Episode 4: Everything you need to know about funding
Download transcript here or read below.
This time you don’t just have to put up with us telling stories and making each other laugh - this episode is actually USEFUL, thank GOD. It is the funding episode! And for it, we are joined by Anna Hart who is going to talk us through everything you need to know about (arts) funding (in the UK). We wanted to rope Anna into this podcast episode to do an explainer on funding because she's the one that taught us the ins and outs. And it’s tricky - like honestly what is it, how do I get some for myself, and where is the money coming from? In this episode, we chat about the logistics of arts funding, the criticisms of it too, and offer some tips on writing a good application. Have a listen and hope it is useful!
Guest: Anna Hart
Artist coaching: The Hour Collective
Transcribed by Michael Lacey
Transcription sponsored by Creative Debuts
Jingle by Toynoiz
G - Welcome to the fourth episode of the White Pube podcast, for this episode we were thinking about this question of funding. When we did our art degree we learnt what funding was in the last few weeks of it. It felt as though it was something that was kept from us. When we spoke to art students on different courses they never had a lesson about funding. As we've moved through the past five years of working in the arts, every little bit of information we have learnt, we've tried to give back and post online and share, because it feels as though a lot of the knowledge around things like - payment, how do you get an exhibition, all the stuff we probably should know and you should expect to be taught on an art course - is just kept from you in a way that I don't think the equivalent in other industries keep it secret. It's suspish.
Z - I think as well, it's quite like - I don't know if this is the same for you Gab, but for me at least, the whole process of being an artist that makes money from making art- that was just a complete mystery to me. I don't know how they did it, it's so ephemeral and mysterious, so bizarre and opaque to me. When I found out about the existence of public funding I was like, ah, it made so much sense. But I had no idea it was there.
G - Wizard of Oz moment, you see what it all is. Our Wizard of Oz moment was with Anna Hart. At the very end of our course on Fine Art in Central St. Martins, after the degree show, very strangely, there were three workshops. One of them was on how to do your taxes, by this really flamboyant man in a purple suit, I think I remember. Talking about how he did the taxes for Peter Doig and it just went over my head. The second workshop was on how to run workshops and it was by Alex Schady, the head of the course. And then the third was on funding, and it wasn't as open as the others. It was a sign-up of about 20 or 30 people in this little room, tucked away behind the library. I managed to nab a spot, I don't think you did Zarina, did you?
Z - Yeah!
G - You did? Oh, perfect.
Z - You nabbed a spot for us both.
G - Oh lovely.
Z - You strong-armed me into that workshop, I wasn't going to go. I was like, funding, what's that? Glad I went!
G - But the workshop was led by Anna Hart, who is also on this call and who we're going to try and pull knowledge from today, so that everyone can have the experience we had. So, welcome, Anna.
A - Hi! I'm glad I didn't have to do the tax workshops. It's funny, because I was asked to do a version of that workshop again, online, this summer at CSM. I always feel like such a failure that's what I'm asked to do - it just sounds so boring. And then when I do it, even when you asked me to do this call, when I started thinking about it, I thought no no no, this is actually quite exciting. Because it's not about funding, it's about work, it's about making good work, it's about ideas, it's about artists who need to be out there, what is public-ness. It's about lots of things, so yeah. My heart slightly dropped when you first messaged and said it was a podcast about funding - I thought, oh. Is that all I am? I'm really not an expert - I'm a bit of an imposter. But I remember when you came to that workshop. Sorry Zarina, I don't remember you being there - which sounds so weird, because how could you ever not remember Zarina being in the room? But it's because Gabrielle came up to me after and said, could she have a job with Air. And I said no, you're not interested in this work, prove it to me! And she did, and it was just an amazing Summer working together. So who knows what can happen in a funding workshop. Anything can.
G - Exactly. So yeah - do you want to give an introduction to yourself, and what you do?
