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Training and Continuing Professional Development:
a report on the seminar on fundraising held at the Puppet Centre Jan 22nd 2004
Speakers: Denise Jones of ACE London and Sue Buckmaster, director of theatre-rites company

Sue Buckmaster (SB) initiated proceedings by stating herself privileged to have been on the panel choosing the recipients of this yearÕs two ACE Bursaries awarded for the extension of puppetry skills. She noted that all of the applications were interesting, but that some were inappropriate for such bursaries. She explained that this seminar had been set up to feedback to individuals and companies using puppetry and help them to better understand the funding system, some of the grants available, and some guidelines for making applications. (She added that the Puppet Centre had recently been missed as a networking centre, so it was good to be back in the space for such an event).
Those present were asked to introduce themselves, and place questions to be dealt with later. Many had never applied for funding and wanted information on how to proceed.

SB dealt with the Bursary applications first and gave advice to future applicants:

  • Read the guidelines carefully (ACE/Puppet Centre bursary guidelines to be refined for next year)
  • Bear in mind the intention of bursary funding initiatives:
  • If the application has strong educational links, there are other sources for this kind of work, for example Creative Partnerships
  • The Bursary is not a support in order to provide a free service to a company or artist (however if outside any bursary application you do offer such a service, remember to tell the institution , company or person as much as possible about yourself and why you wish to render them a service)
  • The Bursary is not for funding for projects already in development: it is for personal professional development and cannot be production-led. An approach to ACE or other source for a Research and Development grant is more appropriate
  • Travel : the Bursary is primarily to benefit England, so anything gained by travel abroad must well demonstrate such benefit
  • Choose your mentor(s) with care -take advice
  • Research thoroughly the information requested, and find clues in the guidelines as to the sort of language to use in the application

Denise Jones (DJ) carefully explained the present situation and changes in grant applications to Arts Council England:

  • The Regional Arts Boards have gone. Arts Council England is now one organisation with regional offices.
  • All grants have been amalgamated into the programme called 'Grants for the Arts';
  • There is one form which applies to all applications across all art-forms including theatre grants;
  • You can apply for more than one activity, within a single application. You can also make more than one application at any one time, although we do not encourage this. When we assess your application we will consider your ability to manage more than one activity at a time.
  • There are three separate strands of grants: Organisations, Individuals and Touring. Money is ring-fenced for each, they are not in competition with each other.
  • Applications are dealt with in the first instance by the ACE regional offices; any application should go to the office in your region (if on a border or in doubt about your region phone the Theatre Department in the ACE regional office closest to you)

Q & A Session:
How much money is available per annum?
For individual grants: £1.7 million available for the London region. This includes writers, producers, and all sorts of theatre practitioners, including writers. Grants range from £200 to £30,000 maximum. These are managed by the regional office. Average grant from the London Theatre Unit is currently £6,100; most are under £5000.

For grants to organisations: £5 million available for the London region: if applying as an organisation you should have a constitution although it does not have to be formally constituted, nor a registered charity, Grants range from £200 to £100,000 max. This is Lottery money. Average grant from the London Theatre Unit is currently £17,000.

For Touring grants: £10 million is available nationally: national touring applies where two regions or more are covered. Grants range from £5,000 - £200,000. This is Lottery money managed by the national office. The average grant from the London Theatre Unit is currently £35,000.

Key changes in grants for the arts procedures

  • There are no deadlines, and a quicker turnround for the processing of an application. Grant requests for £5000 or less should be dealt with in 6 weeks; for £5001 and up in 12 weeks;
  • There is more flexibility: single or combination activities are considered. A project may be one lasting up to three years.
  • The form is simplified. ACE has an obligation to monitor the distribution of funds and who will benefit. Questions relating to ethnic origin are used only for this purpose.
  • Each application should be accompanied by a separate written proposal for your project in your own words. There are guidelines with the application pack.
  • You may re-submit a n application, but it would need to be substantially strengthened. Always take advice from an ACE officer before considering a re-application.
  • The priorities are different in each region. However, some of the national priorities are: new work, new collaborations, cross-art form work; work for young people; multi-cultural participation.
  • The financial management of the project must be clearly set out in the proposal.
  • As to the constitution of an organisation, the Independent Theatre Council (ITC) can help both individuals and organisations in theatre.

