As an emerging artist making theatre means doing the jobs you don’t like to do because you believe in what you are doing. Unless you can pay someone else to do it for you. And, if you’re reading this, I reckon you’re like me and my collaborators and can’t…yet.
This summer we got an Arts Council Grant for Arts for The Lonely Room, a mime theatre piece, when all across the news there were stories of cuts to arts funding. How did a nameless group asking for money to indulge our creative ambitions do it?
There is no particular secret: we had simply done our homework.
Grant applications are a great opportunity to clarify who your team are and what you want professionally. Answer these basic questions as individuals and collectively, and everything will follow.
Who are you?
What are you making? Why are you making it? How are you making it? Where are you making it?
What are your skills? What are your skill gaps? How can you fill those gaps?
How do you work best?
Set yourself clear and attainable objectives that you know you can achieve with excellence.
What kind of life do you want for your project? How does it into your long term goals?
What are your professional values? How would funding help enact those values?
What are your skills and experiences worth? What do you realistically need to survive?
Building self-reflexivity and clear aims into all aspects of your work allows you to develop benchmarks against which to evaluate your project after its development for yourself and for your funders. Doing it earlier makes everything easier later when you’re busy with the excitement of your project.
You’ve taken the time to know yourself. Now get to know where you stand.
Do you have an audience? Who are they? How will they benefit from your work?
Who else would your work resonate with? How do you engage them?
What are other like-minded companies doing? Where are they performing? What stages or festivals might be interested in your work?Set yourself clear immediate and realistic goals but it is worth taking the time to have an idea of how they fit into your bigger picture.
What’s the funding body’s agenda?
It is most likely that you’ll have to do a bit of soul searching to justify your project’s social value. So get creative with who you engage in partnerships or for support.
What groups deal with whatever it is that is at the heart of your work? How can you access them? What can you offer that fits in with their programmes?How do you support them? How do they support you?
Filling out a funding application form is the (albeit not-so-delicious) cherry on the cake. Most of the work involves gaining support, getting advice, figuring out logistics and refining ideas. It’s about making a plan to make a creative vision a reality. The more solid your plan and the more support you have, the more likely you are to receive funding. You’d be surprised how if you are honest and working from a real desire to make something work how support naturally follows.
Take advantage of resources; be hungry for information so that you know the lay of the land when you sit down and start filling in the boxes. In those boxes write down the name of everyone and every organisation who you have spoken to about the project. Show your potential funders that you are expanding your network and are willing to put yourself out there. This was some of the immediately applicable advice I received.
While all this is happening make a detailed plan and budget that works for you and that you would feel confident carrying out. Be realistic about what you can achieve in a day: everything always takes twice the time you expect it to.
Make a Plan B just in case something goes wrong.
Make a Plan C in case you don’t get funding. I made over five unsuccessful bids for funding from different bodies over the past two years before this one.
“Tenacity is the key to survival in theatre,” Chris Hislop of Chloe Nelkin Consulting says while helping me wrap my head around marketing. My R&D funding has ended and now I am out of comfortable bubble of the rehearsal studio and negotiating how to live from my work.
Just like everyone else making theatre.
The Lonely Room will be at Mimetic Festival at the Waterloo Vaults, November 25th-29th.