A - When you were talking about going to art school, one of the things… I'm a bit of an outsider, because I trained as an architect, not as an artist. And maybe that's a little bit helpful in thinking about how things developed, because obviously as an architect you always work in a team of people, you work with an engineer, you work with a QS, and even though I have deep issues with a lot of how that profession works, and the ethics of how commissioning happens, but there is this sense of a process, an idea and the development of something. So I think I bring that in. So I trained as architect, worked as an architect but I always interested in this space between buildings, and the space of conversation with people, and started working in my early 20s with artists, with dancers, with musicians, particularly around unannounced work in public spaces, in the streets, mainly in London. About 14 years ago I ended up at Central St. Martin's, more specifically at the Byam Shaw in Archway, and founded with the late Alistair Warman, a project called Air, which is now ongoing. We're now independent, and maybe the most important thing that we do, very small scale, we have no core funding, that might be something to talk about later - what core funding is. It's project-by-project funding. Essentially it's about supporting artists to make work more publicly, to encourage conversations and quite unexpected conversations between people. To make work. Is that enough?
G - Yeah, that's enough! So given that basis, and all of your time spent working in those ways, what do you know about funding? I know that's the biggest question, but it was again, just this word for us, as students, that we hadn't heard before. What is it?
A - So what is funding- I think there's a few key categories for artists to look at. So, Arts Council England if you're in England, Creative Scotland, Arts Council Wales, sorry I can't remember what it is for Northern Ireland… that's rubbish, but I've never applied for funding there. So these are our National Public Funding Bodies and they have strategies, in Arts Council England it's called Let's Create, where they are laying out what really matters to them right now. I think it's very important for English artists to look at the Developing Your Own Creative Practice fund right now. For individuals, that might be for a lot of your listeners, what's really relevant. Because the normal fund is three million quid a year and they've put it up to 18 million quid for the next year. So I really want artists to get in there and this is about creative development - it doesn't have to be about output. We could come back and talk about that in more detail but that's a really important fund right now. But the Arts Council, generally you've got NPO - National Portfolio funding - which is long-term organisational funding, core funding. So that means it funds buildings and salaries and those overall organisational costs. Then you get Project Funding, which is how a small organisation like Air tries to survive. So that's project by project basis. And then you get individual fundings like the Developing Your Creative Practice. Arts Council, it's all through a portal, an online application portal. People make a big deal about how difficult that is, I don't get hung up on it, it's not actually. People like you are doing great stuff about sharing applications. I think the most important thing is to talk to people when you're making a funding bid, maybe that's an important thing to come back to. Then you've got other public funders, so those in London for example sometimes Transport for London or the Mayor's Office, might put out particular funding calls. These tend to be more instrumentalised and specific, so for example, for people suffering from mental health challenges or around particular age groups or demographics. Then there are what I would call Public Funders, they're getting more complex but for example, we are funded by a Housing Association. Of course, Housing Associations now also have to be developers, so that's where it starts to get complicated, but those sorts of public funders - often those will be through tenders, applications or specific projects again. Then we've got trusts and foundations, these are in the main where there has been a lot of money - sometimes an individual, normally a company - and it's been put into a trust and it is distributed, sometimes many hundreds of years later. Something like the City Bridge Trust or others that might be much more recent. I was reading about the Burberry Foundation and their funding some stuff with Marcus Rashford this week. Obviously that's more fashion related. So that's where a company has put a certain amount of their profit to one side. In America this is a massive part of philanthropic funding, and it's a kind of tax loop. It hasn't become that yet here, I hope it doesn't. That could be really relevant for a lot of artists to look at. There's hundreds of them, thousands maybe.
G - Things like the Henry Moore Foundation, where a lot of people will apply to them for sculpture related projects. And Esme Fairbairn, I know they fund lots of different things but the arts projects I know who have gone to them, the applications have been for business development.
A - Yeah Esme Fairbairn has project ones but they're large scale, so I think it's worth saying - these kinds of funds, it could be anywhere from 500 quid to five million. That's where even with those sorts of organisations obviously there's a lot of ethical questions. The amazing work that Nan Goldin's been doing, around Big Pharma and the Sackler Family funding. So another thing you might want to ask more about is the ethics. Then you've got what I would call Partnership Working, basically you're making work somewhere and someone else wants that to happen, they're like yeah, we'll help you by giving you the site or our staff can help you, or we could give you some cash as well. Sometimes it kind of comes along with other stuff. Crowd Funding we've never done, I think you've shown brilliantly through funding White Pube and Patreon and some of the things you've been doing more recently - crowd funding is amazing right now. I think it can be problematic around art where things cost more than they might appear to need, and that can distract the conversation to be about money rather than the work. You've got to make sure it's the right fit, not just for the very short term, but for everyone involved, for the longer term. I think that's all my categories.
