“Do you mind if I take a moment to look under the bonnet...?”
The following appeared on the Arts Council England (ACE) website February and relates to Developing Your Creative Practice (DYCP):
“We’ve seen very high demand in Round 12, with 1,692 eligible applications received. We supported as many exciting and ambitious proposals as we could, investing over £3.5 million… we supported 377 individuals and freelancers to reshape and redefine their work during the pandemic.”
Decision for Round 13 will be announced on 31 May 2022.
According to their own figures, the average amount awarded to successful applicants is £9,300. Just for the record, my own award was for £9,600.
Future blogs will go into more detail about how to put a successful proposal together, but you’ll also need to construct a budget which should ideally flow from the project description: if you plan to travel then include travel costs, mentor costs for mentors etc. Given the success rate is just under 25% and the value of the award is so significant, the budget is always an important consideration in these matters, best to follow a process you can explain to someone else if needs be, an auditor perhaps?
Remember this is a programme specifically designed to offer support to creative individuals, organisations are not eligible to apply, The results of Round 12 have been announced and are well worth a look on their site.
You can download the list of applicants and see the location, spread of disciplines supported, plus the applicant and project names of those successful. There have been three or four rounds a year since it started, and many more to come between now and 2026. Despite its Excel spreadsheet format, it still makes fascinating reading for people of a certain disposition, as does the challenge of trying to decipher what they really mean.
Note especially, at the top of the page, the use of terms reshape and redefine their work; that’s exactly what they’ll insist upon.
Remember, if you’re generally satisfied with your practice as it currently stands then this isn’t for you: they will only support individuals who are prepared to take risks, innovate, experiment, and even – believe it or not - fail! Those new to DYCP will soon discover this is a very curious programme.
On the one hand ACE are really quite prescriptive about the process they expect you to follow. It’s a reminder of something old Henry Ford said back in the day:
‘You can have your new Model-T in any color you want, just as long as it’s black.’
On the other hand, they are completely open-minded about how you might go about reshaping or refining your practice. That part’s entirely up to you. It can be a real head scratcher for those not prepared to adopt a flexible approach. Understanding the way they’ve tailored the provision is one thing, being able to think clearly within its limitations is another altogether.
Which brings us rather aptly to F. Scott Fitzgerald, he of the ‘Great Gatsby’. In his still seminal 1936 essay ‘The Crack-Up’ he made the following observation:
‘The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function...’
Applying for an Arts Council bursary was probably the last thing on his mind, but I certainly found it came in handy. Although now it’s more fashionably known as cognitive dissonance.
The very mildest of stings I’ve saved for last – this message was also posted:
‘If you’ve made two unsuccessful or one successful application since 10 July 2019, you won’t be eligible to apply in Round 13’.
My award came in December 2020 so that’s me scuppered - for the time being at least, if I wanted to try again. Similarly, two unsuccessful applications means you have to sit out Round 13 and it will be fascinating to see what restrictions they’ll apply to Round 14 and beyond, it’s one way of their limiting the flow of traffic. It also reiterates past messages on this blog at W&A about the importance of timing and preparation: this isn’t a moveable feast where the food truck pulls over just when you’re feeling a bit peckish, nor is it the race in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ where there’s a prize for everyone.
Your best chance is that first submission when the planets align and the time is right. I’d also suggest before touching the keyboard to have it all worked out in your head, that’s the hard part as it must emanate from within yourself, be unique, be yours 100%.
Next up: we’ll discover how timing is at least 90% of the way forward…