Lancaster Fun Palace 2020

Well, Lancaster Fun Palace 2020 was very different to the six Fun Palaces before it – covid-19, anyone?! BUT… it was still fun, inclusive and included a range of science, art, community and cultural activities – all free!

Here is a blog I wrote for Medium in the run-up to it.

We will start planning the 2021 Fun Palace in the new year – but it’s never to early (or late) to get in touch with ideas. Contact us on



Meet the Makers 14: Syrian Cafe Lunch

For our (probably) final Meet the Makers post of 2019, we would like to introduce the Syrian Cafe, which will provide lunch for Lancaster Fun Palace between 12 noon and 1pm on Saturday October 5th.

Local Syrian families will cook a range of meat and vegetarian dishes and desserts and will serve lunch until food runs out! Make sure you are at St Thomas’ church hall early so you don’t miss out. St Thomas’s church hall is on Marton Street, Lancaster – LA1 1XX – behind the church – just off the top part of Penny Street on the same road as the back of the police station. It is only a few minutes’ walk from Lancaster Library (the central hub of the Fun Palace itself). Ask any Fun Palace stewards for directions, if you are unsure at all – just don’t miss it!

Meet the Makers 13: Paul – Maths at the Museum

My name is Paul Slater and I’m a maths & science tutor. I’m a qualified teacher (QTS) with experience of teaching in secondary schools and Further Education college.  

> I’m excited to be involved in Lancaster Fun Palace this year. I’ll be hosing “Maths at the Museum” in the downstairs gallery of the City Museum (to the right as you enter the museum) on Saturday 05 October from 11am to 1pm.  Drop in to the session at any time and try your hand at various different maths puzzles suitable for all ages and abilities.  

> The ethos of Fun Palaces as ‘laboratories of fun’ and ‘a university of the streets’ is one that strongly appeals to me. It is never too late to start (and keep!) learning. Encouraging people to engage with maths and science in a friendly, accessible and informal environment helps to demystify these subjects and reduce anxiety connected with them. I strongly believe that community engagement has a key part to play in education – for example, I run a series of free maths evening classes for adults in East Lancashire twice a week to boost skills, improve confidence and help parents and guardians to help their kids with their homework. Through these sessions I see, first hand, how improving accessibility to difficult subjects helps people feel more comfortable in continuing learning. 

> Maths is fun but it can also be challenging and that can be off-putting to a lot of people. Fun Palaces help to make maths and science accessible to all – it’s a great opportunity for the community to get together in a welcoming environment and celebrate the fun and excitement that can come from knowledge and learning, and from sharing that experience with others. See you there!

> Paul

Meet the Makers 12: Hazel – Mindfulness

I’m Hazel, a mindset coach and hypnotherapist based in Lancaster. I help people get more of what they want in life, by helping them change their limiting beliefs and find their inner sense of purpose. 
For me, mindfulness is about much more than meditating in a quiet place. It’s about being present with my kids even when I’m tempted to check social media; it’s about hearing the negative talk in my head without getting caught up in it; and it’s about not getting stressed when things go wrong. It helps remind me to look around and feel grateful for the good things going on in my life. 
I love sharing the benefits of mindfulness with people, and I’m really excited about running the Mindfulness at the Museum session at 2pm on Saturday 5th October, as part of the Fun Palace event. This session is going to be the perfect introduction for anyone curious about mindfulness, and anyone who wants to create more calmness and less stress in their daily life. I’m looking forward to seeing you there.

