Fun Palaces are an international community scheme which helps people of all ages around the world to team up with experts and organise their own celebrations of science & art. I was a consultant to the team who ran Australia’s first Fun Palace in 2014 and an event co-producer for Lambeth Libraries, who ran eleven simultaneous Fun Palaces in London on October 1st 2015.
For Lambeth, I brokered partnerships with organisations like City University London, the State Library of Queensland, and the Orbital Comics store, as well as recruiting high profile presenters including entrepreneurs, broadcasters, and academics.
I also conceived and ran the online comic maker built for Lambeth Fun Palaces by the State Library of Queensland, which extended Fun Palaces’ international reach.
I trained staff, coached volunteer participants, devised activities, and directly supervised some of the events, as well as delivering volunteer recruitment sessions at community venues.
On Saturday 1st October 2016, the London Borough of Lambeth came alive with DNA experiments, urban myths, online games, slices of brain, cardboard robots, a Geodesic dome, food, dance, football, firefighters, kickboxing, theatre, jewellery making and entrepreneurship sessions.
Find out more at www.funpalaces.co.uk
Matt was fundamental to our success. He listened to our ideas and helped us develop them into practical activities. His help and inspiration made it an incredible success.
Matt was able to really help us raise our profile and we got lots of publicity for the service. Should we ever get the opportunity we would love to work with Matt again and cannot recommend him enough for the way he engages and brings together communities to explore new ideas and activities.
– Susanna Barnes, Lambeth Libraries
In projects where Matt has led on his own initiative, and also in supporting the wider Fun Palaces community, across the UK and internationally, he has shown a solid understanding of our values and a clear articulation of where this aligns with his own practice – as well as where we can work together for greater benefit.
Further, he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. Literally. Fun Palaces are not just about engagement theory and strategy, they are – very deliberately – about true engagement and full participation, across the board, from the grassroots up. Sometimes this means putting up and taking down marquees, in the rain. Matt does this too.
– Stella Duffy, co-director, Fun Palaces
Parkes, New South Wales
I’ve worked with the Australian country town of Parkes over a number of years to design and deliver innovative cultural events for all ages. The work has involved libraries, universities, emergency services, and community groups. From teen zombie battles to pub games for over-18s, movie events, and workshops, plus Australia’s first Fun Palace, we’ve created an inspiring range of programmes which led to us receiving a 2014 national award for innovation.
Working with Matt has been an amazing experience. It’s been so valuable having a partner-in-crime that is prepared to push the boundaries of traditional library services – an important reason for Parkes Library becoming the 2014 Bess Thomas Award winner. We’ve achieved industry recognition and provided customers with innovative programs and events and resources. Matt sees the big picture and has the skills to join all the dots. His input has helped us become leaders, not followers, which delights our managers and supporters no end!
-Tracie Mauro, Parkes Shire Library
Dark Night Burlesque
In June 2013, I devised and ran a guerrilla festival of cabaret and burlesque together with staff from Auckland Libraries, the largest public library system in Australasia. Designed to ‘challenge, question, and explore sex and sexuality on page, stage, and screen’, the week-long festival for over-18s included cinema screenings; librarians venturing into bars to offer their services to Auckland’s drinkers; author talks; a panel discussion with bloggers, academics, and comics creators; and a grand finale cabaret show which included a poi-dancing Maori drag queen, erotica readings from the Auckland Libraries collections, and a performance by the opera burlesque troupe Oh! Is For Opera.
I was rather pleased to dye my hair purple and channel the great Alan Cumming’s turn in Cabaret as I MC’ed the final event – the New Zealand Herald described me as ‘camp, straight, and very talkative’ – which I’ve decided to take as praise! The working group which I established for Auckland Libraries in the wake of Dark Night went on to devise the XXUnmasked gender and media literacy programme, and the librarians-in-bars pilot evolved into “Reading Between the Wines”.
Central West Comics Fest
In 2014, I co-ordinated Australia’s Central West Comics Fest. The event brought creators Pat Grant and Marcelo Baez together with Sydney retailer King’s Comics for Australia’s first rural event celebrating comics and pop culture in all its forms.
