Invisible Palace is a charity based in South East London which brings people from a whole range of backgrounds together through shared interests for collective activity. Working across the five boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham, in the neighbourhoods that surround Crystal Palace Park.
Invisible Palace creates activities which are active and practical, with an emphasis on experiential learning that is rooted in the story of the local area and people’s place within it. 
The work of Invisible Palace takes a participant led approach, with the small team developing and running activities championing the needs of those taking part and creating programmes which respond to this need on a local and individual level. People are brought together in a community of interest rather than having their demographic background or life stage be the main factor in defining them. 
April 2021 - March 2022
This year Covid restrictions eased. Participation in projects changed as many went back to work while others reassessed and made changes. Invisible Palace initially focussed on outdoor activities where possible as people rebuilt confidence in social settings.
Between April 2021 and the end of March 2022
•    135 hours of activity was offered to different groups across 76 events
•    over 230 people got involved in face-to-face activities either as volunteers or participants
•    15 freelancers were employed
•    1 volunteer moved on to full time employment and others joined projects looking for work or training experience
•    local amenity the Vicar’s Oak flower beds were maintained
Building on learning from the peak of the Covid pandemic Invisible Palace emerged with focus, purpose, and confidence.
Sculptures of Crystal Palace Park project
The project aimed build on Sculpture Saturdays, a walking tour that had been adapted to digital delivery during the pandemic. 13 Sculpture Saturday posts across three channels attracted 7244 engagements and sparked 134 conversations.

Invisible Palace was awarded £78,400 for a 30-month project by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Funding would allow community conversations continue and local people to tell the stories of neglected sculptures in Crystal Palace Park.  

The project began in September with a researchers’ meeting, then a launch event held at Crystal Palace Museum which included 3 short walks set up as community conversations. By the end of March 2022 36 hours of activity had been offered through 15 different meetings or events. 74 people had got involved with one or more event resulting in 323 hours of volunteer time being contributed to the project. 

Evaluation and User Research were key elements of the funded work in order to support data gathering across all strands of the project and enable evidenced co-production at all stages. The project continues to winter 2024.
Photo - Anthony Spratt
Photo - Anthony Spratt
Photo - Paul Crook
Photo - Paul Crook
Photo - Invisible Palace
Photo - Invisible Palace
Photo - Tanya Rhodes
Photo - Tanya Rhodes
Defy Gravity Social Circus in partnership with My Aerial Home
In June and July Invisible Palace worked with My Aerial Home to deliver a Summer Intensive programme of circus activities at St John’s Primary in Penge. 44 children took part in the programme which included clowning, poi, hula hoop, tightwire, and aerial counterbalance. It was designed with social circus research in mind. This research evidences risk as a key factor linked to personal growth for social circus participants. Aerial was completely new for all participants and generated very interesting feedback. The aerial disciplines in particular were challenging, often uncomfortable but fun and rewarding. It was clear that students were working through this dilemma as can be seen in the word cloud feedback below.
During the summer holidays Invisible Palace and My Aerial Home worked with Crystal Palace Community Trust (CPCT) to deliver circus activities in a youth work setting as part of a play scheme. 35 children took part in activities included hula hoop, juggling, and tightwire.
In February 2022 My Aerial Home (MAH) invited CPCT Youth to an Aerial Taster session at their premises in Bell Green, Sydenham, 16 young people took part with some surprising results. At the session two CPCT Youth club members had shown particular aptitude despite having issues around confidence and self-esteem. Both were offered to join regular MAH sessions at a heavily discounted rate. CPCT Youth provided case studies on this work proving a noticeable difference to the wellbeing of both young people.​​​​​​​

Vicar’s Oak gardening activities
Over the year 17 people got involved with at least one gardening activity. The May plant sale that took place just as Covid restrictions were easing was very popular with 63 people attending. The sale in September had approximately 44 visitors. The sales raised in total £621.
This year one volunteer moved on to full time employment and one to a more permanent volunteer role. During this period the type of people volunteering with the project started to change with less retired people and a greater number looking for training or work experience. This became a stronger trend later in 2022.
Throughout this year 67 hours of gardening activity was offered, and 245 hours of volunteer time was donated to the project. New plants purchased for the beds were paid for out of funds raised at plant sales.
User research and evaluation work funded by National Lottery Community Fund has resulted in improved data collection and evidence of the benefit of this work.
Volunteer comments
Gardening and working with other people has given me pleasure and helped me to connect with other gardening enthusiast, feeling less isolated during the pandemic
I've been working with the group for almost 2 years and I find it lovely to take care of the green spaces and also create friendships in the area.
The garden is beautiful in every season. I love watching the changes. Volunteering here is often the highlight of the week. Getting involved with the people and nature in a friendly but controlled and safe environment is a real tonic. Honestly it has been a saviour during COVID. Thank you!
Passer-by comments
Superb - good work! Brightens up the palace experience - lovely addition - thank you!!
I love this community garden. It always cheers me up when I pass it. I love the selection of plants and the countryside feel it gives. You are doing a great job with it. Please don't stop.
Beautiful Garden! Inspires others into gardening! THANK YOU!

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