Funding tips from Creative Lunch

Our Project Assistant Alison Kennedy gets an insight into the world of theatre funding…

Last Saturday, as part of our Creative Lunch series, Claire Symonds from the Arts Council gave an enlightening and practical guide to funding new theatre. With an eclectic group of people present, from aspiring actors and directors to a playwright and theatre designer, there was a lot of very useful information discussed and shared. Claire focused on the Art Councils ‘Grants for the Arts’ as that was the most relevant scheme to those attending the session on the day. These were a few things I picked up…

So what is Grants for the Arts?
This is one of the Art Councils funding streams which was first launched in April 2003. They pride themselves on being a very customer focused, equal and responsive fund. They grant money to individuals as well as organisations and decisions on whether an application has been accepted or not is pretty quick, taking between 6-12 weeks. They understand that it is baffling when you start applying for grants which is why a single funding stream like this works for everyone; where the applicant tells them what they want, not the other way round. It is also important to note there are no deadlines. You can apply all year round.

Who and what do they fund?
People who use the arts in their work for time limited arts-related activities that either the people of England can engage and benefit from or that help artists and arts organisations in England carry out their work.

Individuals (artists, performers, curators, producers, writers etc.) can apply for grants in the range of £1,000-£30,000 that will cover activities lasting up to 3 years. Organisations (arts, local, public, national etc.) can apply for grants normally in the range of £1,000-£100,000 that will cover activities lasting up to 3 years.

The types of activities it funds can range from productions to research and arts-related activities including touring, bursaries and organisational development. It also funds national activities, for example a national tour of a participatory project around the various communities it has involved. However this funding stream is not for those wanting a grant for a film or video production (there are other sources of funding such as the BFI for this) – unless of course it is in support of artists’ work in the moving image.

You don’t necessarily have to work in the arts as long as you are using the money to do art type projects/outreach work and you are welcome to apply for multiple projects at the same time. Those interested in applying must be aware that activities (including buying goods or services) which take place or start before the Arts Council would be able to decide on the application will not be accepted, also students cannot apply for activities related to their course of study.

The application process
The online application process makes it easier for applications as it won’t let you progress unless you include everything you need to (this is vital when it comes to balancing your budget). It is a highly competitive process but everything is in place to make it as easy as possible with staff at the Arts Council available for support throughout the application process and their excellent website should be your first point of reference when you’re looking for help.

It’s not easy to say what a standard application is as there is such a range, although successful applications should:

• Have clear start, middle and end points (e.g. contextualise what you are asking for and make sure your project is not under developed).
• Not be based on the assumption that funding is guaranteed no matter how good the application is.
• Include a contingency plan.

These are just a few starting points to consider if you’re thinking of making an application, for a full summary and more details visit the Arts Council website