In our third post from London Writers’ Week, we round up some advice from Arts Council England on how to apply for their Grants for the Arts programme.
This year London Writers’ Week featured a discussion with Arts Council England about their Grants for the Arts programme – a vital funding lifeline to any emerging playwright looking to get their work off the ground.
Grants for the Arts are funded by the National Lottery, and though the total levels of funding available do fluctuate year on year, they are – in spite of recent political turmoil – most likely safe for the foreseeable future.
We’ve summarised some of the discussion’s most useful points below – we hope you’re able to make good of use of them and wish you all the best in writing your own applications.
What are Grants for the Arts and how do I apply for them?
- Grants for the Arts are designed for artists seeking entry-level funding from Arts Council England.
- Applications are always open, with no deadlines – so you can apply whenever you want.
- Grants range from £1,000 to £100,000 (larger grants are available but they require specific permission from the Arts Council), but the applications are essentially split into two groups: grants under £15,000 and those above.
- For grants under £15,000, it takes roughly six weeks for a response. Grants for more than that take about twelve weeks.
- The Arts Council advises artists at an early stage in their careers who haven’t developed a relationship with them yet to apply for the smaller grants under £15,000.
- Roughly, around 40% of applications the Arts Council receive are successful.
- Successful applications almost always come with the condition that additional funding is sourced elsewhere – in other words, the Arts Council usually won’t fund your project entirely.
- To apply, visit the Arts Council Website (recently redesigned to be more user friendly, hurrah!) – and check out their aptly named “Applying to Grants for the Arts” page.
How to write a successful application – insider tips from the experts
- Read through the Applying to Grants for the Arts” page. Check it. Check it. Then check it again. Everything you need is there, so make sure you don’t overlook something.
- Get in touch with the enquiries team for any questions. They can’t tell you literally how to write your own application but the amount of applications that fail due to budget errors or wrongly filled out forms is still sizeable.
- Find someone who knows nothing about your project and ask them to read your application, and see if what you’re proposing to do is clear to them. If it’s not, then find the gaps and work it over.
- It’s important to argue why you need this project funded at this moment. Identify this and show that with this funding you are ready to make a big shift in your work. The lack of a deadline allows you to really specify the importance of what the funding will do for your project right now.
- Make sure that all artists involved will be paid at Equity minimum rates at the very least. The Arts Council is keen to stress that they don’t want artists, including you, to be exploited when trying to realise a project.
- Equally, if you have non-financial support (a venue offering you free rehearsal space, for example) then be sure to show this in your sources of other funding. Work out how much money this saves you and put this as support-in-kind. If you have a mentor or dramaturg who offers to work for free then this can also be worked out as fees saved. Obviously, in regards to the point above it needs to be clear that this artist has decided themselves to offer their service for free.
- If you are applying for funding for a project which it is hard to find an obvious point of public engagement for, then look to the past and future. If, as a writer, you are looking for funds to allow you to write or research and develop something then give examples of past work that has shown public engagement with that idea. Equally, show how you will make this work engage the public in the near future, identify your audience and explain how you will do so.
- Don’t spend too much time describing your play. A synopsis and a basic outline of themes are important, and you can use elements of the script to strengthen your argument, but the applications team want practicalities as well. Confirm partners and other funding bodies as much as possible. Every application has an element of risk, so give as much factual information as possible.
- Finally, don’t offer different versions of the project. For example, if you are applying for funds to take a play on a tour, do not show them what a six venue tour would cost and then what a ten venue tour would cost in comparison. It looks as though you don’t know your project well enough. That being said, showing a contingency budget can be a good idea. So if you present a plan for if a venue pulls out it helps show an awareness of risks.
It’s impossible to cover everything in a short seminar, but we hope you find these tips useful if you’re applying for an Arts Council Grant. And hey – it’s nice when we support each other, so if you have any advice of your own to share, let us know in the comments below.