Meet the Makers 11: StomaToy

The StomaToy project has developed a set of activities that combine plant science, music and drawings to communicate concepts of plant stomatal biology through play. The project is led by Dr Rucha Karnik’s lab within the Plant Science Group, IMCSB at the University of Glasgow. The StomaToys include the interactive StomaToy, an activity book, a ‘Make your own paper StomaToy’ and a video. These comprehensive educational resources were generated in cross-disciplinary collaborations. Indeed, plants are an indispensable part of human lives and plant science, at the fore front of biological research, endeavors to resolve future global food security through gain of fundamental knowledge. Hence, demonstrating the importance of plant science research to everyday life is a vital element of our research. To give children a taste of being a plant scientist, the StomaToy Activity book includes a pathogen infection experiment with images of infected/healthy Arabidopsis plants and educates about plant biology and disease as well as stomata as the guardians of the plants through color-in activities. The paper StomaToy Cube combines color-in, cutting out and assembly of your own leaf cross-section providing opportunity for younger children to learn about plants, leaf organisation and stomata. In the StomaToy booklet and the leaf cube, plant science is conveyed through drawings by Dr Mathis Riehle, a Cell Engineer in the IMCSB at University of Glasgow. For the StomaToy project Mathis has interpreted and represented plant science as drawings that are attractive to children and adults alike. The StomaToy video shows how plants and stomatal pores on leaves are important to us. The video is aimed at all age groups and has indeed been prepared and edited by a member of the public, Flora Leask, who has worked on this together with Lingfeng Xia, a plant scientist PhD student in the Karnik Lab.

Often, we do not see plant science as relevant to modern life. Yet, there are many parallels that can be drawn between plants and humans; for e.g. like humans, plants also have a complex immune system for pathogen defense. When we put dirty hands into our mouth, it can cause infection; similarly, the entry of pathogen through stomatal pores on leaves enables infection in plants! To this end, the interactive StomaToy represents a leaf section and conveys the concepts of light-activated stomatal opening, pathogen entry and cellular immune signaling using interactive light displays. It was conceptualized and built in collaboration with the Dr Abe Karnik’s Human Computer Interaction (HCI) lab, Interactive Systems Group at Lancaster University.

Research shows that young children have made their minds up about science/careers by age 9-10. Therefore, to infect future plant science with enthusiasm for research it is important to inspire children early on in life and to bring scientific awareness to members of the public who care for the children. Through the StomaToy activities we aim to engage young children and non-plant scientist members of the public with the fascinating world of plant defense and plant science research and to inspire people to explore and understand the importance of plant science in our day-to-day lives. The StomaToy project is supported by funding from the Royal Society and the MVLS Engagement Fund to Rucha Karnik. Plant Science research in Karnik lab is funded by the Royal Society, University of Glasgow and the BBSRC. You can meet the StomaToy team by visiting: StomaToy Outreach or follow the StomaToy journey on Twitter @Stomatal_2019 If you would like to use StomaToy resources for education please email:

Dr Rucha Karnik, Plant Scientist, IMCSB, University of Glasgow. O1Xx�

Meet the Makers 10: Julia – Friends of Lancaster City Museum


My name is Julia and I’m the Chair of the Friends of Lancaster City Museum. The Friends are pleased to be organising a programme of events in the City Museum this year as part of Lancaster’s Fun Palace. These Fun Palace events will take place downstairs in the Museum gallery, which is a great welcoming space. 
The gallery currently displays a temporary exhibition entitled “The Twisted Rose & Other Lives” by Andy Farr, which explores the themes of mental health and art. The artwork is inspired by the stories and lives of people who are recovering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We have tried to be sensitive to this theme in our programming of Fun Palace events in the gallery space. Our programme therefore includes yoga, mindfulness, engaging maths puzzles and a taster talk on storytelling for health. 
Fun Palaces’ aim is to put “community at the heart of culture and culture at the heart of the community”. Local museums play a key role in doing just that – these are spaces which help us to forge an understanding of our past, and, as Andy Farr’s current exhibition demonstrates, these spaces also help us to make sense of the present moment and to help shape the future. The Friends aim to support and promote the Museum through, for example, fundraising , volunteering and hosting events. We are currently working to establish a Youth Forum for young people to engage with our past and help to shape the future of our museums. 
Lancaster is such a vibrant and creative city, it is fantastic that it has such a busy and diverse Fun Palace and we can’t wait to be part of the big weekend!  
We would like to thank all of the workshop organisers who are putting on our events at the City Museum – Jenny Reeves for the yoga workshop, Hazel Hardie for our mindfulness session, Mary J. Lockwood for the storytelling and health taster talk and Happy Collie Tutoring for the maths puzzles. We’d also like to thank the Museum Manager, Charlotte, and her team for being supportive of the idea. And finally huge thanks to the Friends of Lancaster Library, Emma, Liz and the team for arranging such a brilliant Fun Palace in the city – we are so lucky to have them leading the way and organising such a great weekend! 
We hope that Fun Palace visitors enjoy their visit to the Museum. If you’re interested in supporting the Museum we do hope that you’ll consider joining the Friends too! @folcm1 


Meet the Makers 9: Mikey

We are very pleased that Mikey is bringing his interactive performance art to Lancaster Palace to raise awareness for dyslexia.   

