Music Makes the World Go ‘Round

By Makala Cheung – new Co-director of Fun Palaces, community worker and music artist KALA CHNG from Bristol.

A group of music-makers
Fun Palace in Athens (the very 1st one!) at Victoria Square Project , image by Alexandra Masmanidi

As the world opens up we are starting to remember what it’s like to get together with others again and have fun. Maybe this June you made something happen on Make Music Day and you’re wishing you didn’t have to wait until 2022 to do it all again? Or maybe you missed it and wish you’d done something? Well, Fri 1st – Sun 3rd October is Fun Palaces weekend!

Every year Fun Palaces pop up in communities across the country and beyond – local people come together to share and celebrate their culture, talents and passions – one of many being music! They could be in your garden, doorstep green or a community takeover in public venues like libraries. And although they can include arts, crafts, science, tech, heritage, and sports, I’m hoping this year – after the last year of cancelled gigs and festivals – many will include lots of music!

Growing up in my community of Knowle West in south Bristol, every morning was announced with the beautiful sound of birds singing. I loved this but, my favourite sound of all was hearing my neighbours’ music and laughter, while I walked to the shop or sat in my garden.

From next door blaring (and singing along to) Amy Winehouse at their family get togethers, to the vibration of the sub of the DnB tunes coming from the flats across the road, I was glad to hear the sound of my streets, the joy of my neighbours (and save on my own energy bills for my radio ahaha).

Music has always helped me feel the vibe and spirit of a place and its people. Music has always enabled people to come together and share stories and build connections. Music has a huge influence on our culture, style and how we live; and our heritage, lives and our communities also influence our musical choices. 

From badly mis-sung Auld Lang Syne, whilst banging pot lids with the street at New Year’s, to the local DJ’s choice of spin down the local pub, to the steel pan workshop at a community festival; music has the magic to build community, capture time, bring us joy, and keep our memories safe.

Often music can create its own community, our tribe of those we see like us. (Whether you’re a punk, indie kid, metal head, goth, rocker, raver, folk lover, hip hop head, or like me love R&B, dubstep, grime, and Pop, or are simply a general music fan.) Being part of the Bristol underground music scene gives me such a sense of community, just as fulfilling as the music itself. And experiencing different music at different places has helped me see and know new people and feel the culture of a new community.

Whether you’re a music maker pro or amateur/hobbyist – (your households’ guitar hero, can just about blow happy birthday through a harmonica, sing at your local choir, DJ at your local club or community radio, a superstar at the local karaoke night, play in your church band, or are the regional champion for playing glasses of water) – we all have music in our lives and sometimes in our bones. And despite my feelings of a devalued music industry due to the uncontrollable rapid changes from the digital revolution, it did mean we could all connect and access music in lockdown and what we will (hopefully) always have is the joy and togetherness it brings.

Before I joined the Fun Palaces movement, I was making Knowle West Fest with my neighbourhood, at my community centre and it was brought to life by fabulous community music performances. Now more local musicians help at our community market – busking fills the air, growing the atmosphere. We also had a community crazy golf launch too recently, and a local volunteer turned up with his ukulele and kindly played for us all, setting the jolly vibe of the day. Thank you, to all of you.

What could you do in your community? What do you know how to play, bang, sing?… Or could you organise something with musical friends and neighbours?

How to make a fun palace

Every year (first weekend in October) we make noise about the fact that everyone is amazing and everyone’s culture is fantastic and we all have something to contribute. Communities everywhere make a fun palace (big or tiny), and we (Fun Palaces) share and celebrate this with you.

So whether you’re a venue who wants to open its doors to enable a Fun Palace community takeover, or an individual or group that wants to share something musical with your community (online or physical, tiny or big), here’s some things to get you started:

So now that you might be considering it, and have some things to get you started, I’ll leave you with this: a song and video made with my community over lockdown (working with Bristol Beacon) reflecting on the pandemic and how going forward what we all really couldn’t wait for was just getting together, playing some tunes and having a boogie! So “Crank up the tunes, let’s dance!”

(With special thanks to Bristol Beacon for hosting the next Fun Palaces team get together)

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