Sara & Debbie Talk about their Experience of Applying for Arts Council Funding

It was fascinating to have the chance to gain an insight into how Sara and Debbie successfully applied for Arts Council funding, during their recent seminar for the Artist Professional Development Session at the RWA, ‘Applying for ACE ‘grants for the arts’ funds’.

To have the chance to be a part of an open and honest conversation with other artists about the ups and downs of the entire process was an eye opener for me! I once attended a workshop run by the Arts Council Officer for the South West (at the time) about the official way to apply – how to go about answering specific questions on the form. However, although informative, it was a dry and slightly unenthusiastic perspective on the process – it definitely put me off the thought for the future!

But listening to the artists talking about their own journey, from the initial idea to receiving funding, it completely changed my view on applying – and I realise that perhaps it is possible! (Although I am by no means suggesting that it is in any way an easy feat.)

The artists were clear to note that the experience would be different for everyone and to see the session as a case study as opposed to a ‘how to’. They offered emerging artists attending the session information on where to find advice if they were thinking about applying for arts council funding. (I will note the link below). It was an informative and engaging session with a fruitful discussion running well over time.

What I found the most interesting is how an application to the Arts Council is akin to writing a full business plan. It requires a lot of forethought and planning before even considering sitting down to write the application itself. I think this point for me, was the fundamental message – know your project inside and out.

The following are starting points that I conclude might be useful to consider:

·         Research the application process, know where to get help – you will need it!

·         Prepare and test your project, be confident in your ideas and have evidence that they will work through your previous research. E.g. Practical work that is evidenced, test versions of ideas. Make sure you will enjoy the project, that you believe in it because if not you are potentially tying yourself into a contract with Arts Council for a set time.

·         Forward Plan – leave plenty of time to apply and even more time to prepare your project. Plan using timelines for your R&D phase so you can effectively plan in the lead up to the application deadline. (This will also help you to make realistic timelines for the project)

·         Partner up – the more people (and organisations especially) that you can involve, the more communities you reach and effectively their endorsement and involvement speaks volumes. (But be aware of your agreement – know what you’re signing up for)

·         Match funding – Aim to match as much of the funding as possible. Remember you can use ‘in kind’ time given at an estimated value.

·         Budgets – tricky! Estimate your own time as accurately as possible (based on your test period). Don’t forget administration, marketing, meetings etc. Prepare for losses (include a contingency) Make sure your income and outgoings match exactly. Use evidence to show why something will cost a certain amount. (eg. Show you have researched different options)

·         Be Concise – the hardest bit – you must make sure the most important information is included within the limited word counts. Edit!

·         Consider the audience – ask yourself what do the Arts Council get back for their investment? How does this project benefit others? Who are your audience and how will they access the project? Why should you get the funding?

*Please note neither myself, Debbie or Sara are an authority on how to successfully write an Arts Council funding bid and therefore are unable to offer any further advice. Every artist will have a unique project and application journey and your process will vary. This blog post is purely based on one experience and these are just suggestions that I hope might be helpful for anyone who is trying to understand where to begin.

For information and advice please go to: www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/apply-funding

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