Anyone who reads the newspapers knows that it’s money and not love that makes the world go round. If you hadn’t already heard, we are experiencing a credit crunch and the media cannot get enough of it. Whether it is MPs’ expenses, Greece going bust or the greedy fat cats in the city (although if we are letting felines run our banks can we be surprised it is all going wrong!), it seems that it is all anyone talks about. So this week, in the words of ABBA, we will also talk Money, Money, Money.
Here at Filskit Theatre, we are the not–so-proud owners of a Grants for the Arts application in paper form. It’s approximately 18 months old, covered in tea stains, highlighted and scribbled on. The one thing it isn’t is completed. And why is that, you ask? Good question! As a graduate company the world of funding can sometimes feel like a very elite, top notch club that you must jump through flaming hoops to get into. A funding application can feel like a huge step in the life of a theatre company and until now we haven’t felt ready. But as our creative ambitions are growing so is our need for cold, hard cash!
In the early days of Filskit we were fortunate enough to receive a small sum of money as part of a creative industries fair at Rose Bruford College. The amount might not have been groundbreaking but we managed to make it stretch, investing in technology and materials to really enable us to build our shows and practice. We also raised money running workshops for GCSE and A level classes. These bought in tidy sums that were re-invested into the company. But that was 2009, and whilst it is true to say there was economic uncertainty then, in 2011 it seems that there is a greater sense of panic amongst public funded bodies. Schools are now very careful with their funds and there are numerous companies that specialise in running workshops specifically for schools, so the competition is fierce.
So what opportunities are there to get funding for your projects? Many of the doors we expected to be open when we were at college are now closed, so as graduates in a recession, perhaps we are the generation that needs to apply our creativity to fundraising as well as performance.
Help in kind is a fantastic way of gaining assistance, without having to go with your hands outstretched asking for pennies. It may be someone’s time, the use of a space, or lending of materials and equipment that can let you get your project off the ground. We have personally benefitted from help in kind from many people and institutions. Access to free space has been one of the most crucial, giving us the time to develop our practice, process and to rehearse. Often this is in exchange for your services or time.
Take advantage of opportunities for young companies. There are many chances to show your work in front of audiences in work-in-progress festivals, and a few schemes by theatres to support the development of work. We have been a part of various festivals such as ScenePool, Sprint and Practice, all of which offered us the chance to put our work in front of an audience. Significantly, a week’s R&D at the Unicorn, courtesy of the EMERGE project, acted as a real launching pad for the devising development of the show.
All these things have helped us towards gaining our first experiences of the industry, but we want to take our work to larger platforms and for that we need money. This money would be used to pay towards festival registrations, technical expertise and assistance. So here we are again, staring at the notorious funding application.
All the talk of large and successful companies struggling after having their funding cut can make it easy for young companies to think “what chance do we have?” – and, to be honest, we have said those exact words ourselves. The application can seem like a lot of work for a guaranteed “no”. But as the old adage says, “who dares, wins”, so we are starting the application process. We are discovering that a funding application isn’t simply a letter or e-mail begging for some cash to buy a few props and put on a couple of shows here and there. You really have to know the ins and outs of what you are asking for and how you are planning to achieve it. So we are looking at costing up our options and forecasting our future plans.
However, there are other funding options. Ideas Tap has a number of different projects, from its Innovators’ Fund to the massive Sky Arts Award. Once again, you need to know what you want the money for and how you will invest it into the specific project. Fundraising websites such as We Fund offer a new spin for philanthropists. Companies can set a target amount to raise, and people can log on and donate as much or as little as they like, often in exchange for different incentives – the only condition being that you only receive the money if you hit your target (in the style of Dragon’s Den).
There are also a number of companies that run fundraising events, from cabarets to street performances. Running workshops should also not be discounted out of hand, but perhaps private summer workshops or discounted rates for schools need to be applied to creative incentives.
It is time for theatre creatives to become entrepreneurial. Amongst us we have some of the most innovative minds and if we apply these to making theatre and the arts a viable financial option, we might just secure its future.