The Aaargh of Form-Filling!
The size of Roy’s conception for The Snow Witch meant we couldn’t do it if we didn’t have Arts Council England funding. The application forms to obtain funding are notoriously tortuous. They are couched in project management jargon which appears to be deliberately exclusive – and to someone not steeped in the jargon, the specialist words used appear to have nothing to do with what is actually being asked.
I know this from personal experience, having stalled on putting in an application for funding for a festival relating to Arthur Conan Doyle and his life in Portsmouth because the forms were incomprehensible. Roy’s insights into what Arts Council England were looking for, and what their jargon-rich language actually meant were thus invaluable.
What do the Arts Council want?
In fact, putting the jargon to one side, the intentions of The Arts Council chime completely with our own. They are about increasing literacy and artistic experience for everyone. It’s all about the dissemination of culture and the creation of new approaches to life and culturally enriching people at a grass roots level.
So, part of the emphasis of our application must be on enriching the lives of ALL participants, both creators and consumers of art. This meant introducing writers and artists to new experiences and teaching them new skills.
What we could offer – something really fresh!
The public must benefit with experiences they never had before. Art in places they had never experienced it. Workshops in producing art – giving kids the chance to create and find their own voice. All this had to be part of the mix.
This also meant that all the writers who took part must benefit in some way. They weren’t going to be paid because we didn’t have a budget for it, but the teaching we were going to arrange for them would be part of their acquiring of new skills. We would test their abilities and stretch them in new directions. In this way, we weren’t inviting writers to contribute for free, or good will, or “for the publicity” as that hackneyed line goes when people are trying to rope in creatives without the intention of paying them. We would offer them valuable training from leading professionals in their fields who would enrich and enhance their creative experience. What we essentially were offering was unique free training with world-class professionals they couldn’t get elsewhere.
Putting our bid together
The first thing to do was find match funding. The Arts Council will match payment in kind, and so I offered my writing experience as one of the project managers for free, as did Roy. It was a commitment that I didn’t realise was going to take up such a large bite on my time when I blithely agreed to it. But it was very necessary. Various other potential partners were approached and asked if they would like to come in to help us. Among others, the University of Portsmouth was helpful in providing training spaces where the project could take place.
Eventually, we had an offer which would involve 9 months of development, through training to creating a new storyline to learning how to write collaboratively on the writing side. Elsewhere, the development of street art, the use of professional artists to give the whole experience a rich multi-layered content was part of the deal. The rehearsals with musicians would also be part of the mix, the use of actors and multimedia. This would be a complete training experience for writers and would leave them with an experience of creating in a brand new way.
Early on I was impressed by this extraordinary size of the conception, even it, at this stage, I couldn’t quite see what that actually would mean in the reality beyond the words on the page.
However, we were about to find out, because at the start of 2019 we had the bid accepted. Arts Council England agreed to fund us to the tune of £15,000. So, now we had better make it happen.