Z - D'you know, it's so good to hear it broken into categories. There's something really helpful about hearing it framed specifically in that way, because it's so mysterious at times, and there are so many terms, the language of it all, the specific vocabulary of funding applications isn't widely known information. It can be quite specific vocab. So just to like, get some clarity on some of that terminology, can you explain what match funding is?
A - Match funding is really important, because people get confused about - let's just do a couple of terms, match funding and in-kind support. So match funding is, I decide to ask the Arts Council for £10,000 to do a project, and it's on the Packington Estate where we're working right now, and Hyde also want this to happen and then say right, we'll give you £5,000 to do that, so I now have match for both. I have match actually in both directions. I can say to Hyde, Arts Council are supporting this, and if it's match funding people want to say it's cash-match. So people actually put money into your bank account to do that work.
G - So with project grants for the Arts Council the minimum they usually ask for is 10% match funding. So say that £10,000 project - they would expect you to have at least £1,000 from somewhere else. Which works on a number of reasons because it might mean then that you actually only ask them for £9,000 because you've got £1,000 from somewhere else. It also proves I think that you're a little bit savvy and you've got multiple partners you can work with, and if one funding falls through, you've got some coming from somewhere else. So they'll trust that you'll be able to handle this amount of money coming in. It also then works to try and get as high a percentage from somewhere else as possible for all those reasons because ultimately, you're asking the arts council for less. My day job outside of the White Pube is running a gallery that is project-grant funded, I think I'm on the third consecutive successful application, which is great. But I always aim to try and get 40% from other sources, and it seems like a daunting task but what I do is just break it down to get as little from as many people as possible. So you go to a gallery and say, we want to fund this traineeship, would you be able to give us £400, I know it's not a lot but for them, because they're an NPO, they say oh yeah that's fine. I'm just doing that to a lot of people and it adds up. The expenditure and income pages on the arts council application look quite full and I think that's helped us out.
A - I think you're right, it shows a commitment to the work, especially if we're talking about quite public practices. It also shows a depth to the work, you're being very open about being in discussion with people about doing these things. That might not apply for some artists, I think it's important to say, at the moment the arts council are saying just disregard it, we don't really need match funding. But I had a call with someone and I'm not completely convinced they mean that. They are saying you don't need it right now and I think that is fair because a lot of our more regular sources might be saying they will only fund emergency Covid work which is quite right. The other thing is that in the past when they said 10% I think you're right, I don't think that was really meant, they wanted if the project suited it to be much more like 40 or 50%. The other thing to say is that with something like Developing Your Creative Practice, you don't need any match funding. So it's not with every arts council fund. Then the other kind of funding which connects very strongly to match, and in some contexts is counted as match, is in-kind support. Say for example someone says, you can use our building free for a month. Then you say, what would you normally charge someone? And they would say well we would normally charge £100 a day. So then you know you've actually got X days times 100 and that's your in-kind support. Or someone says, oh, actually, I'll give you those materials at cost price. That's in-kind support - you've earned that support because of whatever it is your work is offering, I guess sponsorship sort of starts to sit in that.
G - And on the income page of your arts council application - I feel like we should use that, because it's the most visible and if you can learn and get your head around that it's applicable to all other funding applications. When you put in the income that you've got, line by line, you can check a category next to it. Some of it will be private income, some will be from local authorities. There is an in-kind support tag as well. So you can put those days in, or that value, as a number. It all adds up and it really inflates how big the project looks, which is helpful when you're trying to look like you've got your shit together!
A - I'm going to put just one note of caution there, because a couple of years ago I had some feedback from the arts council that they were finding that people were inflating it too much and putting any kind of in-kind support to the point that actually they… so yes, but don't just put in your mum's lending you her camera and therefore that's in-kind support. They don't want to hear that. They want to hear that you've built up conversations and partnerships and people are saying, I want to be part of this work, this is great. And the other thing of course in all applications is to be entirely consistent - if you've mentioned something in the budget then it should be mentioned in the proposal and the timeline. If you said oh wow, this organisation is lending us this incredible technical studio or recording studio but there's nothing in the proposal that makes it look like you need one, then everything starts to unravel.
