Queensland Fun Palaces 2016

“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.

Fun Palaces illustration

Fun Palaces are for all ages and all members of a community; they can be big or small, low-tech or high-tech, dramatic or domestic. In the small country town of Parkes, New South Wales, we devised a 2014 Fun Palace that let kids and adults join forces to create superhero games from recycled materials.

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.

Chalked Fun Palace sign from Brockwell, London
Image by Shelley Silas

USQ Salon: Our Powers Combined

I’ll be visiting the University of Southern Queensland next month to speak at their USQ Salon series.

julian cope

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.

You can join me and the USQ team online from 11am AEST on Tuesday 7th June.

Where Do You Find Yourself? Space, Play, and Duty in the Australian Digital Library

Are there still cultural backwaters in the digital age? Three months in to my year-long residency at the State Library of Queensland, I’ve written about Australian libraries, regional engagement, and digital literature for The Writing Platform.

I’m very interested in the vogue for locative literature, where texts are linked to physical spaces through digital or conventional media. But there are questions still to be asked: not just whether we add a virtual layer of story and literature to physical spaces, but who gets to create the content in that virtual layer.

Forest comic for Fun Palace

If writers are having a creative and critical conversation about the world, and in the locative age we are venturing outside of traditional venues, we still need to ask: who are “we” having those conversations with? And how could a simple online comic maker start expanding that circle of storytelling, literary production, and critical discussion?

You can read the full article, ‘Where Do You Find Yourself? Space, Play, and Duty in the Australian Digital Library’, at The Writing Platform.

Fun Palaces Comic Maker at Electricomics

I’m presenting today at the University of Hertfordshire’s Electricomics Symposium, “The Comic Electric.”

I’ll be talking about digital comics projects including the Fun Palaces Comic Maker and a new version of Comic Book Dice from Manila’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, plus my game for The Lifted Brow, “A Tear in Flatland“.

You can read an interview about the philosophy & design of the Comic Maker here (PDF download).

You can read an annotated PDF based on my slides for the conference presentation here.

An example of a Fun Palaces comic

Fun Palaces Comic Maker goes to Electricomics – Wednesday 14 October

The Fun Palaces Comic Maker is up and running over at comic.funpalaces.co.uk – you can see what people have made so far at funpalaces.tumblr.com/archive.

Ernesto Priego interviewed me about the project for the Comics Grid, and there was a great write-up from Kevin Hodgson over at his blog Dogtrax.

The Comic Maker is inspired by the Comic Book Dice activity I originally created for Manila’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD). The team at MCAD have created their own digital riff off Comic Book Dice which will be released soon.

I’ll be talking about both projects, plus my choose-your-own comics review A Tear in Flatland, at the Electricomics Symposium hosted by the University of Hertfordshire next Wednesday.

Lambeth Libraries Fun Palaces 2015

So yesterday was a huge success for Lambeth Libraries and you can still take part for a few days yet via our online Comic Maker.

Fun Palaces will of course be delivering a full report, evaluation, and celebration in coming weeks but for now here’s my Fun Palaces 2015 on social media.

#LoveLamLibs Fun Palaces: Lambeth Libraries’ Heroes

Over the past week, Lambeth Libraries have been gearing up for their borough-wide, simultaneous 11-venue celebration of arts and sciences.

On the blog, I’ve featured special guests like the author Lucy Beresford, Stephann Makri and the zine-making team from City University, plus entrepreneur Tara Benson – as well as special projects like the online Fun Palaces Comic Maker.

Now the big day has arrived and today I want to celebrate the real heroes of Lambeth Libraries Fun Palaces – the librarians themselves.

Staff across the borough of Lambeth have worked tirelessly to deliver amazing events in every venue run by Lambeth Libraries and Lambeth Archives. They’ve sought partners and special guests, helped to devise and deliver activities, and reached out to give their communities the chance to make good on the Fun Palaces motto, “Everyone an artist, everyone a scientist.”

I can’t talk about every Lambeth Libraries staffer who has made this weekend possible, but I will highlight three names as examples of the brilliance these librarians have shown, delivering an amazing cultural programme within tight budgets and short notice.

Zoey Dixon is my co-producer on Lambeth Libraries Fun Palaces and the lead for the event within the organisation. Dynamic, creative, energetic, and determined, she’s been the guiding light for everything we have achieved over the past few months. Self-effacing but brilliant, she’s well worth contacting for workshops, conference panels, and speaking gigs. Expect to see her taking UK Library Fun Palaces on to ever greater heights in the future.

Caroline Mackie, pictured here with Mishi Morath of Dulwich Hamlet Football Club, has been one of the most proactive and inventive library managers on this project. She’s been resourceful and ingenious in teaming up with a wide range of community partners, from footballers to jazz musicians to the fire service, all with an eye on Fun Palaces’ ethos of participation and play. Caroline works at Carnegie Library, which I’m aiming to visit this morning before heading off to Clapham.