All the workshops were fully booked and people from all over the Central West attended. The event was so well received and we identified a large, previously unrecognised demographic.
We recently received feedback from an owner of one of our library supply companies. “You know, what you are doing here in Parkes is getting everyone talking. I’ve just been to another library 300 kilometres away and they were telling me about what a great comic and graphic novel collection you have.”
Matt was absolutely instrumental in the development of this collection. It was through his knowledge and contacts with Sydney based Kings Comics that we have been able to offer such a high standard of resources. He assisted with our purchasing selection by organising comic book “speed dating sessions” for the community. He even assisted library staff with the cataloguing, encouraging us to rethink how comic readers and enthusiasts might search for their favourite material.
– Tracie Mauro, Parkes Shire Library
Write And Draw Your Own Comics, Usborne Publishing
I consulted on this 2014 guide by writer Louie Stowell and a team of artists for UK children’s publisher Usborne. In addition to providing feedback on the work in progress, I ran workshops where kids and teens tested the activities which appeared in the finished book.
Having someone on the team who’s worked extensively with young people, helping them to unlock their creative potential, made it much easier to work out if what we had on the page would get the job done when it made its way into the hands of actual children.
– Louie Stowell, Senior Editor, Usborne Publishing
I’ve devised and run a number of immersive play activities for teens in Australia and New Zealand, based around zombie siege storylines.
In 2014, around 70 kids from across Central West New South Wales took part in a 4 1/2 hour immersive zombie roleplay in the town of Tullamore, New South Wales. The event saw two teams of survivors battling a team of the walking dead, aided by police officers and firefighters. The collaboration between libraries, schools, and emergency services gave teens the chance to be the hero of their own story, explore choice and consequence in a high-stakes scenario, and develop social skills and resilience. You can see coverage by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation online.
This was a sequel to the November 2012 zombie siege, in which students from Tullamore found themselves facing off against the walking dead in a literacy activity where they had to research escape plans and work with local emergency services to evade the zombies who had taken to the streets of their town. The event was covered on radio and online by reporters of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation – you can read more at the Australian National Year of Reading blog.
Tupu Youth Library, South Auckland, hosted a Kiwi zombie apocalypse in May 2013. As zombies overran the library, teens retreated to a secure room and faced life-or-death decisions as they tried to separate out the infected from human survivors, experimented with strategies to evade and distract the walking dead, and even had to wrestle a zombie-bitten community police sergeant to the ground when he turned on them during a debate about the ethics of survival behaviour! The event was covered by New Zealand’s TV3, and two newspapers: the Manukau Courier and the New Zealand Herald. In a follow-up activity, I also led an Auckland Libraries initiative to create City of Souls, an adventure game which continued the story of the zombie siege online. You can read more about City of Souls – and play the game! – here.
You can see more about how to run a zombie event in your own library at the Library as Incubator website, and more on the literacy value of zombies via my School Library Journal piece ‘Why Are Zombies So Good for Libraries?’.
Similar games we’ve run included Time Travel Detectives and robots-vs-monsters roleplay Big Box Battle, which you can also read about on this site. The last two are part of a wider series I wrote on Finding Library Futures.
Herefordshire Public Services
As a content editor on the 2012 project to move all public service web content for the English county of Herefordshire to a new one-stop website, I led the transformation of a number of areas, including education and family services, teen health, and sustainability. The role involved leading meetings with council departments, liaising with designers and developers, writing copy text to Plain English specifications, and building content in a new content management system.
“Matt was an invaluable addition to our team, able to work unsupervised and deliver superb work on time, every time. I would love to have Matt as a full time content editor and hope to work with him again in the future.”
-Ashley Tucker, Digital Channels Programme Manager, Herefordshire Council and NHS
Paint the Town REaD
“Dr. Matt Finch [is] an impressive speaker with a passionate commitment to literacy development.” — David Bradbury MP
“Matt’s contribution to Paint the Town REaD has been a game-changer for our organisation. His energy, enthusiasm and talent for community education are limitless and Paint the Town REaD is pleased to recommend his services to clients in Australia and beyond!”
