Posted by: stelladuffy | February 28, 2015

getting it wrong right wrong right

Last week, some of us, Fun Palaces Makers and many not, shared ideas around the 50th anniversary of Jennie Lee’s White Paper, A Policy for the Arts, First Steps.

Loads of people all over the UK shared dreams and despairs, put thoughts out on social media, talked about where we’d come from and where we’re going with the arts and policy, and how much more there is still to do, how much hasn’t been done. I loved that it took minimal pushing (compared to the work it took to make Fun Palaces happen!, diff size thing, I know) and happened regardless – because people care.

And, out of it, I had an email conversation with a 2014 Fun Palaces Maker, Carine, who has been very honest with us about her experience of making a Fun Palace last year, the challenges as well as the great bits. I found the conversation both moving and invigorating, and asked Carine if I could share it more widely. Here it is, with her permission. (nb, Carine is not an arts professional and the Fun Palace she co-made last year was her first work in creating a public event of this nature. These are the people Fun Palaces are for, AND the people we’re learning from about how to make the whole thing work!)

I hope it’s useful to those of you thinking you want to make a Fun Palace (or wanting to make anything at all!) and worrying about doing it right. There is no ‘right’!

Carine : I shared #ArtsPolicy 50 with non-arts people today. They were interested but too busy/not bothered enough to get involved. It made me think I wasn’t sending the right message. Or I haven’t found the right way to send it. This brought me to think about how Alex and I are talking about/sharing the Fun Palaces. We did not manage to get the #everyoneanartist #everyoneascientist message across in 2014. And though we’re quite pleased with what we managed to do, there is huge space for improvement re getting people engaged and involved, lots to achieve in 2015.
And this led me to realise that’s why the Fun Palaces are unique : they give us the space to learn, grow, make mistakes (and sometimes turn them into happy accidents), improve, make things better the following year; but since there is no expectation, there can’t be failure or competition. The structure of the FP (and the HQ) act like a safety net for when we need reassurance, guidance.
Voilà.  That’s what the #ArtsPolicy50 thing got me thinking about today. I wish I could find better words to express my thoughts! I guess the main idea is : I found something I’m passionate about, something that is changing me. And while I’m learning to be a Maker I need to find a way to pass on why it matters (and not only to me) and I haven’t found it. Not yet…

Stella : Carine, this made me cry. I really hope you understand how useful, important and valuable your open-ness is to us, to all of us, (you included I hope?) who are trying to make whatever this “Fun Palace” thing is. Because NONE of us know. I certainly don’t. And I go to these big meetings and tell very posh/’high-powered’ people : “I don’t know – but I’m ok to not know, to learn, to make mistakes, to develop it”, and they don’t understand how I can be so honest about what I don’t know.
And I don’t understand how they can not realise what a HUGE thing we are beginning, and how weird it is of them to think anyone might fully KNOW how to do Fun Palaces yet. Ever.

Carine : Being okay about my mistakes, and open about them is one of the most valuable things the Fun Palaces have taught me.  Seeing writers/theatre makers like you being open about them too only makes you closer to your audience I think. It doesn’t stop us admiring your work, but it shows it comes from work, not a magic trick. I suspect one of the reasons we’re afraid to admit we’re sometimes wrong is the competitive system we’re brought up in (school, grades, etc…) that teaches us to be better than the others, work against them rather than with them. So Fun Palaces in schools could make such a massive difference (easier said than done I guess!!).

I love the Fun Palaces Makers – the guts it takes to get out in our own community, right where we live, and risk getting it wrong, risk getting it right, risk getting involved, risk our neighbours knowing us. I bloody love them for their daring.

Posted by: stelladuffy | February 17, 2015

speaking at ChangeHow2015

So here’s of video of me (and a whole lot of other impassioned speakers, 99 of them, I’m No 8 if loads of time has passed by the time you read this) at ChangeHow2015.

I’m talking about politics and Fun Palaces and arts for all and everyone an artist/everyone a scientist and equality and money, a week after my last surgery (that last bit is my excuse for conflating about a dozen Fun Palaces into just two or three and getting the wrong people in the wrong place – am not sure there’s anyone from Ghana or Sierra Leone working with Farnham Fun Palace, but maybe there will be soon!).
There are also a lot of swears and it starts off a bit angry – that’s because I was VERY nervous.
It gets less shouty as I enjoy it more.
The politics are all the way through though.

If you don’t have 14 mins to spare, here’s the guts :
– arts and sciences – ALL culture – should be for all, they aren’t yet
– of course we don’t have austerity, we have inequality
– Fun Palaces is A way (not the only way) of empowering communities
– Fun Palaces is A way (not the only way) of encouraging people to create for and by themselves
– there was never a golden time of great funding for all the arts (poor people ALWAYS missed out)
– middle aged activists are needed too
– older people know great stuff
– younger people need our encouragement in their activism
– flying in experts (in arts) is an insane waste of money, let the people be the experts, they know their own communities best
– artists are community too

and, you know, all the stuff I usually bang on about. including my wife.

listen to the other speakers too. they’re all really interesting and some are astonishing.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 16.53.58

Posted by: stelladuffy | February 10, 2015

Jennie Lee White Paper Anniversary – 25th February 2015

Jennie Lee White Paper, A Policy for the Arts – First Steps
The 50th Anniversary – A Thing

The last time I called a session at D&D that was subtitled ‘A Thing’ it turned into Fun Palaces. I was determined that, this time, it wouldn’t take over my life.
But I still think we need to be marking the anniversary – how far we’ve come, how far we HAVEN’T come, what has changed, what else there is to do – what hope is still here for arts for all.

So, I called the session.
And then some people said they’d take the White Paper and make it into a score/script/basis we can all use to do something. They took chunks of the original White Paper and added contemporary quotes, contemporary views, the state we hoped to be in and the state we are in now.

Now it’s ready to do something.
Anyone who wants to.
Anyone who wants to mark the anniversary.
To sing, dance, declaim, rant, rave, pout, protest, applaud, evoke, annoy, effect, affect, acknowledge the dreams of fifty years ago.
And how much is still to do to make real the possibilities of fifty years ago.
The hopes of arts for all, arts funding beyond London, arts in all schools, arts as a human need, acknowledged fifty years ago.

Here’s the document worked on (mostly) by Alexandra Birchfield, Mary Halton, Amie Taylor, Fiona Whitelaw, and some by Hugh Chapman and me. As a pdf and a doc :
PDF : Jennie Lee WP Anniv Response PDF
doc : Jennie Lee WP Anniv Response doc

So, that’s it.
The rest is up to you.
As we say in the doc, USE IT. DO SOMETHING WITH IT.
Use it as is, re-write it, dismiss it out of hand and write your own version.
Make a piece in praise of the 50 year old White Paper or in condemnation of it not going far enough – then or now.
But do something.
Make a fuss of some sort, and then tell everyone about the fuss you made.
Get a group together and sing it on the Town Hall steps and put your Song of Arts Hope on youtube.
Get your town together to demand the arts provision you were promised fifty years ago.
Get the country together to demand a government that cares about ALL people having access to ALL arts.

There’s a facebook group you can join.

And a googledoc where you can note what you’ve done when you’ve done it.

And a hashtag to shout about it on twitter and facebook and instagram and tumblr and everywhere else : #ArtsPolicy50

And that’s it. The rest is up to you.
(Let’s see if we can all make something/s happen without needing someone to tell us what to do and when.)

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