How to get funding from the Arts Council

Getting funding from the Arts Council is not as straight forward as most people think. The money that is used to make the grants is public money. So with that in mind you should always remember that they are acting as the voice of the public.

If you are looking at getting a one off Grants for the Arts funding then it currently is split into two sections. £15,000 and below this is a 6 week response time or £15,001 and above this is a 12 week response time. They recently raised it from £10,000 to £15,000 because they wanted to be able to spend more time giving grants that’s are for smaller amounts and the system really has worked as the number of project they now fund is greater. That is of course brilliant because it creates more art for all.

So let assume you are asking for £10,000 for a production of 'Macbeth'. You need to know your show inside and out, I don’t mean the script (Although that would help also) I am referring to what your show will do. Where will it go, who will come and see it? You need to know your audience. It is probably best to take a show to a mix of venues, some that are arts council funded and some that are not. For example if you take a show to a rural venue it shows that you are trying to get art to where it is not that accessible. If you take it to some urban big venues, then it shows that you know that you should get an audience and that the show is probably in demand at that moment in time.

Because the money you are given is public money you need to make sure as many of members of the public see your show.

The arts council like to do match funding. So you are wanting £10,000, you should be looking to get £10,000 yourself. This can be through ticket sales, other donations and the major thing that if you are a small new company support in kind.

Support in Kind is when someone gives you a service without needing payment/ they offer you a discount. When making your application you should calculate the entire support in kind amount as it can sometimes lead to a large amount. They want to know about this because if someone gives you a service for free it normally means that they have faith in what you are doing that means to The Arts Council that other people like what you are doing so it’s a bit less risky for them.

The best advice I can give with support in kind is to contact local shops, see if they can donate props, costumes, printing services in return for a bit of advertisement in the programme. Also see if you can find a free rehearsal space. Space costs a lot and it can really eat into your budget if you can find it for free then you have just flipped it round.

Although you do have to find ways of saving money you should never try and under pay someone unless they are offering their services at a discounted rate. For example the director you should pay properly unless he loves the project and has said (ideally provided a letter also) to say that he would take a reduction in his wage, this is then added onto support in kind. But The Arts Council, as I keep saying is public money; therefore they can’t go round being associated as being part of productions that underpay actors. It would obviously be the wrong thing to do and also create a lot of bad press!

In a recent meeting with The Arts Council a member of staff said, the production costs as much as it costs because that is how much it costs, we don’t want you to come to us and say we will do the show for £100 because that wouldn’t be fair. If the show costs £10,000 then tell us why be honest and let us know where and how you have saved money, show how it will return that and what the engagement with the audience will be.

From this it’s probably best to take the main point of not trying so hard to make your show as cheap as chips that’s not the point.

Once you have got all your figures and application together it might be worth giving it to a friend, someone who knows nothing about your show or company. Ask them what they thought you were doing. If they don’t tell you exactly what it is then you need to work on your explanation because you need to make your project outlines and outcomes very clear.

Lastly meet with them, each arts council office has a team of people they are very friendly and are always willing to make time to chat about your project. So if you are unsure get in touch with them, see if you can email over any questions or see if you can possibly go in for a chat.

Written by: Peter Stone - Visit author's website

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