Applications may be discussed over the phone or, occasionally, in person with an ACE officer. The theatre department would like to have contact with all potential applicants; however it is the applicants' responsibility to let ACE know to more people and thinks it necessary to know the applicants to her department. However, it is the producers' responsibility to let ACE know what they are doing or planning, preferably before submitting an application.

Five areas of assessment

  • Artistic - demonstrating an individual voice and artistic vision; showing the track record of all collaborations to ensure quality of work, recommendation and previous reviews also useful, try to include them into the body of the proposal, rather than attaching them all.
  • Managerial -e.g. track record, skills, experience, planning capability and clarity of intention; if an organisation how constituted etc.
  • Financial - balancing budgets, professional wages, contingency inclusion, 10% partnership funding; check appropriate financial controls in place etc.
  • Public benefit - what is the immediate or long-term benefit to the applicant or others involved? Is your project good value for money? Who is your intended audience? What groups are targeted, how do you plan to attract them? etc.
  • Meeting national aims - these aims are listed in the application pack and include evidence of excellence, new ideas, investment in artists, increasing national resources for the arts. You need only meet one of the national aims to be eligible, it can be better to meet one to a high standard then several adequately.

It is important for applicants to acknowledge where their skills are deficient and how the deficiency will be made up - e.g. by hiring an accountant or a marketing person.

Cross art-form applications
Applications can cross art-forms We can look at applications alongside other departments such as education and diversity where necessary. You don't have to choose between art-forms. Many artists work in an interdisciplinary way eg. with work containing dance, drama and puppetry, this is acceptable. There are no barriers against the sort of work you can apply to support, however it is centrally important that the applicant should themselves work to define the nature and focus of their own work.

To a question posed, DJ said that the artist does not have to be of the same ethnic origin as the work (eg an artist can present Kathakali dance drama without being of Asian descent); it should be appropriate for the context and the applicant should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the area they work in and awareness of their target audience.

Marketing plan
This is very important. How are you going to find an audience for your project? If your project has benefit for a particular target group how will you reach them? If you do not have a specific target group remember competition for audiences can be fierce, especially in big cities, where there is lots of choice.

What is not funded (by grants for the arts) includes:

Work by full-time students
Film work (alternative funding sources from other organisations are available)
See application form for the full list

What is funded includes
Travel and other bursaries
National and regional touring
A strong application will have a clear relationship with the venue(s) proposed. Do not apply until you have established relationships with venues. How well is the artist supported by any venue? Care homes and schools count as venues.
Why have you chosen any particular venue? Is there 'public benefit'?
Continuing professional development
What is your current position? What do you want to achieve? How will your development be supported, evaluated, monitored? Who are your associates? The project should be self-defining. What is best for the future work you want to do? You need to communicate the essence and flavour of your work, and explain how it is unique.

10% matching funding
This may be offered as support in kind as well as cash/earned income Š e.g. free rehearsal space. Support in kind is anything you would normally pay for

SB: when planning a project don't forget the research and development period can be a separate part of the project and buy time before it happens. Grants are usually less than £10,000, for individuals or companies. Most are £5000 or under.

Final advice offered
the application pack may be obtained from or telephone: 08453 006 100
  • If possible look on the Internet site for extra advice and detail on making your application and filling out the form more successfully. There is a section on 'Understanding the assessment criteria' accessed through 'information and publications' - 'lots of useful information'.
  • Take advice from colleagues or friends who are experienced and successful at applying for grants.
  • Grant applications are time-consuming and may take a two-week focussed period to complete depending on size of project .
  • DonÕt underplay yourself or your work: be positive but remember to give concrete egs of all relevant skills and experience to support your application
  • Clarity of vision is essential: ACE wants to hear your voice, so they have a clear sense of the unique artist and project they are funding.
  • References may be included, but should be distilled into the body of the proposal
  • Write the application, leave it for a day or two, come back to it to see if it needs revising -again.

And finally:
40% (approximately) of applications to the Theatre Department are successful. Consideration of an application can go through three tiers of assessors: depending on the type of application. The first tier of assessors has specialist art-form knowledge (e.g. of puppetry). All final decisions are taken at Senior Management level.

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