-Rhonda Brain OAM, Founder, Paint the Town REaD
From June 2011 to August 2012, I consulted on the development of Australian literacy scheme Paint the Town REaD, a capacity building programme which empowers local communities to take a hand in child development through the message “Read, talk, sing and rhyme with your baby from birth!”
The role encompassed development of media awareness, professionalisation of resources and overall strategic direction for the scheme, which brings together government bodies, volunteer organisations and the private sector to support community literacy across Australia.
In addition to leading brand development by establishing connections to new partner organisations, project managing the launch of a new website and driving use of social media within the programme, I also created new training and press materials for Paint the Town REaD affiliates.
In September 2012, I was a keynote speaker at Paint the Town REaD’s Third Annual Literacy Conference in Canberra. You can read the speech on my website.
“Matt’s work in training and community outreach has made a huge impact on our work as corporate citizens and our long term commitment to the UK economy. To reach the final stages of the national Business Language Champion Awards in the first year of our outreach scheme is a real achievement, alongside speaking at the Houses of Parliament and discussing issues with our local MP. We look forward to building on these successes in the future.” – Geoff Dance, Managing Director, PMD Magnetics
From September 2009, I headed up the launch of an outreach programme at PMD Magnetics, one of the UK’s leading manufacturers and distributors of blank media. As a major supplier to the education sector, management at PMD Magnetics were keen to support Britain’s students and strengthen their already extensive links with schools and universities across the country.
Working with a range of partners including the Business Language Champions scheme and BXL, I developed a programme focussing on business skills, foreign languages and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine) subjects. In the very first year of PMD’s outreach work, I was highly commended at the Business Language Champion Ambassador’s Awards, and the company continues to work with me, supporting students through an ongoing outreach programme.
“The students were captivated and you left an excellent impression on all of us!”
– Mireia Barrachina-Plo, Development Leader for Student Voice, Heart of England School
“Matt did a brilliant job and his presentation was pitched at the right level, giving pupils very interesting examples from the real world of business”
– Cornelia Smith, Head of Languages, Queen Elizabeth School, Atherstone
“Matt has been an inspiration, sharing ideas, information and contacts with the sole purpose of promoting a love of reading and writing to young people, and indeed everyone he meets. His passion for literacy and literature has been the catalyst for several new Library projects in 2012 and an invigorating experience for our students.”
– Tracy Dawson, Parkes High School
The Newsvember Project was an initiative by Northparkes Mines in association with local community groups which promoted literacy across all ages through a month-long focus on local newspapers every November.
I came on board with Newsvember 2011 to develop the scheme. In this role, I delivered a series of innovative literacy activities to teens in the town, from hundred-strong Physical Education sessions focussing on handwriting and brain development to tongue-in-cheek workshops teaching ‘How to Con Your Parents Out of a Million Dollars.’
University of London
“Matthew Finch is one of the most outstanding individuals I have encountered in my quarter century in university education. His rare set of gifts combines intellect and professionalism with all-round humanity and commitment.”
-Dr. Warren Boutcher, Queen Mary University of London
From 2004 to 2008, I took on a number of educational and outreach roles at Queen Mary, University of London.
As Subject Leader for the AimHigher activities of the English department, seeking to encourage students from underprivileged backgrounds to study at university, I designed and delivered a broad range of on- and off-campus teaching sessions, from holiday and weekend workshops to schools visits and special one-off activities. Students were challenged to develop their critical thinking skills by exploring and investigating everything from James Bond films to rap music, comic books and the gender politics of fairytales.
In addition to leading seminars for undergraduates on the university’s BA in English Literature, I also served as an award-winning Researcher in Residence under a UK Research Councils scheme that placed academics in British schools for one day a week to challenge and inspire younger learners.
I was one of the first Researchers in Residence to work with the primary age range, in a popular programme at Joy Lane Primary School, Whitstable, Kent. The activities ranged from developing advanced research skills in older pupils through to German language lessons, special sessions on Anne Frank and the Holocaust, Egyptology, and communications technology.