In a bright, window-backed room, three people sit in a row and are mid-conversation. One is making notes, one is speaking and gesticulating, and the other is listening intensely.
Unlimited symposium. Image credit: Rachel Cherry.

Finding out about Funding with Arts Council England and Unlimited 

The Expression of Interest portal is now open! You can click through to apply by following the ‘start your application’ link at the bottom of this page.

On 24 August Claire Saddleton from Arts Council England (ACE)Jo Verrent from Unlimited and many additional ACE staff from across different areas ran a day to explore how to apply to both ACE and Unlimited for funding. These sessions were aimed at disabled artists who’d never received funding from either before. Focusing on ACE Project Grants and Unlimited’s current commissions process, there was one session per Arts Council area – a whistle-stop tour around England. 

The presentations from both organisations can be downloaded from this page. There are additional Word docs for access, containing the text from each presentation. Read on for the answers to the top ten frequently asked questions across the day

Arts Council Presentation – PDF version and Microsoft Word version

Unlimited Presentation – PDF version and Microsoft Word version

Everyone has questions about application processes – here are some of the most popular questions asked across the day – plus what to do if you still have questions that haven’t yet been answered.  

Can you check my application and make sure it’s good enough? 

No, neither ACE or Unlimited can do that – it would bias the decisionmaking processes we each use.  But it’s a great idea to check any application you plan to send to anyone and to get somebody else to read through and see if it’s clear or has things missing. Perhaps you could do this via your existing networks, via organisations you know or through linking up with other artists or peer groups? 

How can I find out more about how to move my work into the digital realm?  

First of all, it might be useful to check that this is really the best way to make your work accessible in the current climate – there are other options as well as online presentations of work. Projects are being moved outside, using the postal system and finding other innovative options too. 

If you do want to go online, there are lots of resources out there to help, such as Unlimited’s series of video guides on live streaming. The Space also have a range of resources to help. Other suggestions included researching online, using social media to find people to help and applying to ACE to do a small research and development project to build up an understanding of where you could go, and what skills you might need. If you are set up as an organisation you can apply for some free advice from ACE’s Digital Culture Network Champions. 

Can someone apply to both Arts Council England and Unlimited 

Yes. You can apply to both for the same or for different projects – but you can’t link up the applications and use one to match fund the other. This is because you might be successful in one application and not in another, but also because much of Unlimited’s funding comes from Arts Council England and we have to avoid any ‘double funding’ of work.  

You can apply twice to Unlimited this round, providing one application is linked to a Partner Award. And you can also apply as an individual and as part of a collective (watch out though as we do ask that people aren’t named in more than 2 other applications overall!) 

You can apply to ACE more than once within a year, with no limit on the number of applications. It’s also good to know that many rejected applications are subsequently resubmitted and then successfully funded. However, you can’t make a second application to ACE while you are still waiting on a decision from an outstanding ‘live’ application in their system. Once you’re received a decision, whether successful or unsuccessful, you are free to make another application. 

“Every time you see a fund, apply to it.  You never know.  Quite often people say ‘oh shall I apply to Unlimited or Arts Council?’  Why not apply to both?  If you get one, you can always withdraw the other application.  I just think at this particular moment now is the time to maximise your chances.”  

Do we still have to have match funding? 

Match funding is funding from other sources – it can be in cash or ‘in kind’ (through the donation of space, goods or services). Both ACE and Unlimited usually require match funding but ACE have currently relaxed the requirement from now until April 2021 so you can apply for 100% of your project costs if you need to. If you’ve already got money from another source, do include it in your application, but it’s not essential at the moment. 

For Unlimited, initial expression of interest applications don’t include a budget so its not something you need to consider at this stage. Once applications are shortlisted, we’ll talk to those applicants on a 1 to 1 basis about budgets and what might be appropriate. For example, if it’s a large project with lots of partners, it might still be possible to expect match funding, but for an individual emerging artist this might be waived. 

How does arts funding (and Access to Work support) operate for people on benefits?  

For Unlimited, as we don’t ask for budgets at Expression of Interest stage you don’t need to worry about this at this point.  If you make it through to the shortlist and you are on benefits, then we can advise you and help you to create a budget that means that your benefits aren’t impacted.  There are many benefits and many have different rules attached in relation to work. 