G - So if you say in the proposal that all these different galleries locally are going to help share the news of what you're doing, and then line-by-line you get the day rate of social media managers or marketing departments, you can list that and it's grounded in your proposal.
A - Absolutely. And the thing is, what's great about it, and where it becomes interesting in the process, is that you learn about your work and the idea. Because you have a conversation and suddenly realise well actually - I'm not sure if that is the right place for that work to sit. That's what really matters here. By having these conversations, by filling in these forms that appear on one level to be about purely getting the money, actually they're all a part of developing the work. I think that is when you start to feel something is coming together.
G - It's been great with the gallery as well because it has made me reach out to more people, so when I was thinking about - OK, shall I buy a printer or would it be better to go and strike up a conversation with a printers? There was one two roads away and we've now got a really great relationship because they've given me base-value for all of the printing that I do. And I'll only do gallery-related printing with them, they recognise me when I walk in, they're interested in the exhibitions, we have a chat, they come and see the shows and I'm able to work out what the discount is to put that down as a value. Because the gallery that I run is so hyper local it all just fits in with the project and makes sense.
A - Also in times of climate emergency it's important to show that you're thinking about all aspects of your work - so you're walking to the printers, local labour, local resources, the social benefit of that - how many people come the printers and they say, have you been to the gallery round the corner?
G - Exactly.
A - Whereas maybe it would be cheaper to send it to some printers in Germany but would they send people to the gallery? So I think yeah, these conversations of making it work on paper or on a budget, actually spill out into a much more expansive quality of the work.
G - So we've got match funding, in kind, and another word that might be worth defining is tender - would you be able to explain that, please?
A - Er, oh gosh, how do I define tender? Say in a local authority, if they want a big bit of work doing, there's a whole procurement process. This is what the Government haven't been doing around all these billions being spent during Covid that have gone to Dominic Cummings' best friends. But - that's slightly to one side, but there's a reason why we have those things in place! It's so the people that are best placed to do the work properly, so say for example, we're in our third year of working on a housing estate owned and run by Hyde Housing Association. And the first bit of work was, we came to that work because they had put out a tender to deliver an arts program with the residents. So it's a different kind of process, it's how bigger contracts work, like buildings. If someone wants to build a block of flats they put it out to tender. It's a bit weird, sometimes I was filling in one and thinking ah yeah, this is really being written for a £30,000,000 project, not a £30,000 project. So tender is mainly in larger scale arts projects but don't be put off by it, it's just that it's the only way those organisations can commission. In terms of filling it in, it's pretty much the same process. What are you going to do, how are you going to do it, when are you doing to do it, how much is it going to cost? Those things are the same.
G - So if you are an artist, in 2020, and you're working from home, you've lost income probably and you would really just like money to be able to make work, to be an artist. Where do they go, what do they do? What do they bid for? They don't want to do some grand project, they want money to be an artist.
A - Develop Your Creative Practice. I always get the acronym wrong - DYCP? Arts council, massive investment in it this year, it is widened who can apply for it in terms of who an artist is. Which is great, I think, to try and include more people whose incomes are related to tech, whether in galleries or theatres. It is a development fund so you don't have to focus on outcomes, and they will need to see how you are going to structure that development. It's not OK just to say well I want to sit at home in my bedroom and paint every day. Which I have some sympathy with, that's a pretty hard thing to do, sitting at home and painting every day. So you might think about, well, how can I support that time? How can I support myself to develop? That might be around peer groups, it might be specific bits of training, it might be about having coaching. All of those things. But I think that's a pretty exciting fund right now, and I think you can apply to it straight out of University now. You used to have to have one or three years in between…
G - I think it was three.