Vincia Bennett with Stephann Makri

Clapham Library is run by Vincia Bennett, pictured here with City University’s Stephann Makri. Vincia has co-ordinated activities at Clapham Library, one of the most modern and beautiful buildings owned by Lambeth Libraries. Vincia and her team have arranged printmaking workshops and big-name partnerships, cake and snacks from neighbourhood cafes, plus a whole world of wonder and play for visitors on Saturday 3rd October.

These librarians, going above and beyond to showcase the best of British public libraries, deserve to be hailed for their work. All of them were a little camera shy, but no-one deserves to be celebrated more than they do.

If Lambeth Fun Palaces succeed, it’ll be through the efforts and expertise of Lambeth Council’s librarians, who have used their professional skills and their relationships with their community to make brilliant things happen for Londoners this weekend.

People sometimes think that libraries can be cut back in the 21st century, because they equate libraries with books on shelves and presume that in the age of the Internet and e-books, these public buildings and public servants are no longer necessary. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The UNESCO Public Library Missions established more than twenty years ago that community librarianship was more about play, creativity, and self-directed learning than items on shelves. The three women I’ve chosen to celebrate today are full-time library professionals who make good on the vision of public libraries as “the TARDIS on your streetcorner“: a humble box that can take local people anywhere in human knowledge or imagining, free of charge.

I hope that we’ll see you at a Lambeth Library Fun Palace today, but if we don’t, show your appreciation for Vincia, Caroline, Zoey, and public librarians everywhere by sharing this post and using the hashtag #LoveLamLibs.

Have a great day!

Fun Palaces Countdown: Role-playing games with Andy Horton

As the 2015 Fun Palaces launch on Saturday 3rd October approaches, Lambeth Libraries are gearing up for their borough-wide, simultaneous 11-venue celebration of arts and sciences.

In the countdown to Fun Palaces, I’m showcasing some of the special guests who are partnering with Lambeth Libraries this weekend.

Last year, at Australia’s first Fun Palace in Parkes, we created a tabletop role-playing game derived from the work of Cory Doctorow.

Tabletop Superheroes was quick to learn and difficult to master, an all-ages Dungeons and Dragons-style game which tied in with the School for Supervillains theme we’d taken from guest author Louie Stowell. You can download it now from Parkes Shire Library.

This year in South London, roleplaying game expert Andy Horton – a librarian at Regent’s University – will be hosting a special Fun Palaces game event at Upper Norwood Library.

Andy and friends will be giving Fun Palaceers the chance to try their hand at a range of role-playing and board games, and there also be a specially-written Dungeons and Dragons scenario for people brave enough to take on a Fun-Palatial quest.

Like Stephann Makri and the #Citylis zinemakers, Andy’s another academic who is partnering with public libraries this October in the name of play, learning, and outreach. Fun Palaces salute you, Dungeon Master!

Upper Norwood Library is a special case among those taking part in Lambeth’s Fun Palaces this year. Jointly funded by Croydon and Lambeth for 100 years, it’s a public library which provides a model for local government co-operation in providing cultural and information services to a local community.

Find out more at the Upper Norwood Library Campaign website. You can also find out more about Fun Palaces at Upper Norwood Library.

Download Tabletop Superheroes from Parkes Shire Library.

Read Cory Doctorow’s latest Fun Palaces article over at BoingBoing.

Fun Palaces Countdown: Q&A with Lucy Beresford

As the 2015 Fun Palaces launch on Saturday 3rd October approaches, Lambeth Libraries are gearing up for their borough-wide, simultaneous 11-venue celebration of arts and sciences.

In the countdown to Fun Palaces, I’m showcasing some of the special guests who are partnering with Lambeth Libraries this weekend.

This afternoon’s guest is Lucy Beresford, who will be visiting Clapham Library for a Q&A session from 2-3pm on Saturday, October 3rd.

Lucy hosts a weekly phone-in show on LBC Radio and describes herself as the “no-nonsense Agony Aunt” for Healthy magazine.

Her Clapham Library Q&A is a chance for in-depth conversation with a novelist, psychotherapist, and broadcaster who explores sex, relationships, health, and happiness on air, online, in fiction and non-fiction.

Lucy Beresford, Invisible Threads - Front Cover

Lucy’s latest novel, Invisible Threads, set in India, is out now. The Q&A session, hosted by our Fun Palace entrepreneur Tara Benson, will offer the chance to talk with Lucy about writing fiction, the practice of therapy, and her own experiences travelling and working in India.

Come and join her from 2-3pm this Saturday at Clapham Library.

Find out more about Clapham Library Fun Palaces at the main Fun Palaces website.