Magic Beans don't grow on trees. Neither does funding.

This week has been a bit of a whirlwind, the way the start of January always manages to be.  Instead of being gently lowered back into reality after your Christmas coma you may, like me, find yourself with a thousand things to do and no energy to do them. However, this week I’ve tried to make producing my show a priority. So I have been looking at the Mecca for all new (and established) producers – The Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  It may seem that summer and the sun are a million miles away but if you’re hoping to take a show to Edinburgh preparations should begin this month.  Registration begins on the 21st February and the deadline for discount registration is the 30th March.

So I was reading through the leaflets and print on the Fringe website, highlighting helpful passages and putting each section into its own A4 plastic wallet and I was feeling quite positive (and organised).  We (sort of) have a show. We have no cast, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and we’re willing to fill nearly every role between the two of us. Surely if we have no set and minimal costumes we could do this on a very small budget?

My small budget belief stayed true until I read the part about fees. All of sudden my positive ‘maybe there’s a chance we could do this’ attitude fell apart. Where the hell am I going to find £295.20?  A sum that, from what I could see, apart for inclusion in the programme, doesn’t offer me very much.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do realise that this is not a huge amount of money  – and back in my student days it would have been my termly allowance in Topshop, but since I am no longer given 20 years of debt each term craftily disguised as ‘nothing to worry about’ I now have to go out and make my own money. Tragic I know. Using my own money seems like a painful option.  But is this the wrong attitude to have? Many business ventures begin with people using their own money. And, to be entirely truthful, if I am not willing to spend my own money on my show why should somebody else? On my not-so-large salary I don’t really have much room for financial gambling.

So this brings me to the vital support of all theatre productions – funding. The ability to find funding in the theatre industry is an art, and at the moment a much sort after skill.  There used to be countless adverts on Arts Jobs looking for free ‘Producers’ who sole responsibility was to find funding for shows that had not a penny. So if you have found yourself in this unfortunate position or like me are fundraising for your own show here are a few places to start:

First of all there is the Arts Council England. Love it or hate it, it does hold the key to grants and funding that can set your show up. To apply you need to fill in its online application form – it’s lots of pages, but worth it if you get the funding. However, do bear in mind that you may not be able to get funding for a show that is only going to the Fringe.

Each year Ideas Tap holds open submissions for its Ideas Fund Edinburgh, two £10,000 prizes for new Edinburgh shows.  Unfortunately the deadline for 2011 has already been and gone, but for any super-organised 2012 Fringe-goers it’s one to watch out for.

Camden Theatres has set up a funding website for producers and their shows.  Although this is not for the Edinburgh Fringe it is worth checking out if you would like your show produced in the Camden Fringe.

Fundraise for yourself through launch parties, raffles, selling your old things or generally begging family and friends.  It may not be ideal but it may just make the difference.

So this is only just the tip of the iceberg when it come to fundraising, but I am hoping with a little bit of imagination and lots of form-filling I may be able to raise that £295.20  – and maybe a little bit more.

Image by Frédéric Dupont