A - So I think it acknowledges the difficulties of our time but is also an opportunity, so back in the day, there was a lot more freedom and space around being on the dole, and being a young artist, and then maybe five years ago I would say to someone, it might be- is there a job in a bar that can support you to be really free in making work? Whereas right now, obviously there isn't the job in the bar, and it's very hard to get the benefit of support. So until we have a Universal Basic Income, yeah. I think you're really right to say, when it's really about making the work, when it's not project-specific, but as soon as you want to do something that involves other people and more collaborative or more larger scale, that's when it might be time to keep your eye out. But I would recommend everyone to start looking at these things, but not to- there's two ways to approach it. You see a fund and you come up with a piece of work for that. Or you have a piece of work, or a body of work, or a working process in mind, and then you find the right fund for it. I'd say the second option is the one that I want to encourage people, so that you're not creating work to fit someone else's criteria. You're finding criteria that fit the work you want to do. That's how an artist develops best, by really pushing on with what matters to them. Very occasionally a funding call or an exhibition call does prompt a really great bit of thinking. Getting to know where to look for these things, getting to know the shape of it, is really useful. It might just be that once a month you have a memo in your diary that says, spent a couple of hours looking at what funding is out there. Just being familiar - just talking about it with other artists. We all have to be so much more generous about sharing these things. I often see something that is not applicable or relevant for us but I think ooh, I wonder if so-and-so has seen that?
G - So where do you see them?
A - Arts Council have a mailing list but I would once in a while also check the artsjobs.org.uk URL where people will post very specific calls and funding opportunities, residencies, things like that. I think artist's newsletter opportunities are a bit unwieldy to schlep through, and you do have to be a member, but I would encourage artists to be a member of a-n. I think that arts admin's e-digest is good for throwing up things, I know for film-makers Lux do a really good list. I'm missing a couple of obvious ones, aren't I…. there are regional ones, what's the South West artist's network called…
G - Is it the CVAN? Contemporary Visual Artist's Network which have like, different stations across the country.
A - Yes. Holly Willetts, an incredibly generous practitioner at Art Licks, in their new newsletter they throw up some really good funding bids and calls for exhibitions, residencies and things. Obviously you don't want to weigh yourself down with constantly getting lists in, all the time, with all these opportunities. That's why I'd encourage you to put them in a space and just look every now and then. This stuff doesn't need to takeover because it can be really distracting.
G - You could set up a different e-mail address and subscribe to all these mailing lists and then log in as and when you need to have that hour to look over stuff.
A - And really know your local area, your local authority, your local city, there's a lot. For example, we're doing some development work with an artist in Leeds and we've been schlepping through some of the Leeds local funds. And there's some amazing stuff happening, really amazing, and if that is relevant with your work - to connect with your local place in some way, then absolutely, be aware of what your local authorities and organisations are doing. That might be your local borough, they might have a volunteer CBS or whoever organises things locally, see if there are mailing lists around funding and check them once in a while.
G - That's true. So to bring it back to DYCP, there are three questions that you need to answer, which is quite exciting I think for people who write bids a lot. Because with the project grants that you can spend literally weeks on, this is much lighter in comparison. The three questions, if people aren't aware, I'm going to read them out because maybe it will encourage people to fill in an application. The first is - please tell us about yourself and your creative practice. Which is quite straightforward, you don't have too much space to fill in. Then it asks, tell us about the developmental opportunity you want to undertake, what you hope to get out of it, and how you will go about it. And then finally - why is this important for your practice at this point and how will this help to create future opportunities? So I wanted to ask what you would suggest people put in the second question in particular. I think when I've spoken to artists about this that's the question they get stumped on - they don't know what development they need, or what's the best way to go about it.
