Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Inclusive Palaces

Following on from my blogpost of the 25th of September, I have been utterly delighted to read two articles recently that wax lyrical about the idea that the UK has large pools of untapped talent, ready to rehabilitate local communities. 

Nick Miller reported on how crowdsourcing in Clapham has enabled a community to turn an old Victorian library into Omnibus: “a vibrant new arts centre.” 

I’ve seen many architecturally stunning churches converted into luxury flats in my patch of town, so it’s heartening to hear of a project in which local residents campaigned for SEVEN YEARS to have their council grant them a lease for the arts centre.  Volunteers have been at the heart of the Omnibus project in marketing, fundraising and production.  
The approach was very much that everyone had something to offer – some skill or knowledge to share…The common link between the Omnibus volunteers is that everyone has given their time and knowledge because they believed in the mission of the organisation -  namely, to create a visible new destination for the arts that enriches the lives of a diverse group of people.
I also discovered that the idea of the collective arts venture was promoted decades ago by Joan Littlewood and Cedric Price.  They thought up the notion of a fun palace: “a revolutionary venue, housing culture and science, encouraging engagement, debate and enjoyment…the fun palace was about public engagement at its most inclusive.”

Though Joan’s fun palaces were never built, owing to cost, the concept is appearing now and again around the UK.  By taking advantage of underutilised spaces, the new Fun Palaces project consists of more than 150 venues and companies and has enlisted independent artists, theatre-science makers and producers. Stella Duffy reports in her Guardian article of the 6th of January:
These creators will work with local people and organisations, combining arts, culture, technology and science to create local fun palaces.  Our aim is to connect them all in tone and spirit, and also digitally through an online fun palace that will be part-game, part-content, but all-engagement.
I completely agree with the writer Ms. Duffy who believes that cultural participation isn’t just something is done for us or something we passively consume.  Rather, creative work – by all ages, but particularly the young and old – is something we all do and can enjoy.

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