year period, the £1.5m grant supports the work of Fun Palaces Ambassadors in 9 locations, working with local partner organisations. Current Ambassadors continue their work in Cornwall, Northern Ireland, North Wales, Sheffield, Scotland (Inverness and Central Belt) and this year they will be joined by three new Ambassadors in Rotherham at Rotherham Council, Devon at Libraries Unlimited, Gateshead at Sage Gateshead.

Fun Palaces Ambassadors are all local people, already-connected in and working with their own communities. The funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, supports the Ambassadors to do even more on a local, grassroots basis. In addition, Ambassadors will share and develop learning with the individuals and communities with which they work, and more widely with the many other organisations across the UK who understand that local people are the heart of our campaign towards a cultural and community life that is truly inclusive and welcoming to all.

Central Fun Palaces Team

Co-Director: Kirsty Lothian                                 Co-Director (until July 2021): Sarah-Jane Rawlings

Incoming Co-Director: Makala Cheung

Fun Palaces will be recruiting in Summer 2021.             

For further information on how to sign up, please visit: www.funpalaces.co.uk/register