A - I suppose if you were to ask yourself, where do you want to be. What would I want to have happen with my practice? Where do I want to be in 12 months' time? Go to that place and say what is it that I would like my art to be doing? Where would I like it to be being seen? What would I like to be doing that I'm not doing now? Literally stand in that place for a bit and then go, ah, how do I get here? That will be very different things for different people. So it might be that there's a particular technical thing that you've always got stumped on, you've always found editing your film material - you've got all this great material but you just can't put it together. Is it that you need a chance to learn some new bits of software or would you actually like to work with an editor or another artist? You've seen their work and you want to understand. Maybe you want to talk to other artists - how do they do this? How do they approach? Or it might be that you've always wanted to make a performance with more people but you've never been able to afford to say to eight bodies, eight people, can you work with me in this… maybe that's the wrong thing to say in the middle of covid but you know what I mean. Basically what are the things that stop you being able to get to that space? It might be a question like, I don't really understand how to write about my work or how to approach galleries. Well how can I work that out - do I need a mentor? Do I need a coach? Do I need to go and see some galleries? Do I need to- some of those things might not cost money, some of them will, some it will just be your time. I'm really interested in what you both think about what percentage of say - if you're applying for the whole ten grand - is artist fee? They don't make that clear and I think it will vary a lot. I don't think it's about suddenly being really extravagant to buy loads of equipment if you can't show why you really need that. Why you wouldn't go to a shared resource locally to use their equipment. It could be about membership - maybe you're a ceramicist and you've always wanted to be a member of a community kiln so that you can fire bigger works, but you haven't been able to afford that. So I think it has to be really about you, it has to be really honest. If it's not honest it is so easy to see through. It needs to come from what you've done, there needs to be some evidence that this is where the opportunity or the struggle is for you. What is important about those questions is they're saying - where are you now, and where would you like to get to? How can we support you to do that? Of course it needs to address the fact that we're in the middle of a global pandemic but it's not just about that. It's about before that, during that, after that. It's not about trying to be an artist that you think they want, because we need all types of artists. It's about being really clear about what matters to you. What would you say, what do you think is the answer to that question?
G - I was going to also add, which doesn't seem very covid-appropriate, but just the example of travel. For example - I think the art scene me and Zarina have learnt the most from, which is probably different places in Norway, I'm fascinated by it still and I would love to go back and pick up on conversations that we started then that I only realise the relevance of now, in terms of different artists associations, there's a photography association and a sculpture association and all these artists have a co-op that has at this point decades of legacy behind them. Different spaces that protect different art forms, that's really interesting to me. But for me, if I was to put that in a development question and also the budget, I would have to make sure that there were enough of an artist fee to cover my time to go there. So I would split it down into four days, hypothetically, and then when I got back a further three days to write about it and digest and follow up, call people and also I would want to pay people for their time to speak to me, so I would put that in the bid. Maybe I would work out my day rate based on what I always google, which is artist's union pay guidelines, or a-n pay guidelines for 2020, because they give good day rates and they break it down on how many years of experience you've got.
A - We need to be careful of that because it's not realistic - I agree with you, but what I want to just point out is what you've just done is so interesting. I asked you that question you immediately started talking about the budget. So you've just shown exactly the process- this is why I always prefer to do this work with direct examples- is how the idea of what's done and what the numbers would be need to be worked at together. Then you start the feel the shape of it.
G - I think the question of the pay guidelines has been really interesting to me. About a month and a half ago, late one Friday night, when I had too much energy, I set up the successful funding application library, which is a page on the White Pube which I've wanted to do for so long. I think I forgot that I wanted to do it and then on that Friday I thought, I've got nothing else to do. I was up very late putting it all together. So it is what it sounds like, it's a list of different applications from project grants to DYCP, things from the Eaton Fund where artists have asked for materials, there are some a-n travel bursaries, there are now PHD excerpts from people applying for education funding, there's some emergency covid funding as well, and I've put the very first full project grant that I got for OUTPUT gallery. So there's all these different things, and when the DYCP window opened again, at that point there was only one DYCP application on the page. Just a side note to that, I'm so grateful to everyone for submitting this stuff because I think it's the best way to learn, to actually read the language and in its own way it's like a list of different bodies you can approach for funding. People were tweeting us to say oh, the artist has only given themselves a £50 day rate, that's disgraceful. Like, why would the arts council fund something like that? It's interesting. I'm hung up on the final question from a project grant which says, how have you worked out the pay guidelines for this and what have you used to decide that? And you have to put something in, so I always put in the pay guidelines on this website, fair freelancing ethics and stuff like that. But it's not consistent across anything so it's really hard to say.
A - You know I really care about artists being paid better and more fairly but at the end of the day, what organisation, they all say they use those frameworks to work out their fees. And then they've awarded a commission to an artist which is the equivalent of 20 days work. And we all know it's 80 days work or 50 days work.
G - Yep.