My Cup Runneth Over !


 I’m afraid I can’t see the words for the letters,           just  a black & white blur of chaos 
  But I do have a doctorate in being me.


I couldn’t get direct copyright                         &
  I couldn’t copy it down right!   & it’s downright annoying 


Alex Blaine  : I’ll  explain  that  later … 

Meet The Makers 8: GRAFT

Hi! We’re Ellie and Saul, and we run GRAFT, a community arts organisation based in Lancaster.

Ellie is an artist, currently doing a PhD at Lancaster University, and Saul is a former teacher who now runs projects with cultural organisations and young people.

As GRAFT, we want to bring lots of exciting contemporary art to Lancaster, working with brilliant artists from around the country at the start of their careers to be part of pop-up exhibitions, run workshops, and take part in other public art events. We want everything we do to include opportunities for the local community to try out creative skills, learn something new, and think about new ideas through art.

We’re really excited to be part of Lancaster Fun Palace this year, as we love events that harness the power of creativity to engage families and young people. For the Fun Palace, we will be putting on an exhibition of eight emerging artists in Lancaster Library’s Sanctuary room (upstairs!) All of these artists create work that we think is FUN – whether it uses humour and colourful images, or invites the audience to interact with it in some way. At the same time, fun can be used as a way to explore other themes, including gender, bodies and politics. The exhibition will open with an event on Friday 4th October, 6-8pm (please come if you can!) and will run through to Saturday 12th October.

For the Fun Palace weekend we will also be running workshops in the space, suitable for all ages. On Saturday 5th October, artists Sophie Chapman and Kerri Jefferis will run a drop-in workshop exploring different ways of ‘playing’ in the gallery. Join them for a unique and unforgettable experience that could completely change what you think about contemporary art and galleries! On Sunday 6th October, the GRAFT team will be inviting visitors to the space to interact with the artworks in funny and unexpected ways, and create some artworks of their own.

For more information about GRAFT and the event please visit

We hope to see you there!

Ellie and Saul

Meet the Makers 7: Emma

My name is Emma and I’m a freelance theatre practitioner, based in Lancaster. I have been a Fun Palace Maker since the beginning in 2014 and the Fun Palace weekend is one of my very favourite times of the year.

Here is a blog I recently wrote about #funpalaces:

The national Fun Palace webpage – – is a great place to start, if you want to know more about Fun Palaces in general – and you can take part in activities and conversations online by using the hashtag #funpalaces.

Hope to see you at Lancaster Fun Palace 2019. It’s a very special weekend – free fun for all! Don’t miss it!


Meet the Makers 6: Aliki

My name is Aliki, I’m a single mother, and I’ve lived in Lancaster for 18 years. Before that I lived in Greece and in the United States; the two countries my parents are from. I’m an actor and a writer and translator, and I love cooking and comic books and swimming in the sea.

What attracts you to #FunPalaces? I really believe there is genius in everyone. The way so much of our entertainment and technology happens these days is that a tiny group of people somewhere far away make it and sell it to the rest of us – there’s a bottleneck of creativity and who gets to make things is all about funding and connections. But for most of human history, making beautiful things or finding out how things work – art and science – belonged to everybody. It was something you did, not bought. Everything from building cathedrals to making pies is creativity, experimentation, learning. I think we miss that when we don’t get to do it, all of us. We have a right to explore ideas and learn skills, not just to consume what other people have created. Fun Palaces are a way of claiming that right for all of us, of saying this isn’t about money or power, it’s about being human.  

I was one of the first people involved with the Lancaster Fun Palace, back when it started, but I’ve been doing less and less every year. I think that’s sort of wonderful, really, that it’s taken off now and has its own momentum, with new people coming along every time to help make it happen. It keeps it fresh and alive and responsive to the people of our city because it’s made by everybody, not just the same small group of people. It keeps getting renewed. That said, I still run the Lancaster Fun Palace Twitter account, @LancasterFunPal, so if you’ve had any interaction with it you were talking to me!