Goodbye Museum of Fun, hello Whitstable Fun Palace

4a6466_b7d7d062394b4140911c5da655e4701dThis morning I turned MuseumofFun.org into WhitstableFunPalace.co.uk. It’s only a name change, but it made me feel nostalgic. I’ve made so many friends and enjoyed so many good times with MoF over the years.  MoF is the short form of Museum of Fun and it’s quite handy that it’s easily adapted to a profane phrase in the stressful weeks leading up to any event.

In July 2014 I heard of Fun Palaces, and started the project with one potential helper, a hopeful tweet, and a page at meetup.com.

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I called Whitstable’s Fun Palace, ‘Museum of Fun’ even though it would have been far more sensible to call it Whitstable Fun Palace. Sensible is not a concept that has much to do with any of this.

I decided no one knew what a Fun Palace was, and the event wouldn’t happen in a palace anyway. I wanted to find a venue then fill it with random fun stuff that people could visit and enjoy. Museum’s are venues filled with random fun stuff for people to visit and enjoy. But basically I just liked the sound of Museum of Fun.

‘Why not?’ is the usual reason for anything to do with Fun Palaces.

I was also exploring what fun might mean. Museums are all about learning, and  this was my own ‘museum’ to learn about fun. I had plenty of questions to think about. Why is ‘fun’ only for children? Why is ‘adult fun’ not innocent fun at all? If children learn through play then when does that sort of learning stop? Can grown-ups learn through play too?

My Museum of Fun project didn’t actually answer any of my questions, but I liked thinking about them anyway. I even tried to come up with a definition of fun. It’s possibly something to do with mixing pleasure with surprise. I won’t bore you with my workings out!

I felt so much fondness for my old project as I said goodbye to the name. Our MoF Fun Palace was always a bit of a rebel, and it’s right that we should support the Fun Palaces brand. Plus the format of the event is different this year and the new name suits the change. So here we go with Whitstable Fun Palace 2017.

I looked at old photos this morning and considered my Museum of Fun good times. Here’s my 22 favourite Museum of Fun things in no particular order.  It’s 22 just for fun.

  1. Putting a Pot Noodle in liquid nitrogen

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It wasn’t just a Pot Noodle, but we took suggestions from Twitter followers and Pot Noodle was my favourite.

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The audience watching our Pot Noodle science experiment.

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2. Creating a Whitstable smell map.

We had a mini-smell museum with jars of things to sniff and guess what they were. These are people’s drawings of the smells. (Yes you can draw smells.)

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3. Lego competitions.

We set challenges to use a limited number of bricks to create something. It was 10 bricks the first time, we were a bit more generous and gave 15 bricks the next year.

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4. Cardboard Whitstable in 2014

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Lots of people helped with this project, though the MoF comittee did end up making a lot of buildings. Also the committee’s husbands. Thank you Adam for the harbour, and Steve for Whitstable Town Football Club.

St.Aphege’s school was made by the pupils.

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Several shop keepers made their own shops.

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The Offy lost their cardboard shop down the back of a drinks display fitting. But here it is before the accident.

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Here’s our  MoF venue, Whitstable Umbrella Centre, and of course the cardboard version.

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5. Cardboard Whitstable with added Scalextric racing and little Whitstable people in 2015

This was Amy Turner’s inspired idea. We had timed races around the cardboard town. Once again the poor husband’s got roped in, thanks for the Scalextric Phil!

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Here’s Whitstable’s famous aggregates factory.

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Thanks to Arthur’s dad for Whitstable castle.

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 6. Whitstable ‘sea’ and junk boats.

Fun can be as simple as water, polystyrene, paper and sellotape.

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7. The random old man who turned up with his musical machine

I didn’t know he was coming.

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8. Collaborative art

This was part of our ‘Drink & Draw’ fundraising night. I can’t remember why it was a time machine.

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9. Teaching people knitting 

We had a few fabric craft things, but giant knitting needles and patient knitting teachers worked well.

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10. Cute vs ugly experiments with bubble wrap.

Another idea to file under ‘why not?’ Do you pop bubble wrap more aggressively when looking at an ugly teddy? It’s science, honestly!

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11. A cardboard graffiti building

We made this two years in a row, even though it took ages to build. I love follies. It was my cardboard folly. You could go inside it. It was made of boxes. Perfect.

