I’ve delivered two arts projects in 2013 that have been funded through Arts Council England’s managed funds (not quite the same as the new strategic funds which still require a degree of open application).
Basically they were the funds ACE could allocate itself to seed work, push agendas and fill gaps.
Both projects went really well – achieving their aims and generating support, ideas and enthusiasm. And there is momentum in both to continue, which is excellent and … but how to go about this? The discussions go something like this…
ACE: We should continue this, it’s great.
Me: Yes we should, it was.
ACE: We’d love you to do something more on this.
Me: Excellent, I’d be delighted.
ACE: How about you put in a Grants for the Arts (G4A) application for it?
Me: Oh, err….. ummmm…. (tails off without really knowing what to say)
Now don’t get me wrong, I would dearly love one or both to continue, but I have a problem with the immediate default to the G4A route.
Firstly, I am a freelancer. Putting in a G4A is time-consuming. It’s not a quick form and there’s not a quick turnaround (I know these things are currently in flux as the process shifts). Should I invest in these myself? That’s problem one.
Problem two: these aren’t ‘my’ projects. I didn’t come up with them although I might have had a role in shaping them into their current incarnations. I don’t feel I own them.
Problem three, G4A needs match funding (minimum 10%), problem four, G4A needs partnerships and problem five, G4A is a highly competitive programme (currently around 49% of applications are funded). Does an application for work originally commissioned directly from ACE stand more of a chance of being funded? No. The system is now so centralised that although there would be a clear ‘tick’ against strategy in the assessment process, nothing is a sure-fire win anymore – and it all depends who you are up against in the round for which you apply. Basically when the money is gone, the money is gone.
I have no problem with G4A as a scheme, in fact I have used it to fund my own work. But that’s another rub. I need more than one project running at a time to work successfully as a freelancer – I don’t tend to work full-time on one thing, wait 12 weeks and then work full-time on something else, that business model doesn’t work for many, I imagine. But having more than one G4A application in at a time is tricky – problem six? As their Frequently Asked Questions sheet says:
How many times can I apply?
We would not encourage you to make more than one application at a time. If you want to make a second application you must speak to the person assessing your first application. If you are unclear who your assessor is, please contact our Enquiries team who will direct you to the assessor. The assessor will confirm in writing whether you can apply and you must include the letter from them with your second application.
We advise you to think carefully before making more than one application. Our assessment will consider your ability to manage more than one activity at a time.
If you have had a grant from us before, you must meet all of the conditions in your grant offer and you must send us all the information we need for that grant before you apply.
So do I use G4A ‘just’ to fund my own work? Do I instead use it to apply for work that isn’t ‘mine’ – work that I’ve just been asked to deliver in the past, and take the financial risk on this myself? Do I try and do both? What does this do to others applying for G4A? The number of applications is already increasing as NPO’s (National Portfolio Organisation’s) struggle with cuts, and those ‘moved on’ from the national portfolio seek funding to plug the gaps. Basically the more who apply, the lower the chance of success statistically as the amount of money in the pot isn’t going up any time soon.
Managed funds has gone, strategic funds aren’t quite clear yet, and the default appears to be G4A. So what do we do? I don’t have the answers but I’m interested in the question. And I’m interested in what others might do in the same situation? What would you do?