Right now we’re on the cusp of Trumpocalypse. Even if Donald J. doesn’t get to power, the US – and the world – will have to face the consequences of his campaign. The US election is the second scary vote in the English-speaking world this year, after Brexit – and look at how riven that’s left British culture and society.
After months of planning and preparation, communities across Queensland are gearing up to celebrate the arts and sciences in all their forms, partnered with a range of libraries and other institutions.
From the islands of the Torres Strait to the cotton fields of the Darling Downs, plus every library in the city of Brisbane, and of course our own State Library on the city’s South Bank, the first weekend in October will see a swathe of venues open their doors for community-led events celebrating the Fun Palace motto “everyone an artist, everyone a scientist.”
On my last trip to Rockhampton in Central Queensland, I was interviewed by Chrissy Arthur of ABC Capricornia. We talked about some of my projects in Australia and New Zealand, the role of public libraries in 2016, and this year’s upcoming Fun Palaces across Queensland and worldwide.
The best part was talking about how creativity isn’t determined by your pay grade – anyone can have a bright idea, and a role like mine is as much about listening to organisations and their communities as it is ‘thinking up cool stuff to do’.
On Saturday 10th September from 4-5pm, I’ll be at Queensland Art Gallery speaking on “The Rules of Engagement“, a panel with Kate Pullinger and Caroline Keins exploring the changing ways that artists, institutions, and communities interact.
Then on Sunday 11th September, I’ll help a panel of scientists and science-fiction writers to explore science, imagination, and identity. Join Dr Maggie Hardy, Prof Tamara Davis, Ellen van Neerven, and Dr Maree Kimberley for “Science and Belonging“, which I’ll be moderating from 11.30am-12.30pm at The Parlour in the State Library of Queensland.
“We believe in the genius in everyone, in everyone an artist and everyone a scientist, and that creativity in community can change the world for the better.
We believe we can do this together, locally, with radical fun – and that anyone, anywhere, can make a Fun Palace.”
– Fun Palaces Manifesto
October might seem far off, but plans are underway for Fun Palaces across the Sunshine State in 2016.
What’s a Fun Palace? It’s the opportunity for a community to come together and explore the arts and sciences for free.
From fancy inner-city venues to radio stations, theatres, websites, suburban parks, swimming pools, remote tropical islands, people’s back gardens, and, yes, libraries, Fun Palaces are a way for people to get together with friends, family, neighbours, workmates, and strangers in their community, to celebrate the artist and scientist in all of us.
Theatre director Joan Littlewood and architect Cedric Price came up with the idea of Fun Palaces back in the 1960s. They imagined “a laboratory of fun” that would serve as a pop-up community venue for both art and science.
Today, Fun Palaces take place all over the world on the first weekend in October, allowing communities to be part of something bigger, setting off sparks of inspiration and connection which lead to lasting benefits for the people involved.
In 2015, I was co-producer to 11 simultaneous Fun Palaces across a 13-mile stretch of South London. Football clubs and firefighters, jewellers and businesspeople, comic stores and kickboxers, university students and lecturers, plus many more all joined forces to celebrate the arts and sciences in the London Borough of Lambeth. London’s 2015 Fun Palaces also included an online comic maker built for us by the State Library of Queensland, where I’m currently based.
If you’re a Queenslander who’d like to get involved with Fun Palaces this year, our team at the State Library can give advice and support, or connect you to venues which are already running Fun Palaces across the state – including every single public library in the city of Brisbane. We’re also equally excited if you just want to make a tiny Fun Palace in your office or your garden or your kitchen, with your mates or your neighbours or your family.
We all have something to offer, we all have something we’d like to learn or explore. If you’d like to join the adventure in Queensland, either contributing to a Fun Palace on the weekend of 1-2 October, or helping Fun Palace organisers in the run-up to their event, contact the State Library’s Signature Team.
I’ll be visiting the University of Southern Queensland next month to speak at their USQ Salon series.
If scholarship is a creative and critical conversation about the world, who are “we” having those conversations with?
What opportunities do institutions create for members of the public to have a go at what they do? And to fall in love with what they do?
From fringe scholarship to Fun Palaces, comic books and stone age megaliths to postcolonial controversy, we’ll be looking at what it means to share opportunities for learning, exploration, and adventure with the widest possible range of communities.