two people are sitting in chairs facing each other having a conversation
Aidan Moesby and Kim Simpson at Unlimited Artists Day 2016. Photo by Rachel Cherry

Funding Ahoy!

On 10 May Theatre Bristol hosted an Unlimited Emerging artist training day for shortlisted artists; bringing together a range of arts professionals and artists to explore the murky waters of fundraising applications, budgets and networking.

Unlimited Programme Coordinator Fiona Slater and Unlimited Trainee Becky Dann reflect on the event and pick out some top tips from each session.

Fiona Slater: As we sat in a small circle in a Quaker Hall in Bristol, there was a relaxed, communal feel to the day which the first ‘speaker’ Rachel Messeguer beautifully built on.  Raquel received funding from Unlimited in 2016 to develop ‘A Crash Course in Cloudspotting (the subversive act of horizontality’. Raquel’s practice is informed by her need to rest throughout the day and her desire to shift the etiquette of behaving in public and professional spaces. Her tips for developing artistic practice are founded in her experience of adapting the ways she works, due to the impact of Chronic Pain. Sitting crossed legged on the floor, she explained how these changes have enriched the conversations she has and partnerships she builds. Here are a few of Raquel’s tips for developing your work and profile:

  1. Identify a critical friend – this might be someone you respect, who can talk to you about your ideas and potentially read through funding applications. Choose someone who is happy to challenge you and ask questions.
  2. Write a blog or record a vlog – Raquel’s work was picked up by the BBC based on a short blog she had written about the piece, so don’t underestimate the reach of some online self-promotion.

Becky Dann: Although I was attending as Unlimited staff, I was also interested in learning more as an emerging artist. Applying for funding isn’t something you’re taught about in University so I was keen to learn and be able to ask questions.

For me, the part I found really interesting was when Ruth Kapadia, Relationship Manager Diversity and Arts Practice at Arts Council England was talking about their recent changes to Project Grants and Developing Your Creative Practice funding.

She read us an application that had come through that really caught their attention. It was so great to hear the sort of thing that catches their eye when applying for funding – almost like an inside scoop. She told us about the funds Arts Council England have to support disabled applicants. There are documents online, which outline how they can help, as well as a number to call for advice. There was also mention of a cheatsheet that was written from a non-official source which was really helpful to previous applicants.

  1. Use your voice – Ruth spoke about the importance of ensuring your application is in ‘your voice’. She said that if you read your application back and you’ve used vocabulary that you wouldn’t normally use, it won’t be true to you. A good way to combat this, if accessible to you, is to record yourself talking about the project you would like funding for (even if it is a conversation with someone else) and to transcribe what you said.
  2. Ask for support – Ruth pointed out that at Arts Council England there are funds to provide support to people who require them, there are two PDFs available with information which can be found here and here, or give them a call at 0845 300 6200.

Fiona Slater: Laura Drane, CEO of Theatre Bristol followed Ruth’s session with some useful pointers on creating realistic budgets. 

Aidan Moesby is a current Unlimited awarded artist, researching and developing a new work ‘I was Naked Smelling of Rain’. His practice often uses conversation and new technology to explore the weather and its references to mental health and wellbeing. Aidan shared some valuable tips which have helped him become more established visual artists and curator.

  1. Get paid – A long-standing advocate for unionisation and fair pay, Aidan reiterated the importance of asking for funds to support freelancers at events which salaried staff are paid for.
  2. Get feedback – Asking for feedback for applications and interviews gave Aidan invaluable advice and guidance which helped to shift his practice, and create stronger, more compelling future funding applications, which were successful!  So always ask and act on the feedback.

Becky Dann: In the final artists panel recent Unlimited commissioned artist Jane Gauntlett spoke about some of the ‘unusual’ routes, outside of the arts sector, that she has gone through to fund and support her work, for example pharmaceutical companies, think tanks and charities. I found it really interesting to hear about her experiences outside of an arts environment and the challenges she faced as a female working in the male dominated sector of AV (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality).

Alice Holland spoke about the importance of making sure you are valued for the work you have been asked to do, something I personally find difficult as an emerging artist. You don’t always have to receive money, sometimes you can get vouchers, for example if you are a photographer you could ask for vouchers towards camera equipment. I found it really helpful to talk to people that have experience with this, and realising that just changing the wording can make asking for money a lot easier. You can simply ask ‘what is your budget for this’ or ‘is there a fee for that?’

  1. Diversify your funding streams – Think outside the box and look into different avenues to make your work happen.
  2. Look after yourself – Mental wellbeing and prioritising your health over work, is something Alice is really passionate about as an artist and Producer. I spoke about a survey Alice worked on with MAYK in a previous blog.

After a packed day of conversations the murky waters seemed to clear a little and both Emerging artists and session leaders seemed more confident about navigating the chopping fundraising seas.