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12. Science experiments

We were very lucky to have Gemma from Pfizer and science outreach people from the University of Kent creating experiments in 2015.

Not sure what this experiment was.

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I think this was the coke and mento rockets.

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We had forensic science with our pretend police officer.

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In 2014 we had no science people involved, but I used Google, red cabbage and bicarb to make lots of experiments. We quite literally got egg on our faces when a drunk chap smashed up our ‘it won’t break’ egg experiment.

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13. A musical garden

Some home made musical instruments.

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Amy from Honker Tonkers worked so hard to make this. The whole thing was put together with borrowed stuff.

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14. Art you can eat

This was one of our fundraising events, though Fun Palaces are usually free. We gave some free tickets to children from the local neighbourhood centre too. One of my favourite Fun Palaces things was involving children who don’t usually go to organised events.

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15. The Amy Cuddy confidence experiment.  

A body language experiment. Most people said they felt more confident when they did the ‘power pose.’ We had a chart but I can’t remember the exact percentage.

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16. Poetry Postboxes in town.

More people wrote poems in the chippy than in the library.

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17. The sandwich competition.

We did try to get Greg wallace to judge, as he lives here. No luck. The local bread maker judged the winners and there were some very exciting sandwiches.

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18. Random world record attempts.

The sock sorting proved most popular. No records were actually broken on the day, but it was worth a try.

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18. The ‘What is fun?’ table.

This ‘exhibit’ didn’t really work, but children enjoyed the old toy record player.

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19. The joke swap box

Awful jokes, but all the better for the groans.

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20. The clubs, organisations and businesses that got involved. 

The party supply lady let us borrow her talking parrot.

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The local snail farm came along.

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The Twin Town Association made geography games.

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The University of Kent events management students turned up with ice cream making, hook-a-duck, and plenty more.

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Shoe box art. They put the boxes on a tricycle. Yes, really.

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I can’t remember this memory craft. Hmm.

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Tina uses eye movement art software with disabled children. It was really interesting to see how it works.

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Some of the art created with the eye movement software.

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Vattenfall run the local wind farm. They sponsored MoF, and showed off a wind machine.

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Sue from WhitWord ran a mystery book swap.

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There’s no room to list everything but there are plenty more pictures on the website.

21. Whitstable museum

The ‘real’ Whitstable Museum helped us expand our space in 2015, and they created a small but enjoyable Museum of Fun last year because our regulars needed a year off. It was good to see a historical theme to the fun.

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22. The friends and helpers

I once totted it up and realised more than 100 local people have given time to help MoF over the years, there were around 70 volunteers involved in 2015. I haven’t space to list all the brilliant people who’ve been involved, but I’m lucky to have made so many good friends through MoF.

Catriona Campbell deserves a special mention. She was the first person to respond to my tweet in 2014. We’d never even met, but I’m so glad she came to that first meeting. She’s leading this year’s project and it’s going to be super.  Amy Turner was my crazy and creative co-lead in 2015, and I miss her now she’s moved out of town.  Peter Banbury of Whitstable Museum has been particularly supportive, and he kept MoF going when we needed a year off.  Gemma Scotney is also a special helper who’s always sizzling with science ideas. She’s made me enthusiastic about the periodic table already. The whole town will be hunting elements in October.

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If Museum of Fun looks like a random collection of people putting on a random variety of entertainment under a vague banner of ‘fun,’ well that’s pretty much it. This year the name will be different, but the spirit will be the same. If you want to get involved please do get in touch.

Or why not start a Fun Palace of your own? They can be anything you want them to be. This sums up the Fun Palace concept perfectly:

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My three step guide to starting a Fun Palace goes something like this:

  1. Write a list of ideas for things you might like to create that people might enjoy.
  2. Write ‘why not?’ next to each item.
  3. Find the stuff and people to make each thing on the list happen.

Obviously there is no one ‘right way’ to do this, and that’s part of the reason Fun Palaces are brilliant. My favourite Fun Palace (apart from MoF, obviously) was one in a butchers shop. The shoppers simply had a chance to sketch meat.

Visit Funpalaces.co.uk to find out more about this mad thing.

Whitstable Fun Palace is a new name and a new start. I haven’t quite pinned down the definition of fun, so I’m glad I’ll have opportunity to explore it a little more on October 8th. I hope you will too.

Whitstablefunpalace.org.uk

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