Sometimes artists cannot take a large fee from their own project although they can benefit in other ways.  Sometimes people use Permitted Work, sometimes they work on their project as a volunteer and have limits around the time they can spend on it and the direct expenses they can draw downWe’ve also worked with some people who have chosen to come off benefits for a short period of time while they deliver a project and then move back on. It’s a tricky area but one in which we have experience. We are mindful to balance supporting artists and to ensure we (and they) don’t break the law. 

Access to Work is a government scheme providing funds to cover access support costs for disabled people in paid work. If you volunteer, you can’t usually access this support. Do check out the guide on Disability Arts Online to find out more. 

If you are applying to ACE, some of the costs that might be funded through Access to Work can also be included as ‘Personal access costs’ in your budget. This could include interpreters, support workers, or other adjustments you need to manage and deliver the project (but not audience access costs). If you are confident of securing Access to Work funding, you can include this in your income budget. If you’re not sure about this, it’s probably best to include these costs in your funding request from ACE. Personal access costs are not included when ACE considers the funding request amount. (So, for instance, if you apply for £16,000 of which £1,200 is for Personal Access Costs, ACE would treat this as an application for under £15,000.) 

Match making – can you match make writer/directors with venues or visual artists with galleries or any one with producers?  

Sadly, neither ACE or Unlimited has the capacity to do this for people applying for funds.   

Unlimited does do this, to a small extent, with shortlisted artistsWe have an allies network of over 300 venues, festivals and organisations.  If there’s particular organisations we know that we think that might suit your project we would talk to them at that stage to see if they had any capacity to talk with you to help strengthen your full application. But its dependant on them having space and time which we can’t guarantee. 

It is worth looking at ACE’s network of NPOs to see if any of them might be able to help. Many have ambitions to support artists.  

Can we buy equipment with grants? 

Yes, but what both funders will look for is that you’ve considered value for money and that the equipment that you’re buying is proportionate to the activity that you’re wanting to deliver. It might be that it would be cheaper for you to hire it rather than buy itfor instance, or that someone else locally has what you need. 

“If you’re going to buy it, then maybe talk a little bit about what the long-term impact of having that equipment will be for you as an artist, or maybe there will be some other artists that you might be able to share that equipment with.  

Do you fund older/younger/LBGTQIA+/ etc artists?  

Both ACE and Unlimited fund a wide range of artists – and both publish data that shows the range of artists gaining support.  

ACE’s can be found here.

Unlimited’s can be found here.

How do I work out what to budget, especially in relation to costing my time?  

Budgeting for a project is a skill in itself. In Unlimited’s archives there is a useful blog on starting out with budgets which might be a good starting point. Working out what to charge in relation to artists fees is a complex area.  

We don’t advise you how much to pay yourself or to pay other people, we can’t because then we become legally complicity in the project but we do want to see you paid so it’s up to you as an individual to set what your hourly rate or your daily rate is. 

There is a fair pay guide on the ACE website which talks through issues linked to pay and lists, for example, the Independent Theatre Council and the Writers Guild which both publish a list of rates that you might want to think about. It varies from art form to art form.   

Quite often people think that they are making their applications better by reducing the amount of money that they themselves as an artist get, but they are not. What you’re showing is that you don’t value your own worth. It’s often aeasy thing to reduce your own fee to make a budget balance, but it’s not helpful, because it shows us that you don’t take your own work seriously. 

How do I get access support to help me make an application? 

The process is slightly different for ACE and for Unlimited. 

ACE has a range of resources in alternative formats on their website – there’s films and videos, with BSL interpretation and captions, large print and some audio, and easy read info.   

If you have an access need that might mean you need the support of a support worker in order to either access the advice or make the application, then ACE can cover the cost of that support worker, whether or not you end up applying. All you need to do is e-mail, with “access” or “access support” in your subject header. Please give some information on the barrier that you face and the support that you might need. You will also have to know who could provide that support, and how much that might cost. It is then a conversation to determine what ACE will cover.  

For Unlimited, similarly, it’s a conversation. Just email telling us what barriers you are experiencing and we’ll arrange support with you and agree the costs we can cover. 

That’s our top ten Q and A’s – but you may have other questions 

For ACE, check out their ‘three steps to applying’ page here. For Unlimited you can email or phone 07506 679968, or wait for our Question and Answer day on social media which will run from 10am-5pm on 22 September across both Twitter and Instagram.