The good habit of having fun

Sing your heart out, waddle like a penguin, bang a drum and roll on the floor laughing – it’s good for you says the founder of a centre in London dedicated to helping adults have more fun

How much fun do you have? Any idea? Is this something you even think about? Graham Edwards is the sort of person who thinks about it a lot. Back in 2005, the property developer, then in his early forties, was happily married with children and had accrued wealth in abundance. But something was lacking; he decided he wasn’t having enough fun.

“I had hobbies,” says Graham, but I wouldn’t say they were ‘fun’ per se. “I kept imagining myself in a room full of grown-ups playing games. I wasn’t looking for anything passive where you sit down, anything sexual, or anything that involved alcohol. But what I wanted didn’t exist.”

Graham, who sees life very much as a journey of self-discovery, went to see a life coach to talk about filling the gap. “Why don’t you create your vision?” suggested the coach. And so, with the help of a woman aptly named Hannah Merriman, who he met on a self-awareness course, he formed the Fun Federation.

Running several nights a week in London, the ‘Fun Fed’ attracts a cross-section of adults who want to let their hair down. It offers a place for people to find entertainment without having to spend lots of money, to hang out with friends and meet new ones, to get some exercise without taking it too seriously and to try something a bit different.

Much of the fun revolves around playing games like you’d find at children’s parties, such as Graham’s favourite, ‘last man standing,’ a variation of the classic party game musical chairs. There’s also singing, ‘strictly fun dancing,’ hula-hooping, laughter yoga, morris dancing and other activities chosen by the organisation’s creative team and its fans, such as zumba, a dance-based fitness programme originating from Columbia. There are even penguin themed games; “lets get our woddle on and p-p-p-play like a penguin” the Fun Fed website suggests.

Graham – who still works full time in property – and his team of four staff who work at the organisation’s headquarters on Cloudesley Street in North London, spend a good deal of time thinking about what exactly fun is and how they can help people experience it. He feels it’s important for adults to be able to regularly forget the worries and pressures of everyday life and just let loose.

So, does having fun mean being like a child again? “Well, in the sense that to have fun you often have to forget about your responsibilities, your overdraft, kids and work, yes,” Graham believes. “It’s about not having to worry about anything.” Most participants are in the mood to have fun when they turn up, he says. “We don’t tend to attract sceptics. It’s mainly a healthy, eco-conscious crowd of about 20 who are open to enjoying themselves.”

I ask Graham what the difference is between going to the Fun Fed and going to something else you might enjoy – like karaoke for example. “I think that’s similar to what we do,” he says. “The competition to what we offer is things like bowling and bingo and just going down the pub. They’re all more socially acceptable and what we do is seen as weird; people have a lot of mental barriers about it. It’s easier to just have a drink for some people.”

The setting up of the organisation was funded by Graham, but activities are now starting to bring in a small amount of cash. One-and-a-half hour sessions are charged at £7. And, on Wednesdays, wholesome vegan meals are served for £3.

Graham’s ambition is that the Fun Fed will slowly build itself up to run a full programme of sessions every day and will eventually support itself financially. He would also like to see more Fun Feds pop up around the country. Hannah Merriman, Graham’s original creative director has recently moved to the North of England and is interested in setting a branch up in Manchester.

The property developer sees having fun as a key aspect of being happy. “The Fun Federation has taught me a lot about being happy,” he explains, “I think it’s amazing that you can go for long periods of time without doing anything that makes you really happy. I feel happy when I go to one of the sessions and I feel happy afterwards.”

Having fun can become a healthy habit, Graham believes. “It’s a bit like the gym,” he says. “The more you go, the more you get into it. It feels good and you get the exercise bug. You can get the fun bug too. The more you practice having fun, the more you want to do it.”

He realises that what people find fun is arbitrary to some extent, and says the team spends a long time assessing how much fun they think people have at sessions. “We find ourselves asking, was that 40% fun or 80% fun? But there is no science behind it; we just have to go by the feedback and what we see. We want to provide a safe, non-competitive, non-sexual environment where people can feel unselfconscious and totally uplifted. And, our sessions are very popular.”