When Waves Collide
I am a Coventry-based weaver and textile artist. In December 2015 I was selected to participate in Made in the Middle, a Craftspace touring exhibition due to open in Coventry in December 2016. I wanted to create a new series of textiles When Waves Collide to show at the exhibition.
I sought funding to pay for materials, my time in making the work, publicity and an additional short exhibition at Craft Central, London.
I looked at grant funding because I knew that to do a project of this scale would require over 50 days work and I could not fund this time myself. Sales of work would help but be very unlikely to cover the majority of the costs. The nature of the project did not really lend itself to crowdfunding.
I applied for funding from Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts programme and for a Small Arts Grant from Coventry City Council.
The total budget for the project was £17,553 including a 10% contingency. Both grant applications were successful and the eventual funding profile was: 60% Arts Council England, 17% support in-kind (equipment, promotion, venue space), 11% self-funding (my own unpaid time), 7% Coventry City Council, 5% anticipated sales.
My initial prompt to consider Grants for the Arts had come from a fellow artist. I attended a talk from a regional Arts Council England officer and talked to local arts organisations. This helped in understanding whether the type of project that I envisaged might be eligible. Once I had an overview I found all the details online at www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/grants-arts
The process of registering and applying was clear but took several weeks. The application form was online and highly structured. A single attachment could be included with the application. I found it useful to go through the form initially to understand what was required, prepare material offline (especially the budget and timetable) and then complete it in small sections. My preparation and research included:
- Getting costings and quotes for all items of expenditure
- Talking to project partners to establish the value of in-kind contributions
- Working out a detailed timetable for the project
- Making prototype designs and samples of work, both in order to understand the number of days work needed at each stage and so that I could take photographs for inclusion with the application
I submitted the application in March 2016 and received an offer letter for the amount requested within 6 weeks. This offer was conditional on confirming the participation of Craft Central and the funding from Coventry City Council.
Fortunately I was able to confirm both of these within a month. In retrospect, applying to Coventry City Council earlier may have been more sensible so that I could have included confirmed City Council funding within the original Grants for the Arts application. I would try to avoid or reduce this sort of dependency in any future application.
In mid-June 2016 I received payment of 90% of the award from Arts Council England, and 100% of the grant from Coventry City Council a month later. 10% of the Arts Council England grant was held back and I can apply for it at the end of the project (in this case the end of the touring exhibition in Summer 2018). It may not all be needed: there is a contingency built into my budget and costs and sales may vary from what I predicted. The application for this final 10% will need to be accompanied by an evaluation report on the project and a record of actual expenditure.
As my application for funding was successful, I didn’t receive feedback, so I can’t be certain about the strengths and weaknesses of my proposal. However, I think the following ideas would be useful in preparing any future application:
- Provide clear concise information about your project. Grants for the Arts covers all sorts of activities and art forms. Don’t assume the funder knows anything about your work or what you want to do.
- Reduce the project risk – provide as much certainty as possible. In my case the key certainty was my confirmed participation in Made in the Middle. Other ways of reducing risk would include confirming your project partners early on and researching your project costs.
- Reduce the funding risk – find other sources of funding, including in-kind funding, that reduce the percentage of funding requested from any one source. The Grants for the Arts application form will generate a funding breakdown from the information that you enter so you can see what percentage is coming from each source. If you are applying for funding from multiple sources, make sure you understand the relative timescales and the funding criteria applied by each funder.
- Make sure you have enough time. Having a year between confirmation of participation in Made in the Middle and the exhibition opening gave me enough time to do research, make prototypes, apply for funding, receive funding and then do the project. Grants for the Arts is a rolling programme, so there is no application deadline. Work backwards from when you need to deliver the project to calculate when you need to apply.
- Have a Plan B – what are you going to do if you don’t get some or all of the funding?