Alis Ballance is the Ambassador for the new Fun Palaces project based at Eden Court Highlands. Alis has a background in co-creating with communities in Scotland, and works as a Storyteller, having recently formed Seanchas (Spirited Storytelling & Lore) to keep alive the old stories and songs of the Gàidhealtachd.
So, you’re ‘Fun Palace Alis’?
Yes, that’s me! I’ve just started working with Fun Palaces in the Engagement Team at Eden Court a few weeks ago and I really love it! The Fun Palaces project has so much potential for our communities here in the Highlands and Islands.
Can you tell us what a Fun Palace is in 3 words?
Difficult one! I’ll try! Let’s see.... I think:
Communities Creating Culture
Can you let me have a few more words and I’ll tell you more?? Being a Storyteller I like to use lots of words!
OK go for it!
Well, I think a Fun Palace is maybe best understood using an analogy from our own cultural context here in the Gàidhealtachd. A Fun Palace is in many ways like a Ceilidh House used to be. You know, a community meeting together in a local house to share stories, music and songs, so creating their own entertainment and cultural activity but also sharing skills, not just teaching the stories, music and songs, although that would be part of it, but also sharing other skills like weaving or knitting or sewing.
It was that situation of many talents and skills being shared in the one place at the one time by a community. We don’t want to forget that is our Culture at least as much as anything produced in a big theatre, art gallery or film studio. It doesn’t have to be that the Fun Palace is in a house like a ceilidh was; Fun Palaces can be anywhere a community wants them to be – there have been Fun Palaces in forests, in parks, on the street.
So there’s been lots of Fun Palaces taking place around the UK with an initial few in the Highlands and Islands and now there’s funding and a plan to increase Fun Palaces activity in our communities locally?
Yes, that’s right! Fun Palaces were the seed of an idea from the 1960’s which has been re-invented and re-invigorated through the commitment and passion of co-founders Stella Duffy and Sarah-Jane Rawlings. They’re based in London but right from the start they ensured that Fun Palaces are very much a localised community movement, with on average over 80 % of Fun Palaces happening outwith London all around the country.
And now Eden Court and our communities around the Highlands and Islands can be a big part of that movement?
Absolutely! We’re so fortunate to be receiving national funding for our region here from The National Lottery Community Fund thanks to Fun Palaces. That can only be really empowering for our communities, enabling more creativity, and not just in the arts by any means – the idea of a Fun Palace is that it reflects the interests and skills of a particular community or group – so the Fun Palace might have a focus on Science or Digital, for example.
Sounds exciting! How can folk get involved?
Feel free to contact me as your local Fun Palaces Ambassador.
You can call Eden Court and ask for ‘Fun Palace Alis’!