A - I'm not necessarily blaming the organisation themselves but those people who have written the bid often are on salaries. Now, none of us are on full time salaries, so we can bitch about that. I just want to say something about your funding library - yes I agree it's a really brilliant place to learn, I think more radically, it's potentially a space of change. That if these things are literally outed, not least how sometimes we need to frame things in a certain way for a funder to get it across to that funder, that actually that is not very trusting. So there's a whole load of stuff that can happen when we start to share these things. But yeah, I think the funding - Pete Courty, who is an amazing supporter of artists, he was an arts officer in Islington and we worked with him for a long time. He's now at the arts council, so it's fantastic when people like him are at the arts council, promoting and properly supporting artists. Whenever I used to send him applications for feedback, he's such a quick thinker, he'd be straight through it and usually he'd say, it all looks good, increase the artist fee. That was always so great for something outside to say, make the artist fee more. It's hard because the amounts of money that seem to be what a project needs doesn't accommodate the real cost of making the art, still. It doesn't. It's great that artist's union and a-n and all these organisations are supporting better day rates but I don't think they're the way to go. I think we have to be much more honest about what artists are working for, as an annual salary. Because too many are working for under minimum wage right now.
G - So this is also the thing that I found really interesting about Norway. You can apply to their arts council for a salary and you can get, I think, the equivalent of 26,000 euros a year. Which in Oslo, it's not as good as it sounds. They make a lot more money. They've got oil money to back it up. Then the Irish structure, where the organisations and galleries can't go for arts council funding, they can only go for local authority funding. The arts council funding is for artists, its for individuals. I think I've spoken before about this but I really wish that is what it was for us. It would be the devolved structure that I think would make the most sense. People in Liverpool often complain about the fact that the arts council officers in the North are in Manchester, and there are some I think in the North East as well. But in the North West its in Manchester and when these DYCP funds have come out, and you can see the list of recipients, 90% of them are in Manchester. There might be like, one or two in Liverpool, sprinkled in. It's crazy because everyone here is still applying for it, it's just apparently too far - 40 minutes on a train, they don't know we exist.
A - When I was thinking about this call I was thinking, what are some of the things that I would like to change, and one of those things is that arts council officers go out and see work again, and that they know the people there. I don't think we should be explaining work in those documents. I think we need a lot more knowledge in the arts council. I don't know the logistics - they seem to have lots of people working for them, who say they're really interested in the work - well, they used to just come and see it! They used to just come and see everything all the time, how amazing. It wasn't like being spied on, it was like having a two way exchange with your funder. I really believe in having two way conversations. Understanding and learning from each other. It's no good having the office in Manchester if the work's in Liverpool - you've got to go and see it.
Z - It's literally corrupt. That's a rigged system, isn't it.
G - Exactly. Maybe if it was a local authority led thing maybe they would see it, they'd be able to speak about it. They'd know everybody's names. They'd spend time in artists studios, they'd reach out for personal studio visits with people who aren't parts of larger networks. This is the stuff that drives me mad, I think the wider issue of the most successful artists being the ones who can make themselves most visible. It doesn't necessarily mean that the stuff they are making is good or interesting.
A - And what most visible might mean might be irrelevant to really good work. I love that idea of just knowing people's names. NPOs have - what do they call it? Relationship managers? I don't understand it, they don't bloody need one. It's people who aren't in contact, who need to be able to ring up someone and say, what do you think? This is what we're trying to do. And you have to have a conversation with someone who knows absolutely nothing about your work and also hasn't researched it before the call. It's completely not a conversation. So that's my - in a way, that connects to your bid library. It's that thing about just being more open about who is doing what, and the exchange side of it. I think that would really change how we fund things.
G - One of the words that you mentioned before was coaching. I know that you do it - what is it?
A - Well, I got into it without really realising myself, and then found this incredible method to support anyone really, but I'm interested in bringing it to artists, and I'm part of a collective of three artist's coaches called the Hour Collective. What we do is we support artists to think, and when someone listens, actively listens to us think, we not only think more clearly, we think differently. It's an extraordinary process. So it's a very careful, person-centred process. We work with people for hour long sessions, sometimes video calls, sometimes in person. It's supporting people to work out what matters most to them. It's about looking forward - so, when you ask that question of how do you work out what your development is, in a way that's what coaching often is supporting people to do. Sometimes people come with a very specific sense of being a bit stuck, or knowing where they want to get to but not quite knowing how to get there. The difference with coaching from any kind of mentoring or teaching process is that it's the coachee
- so in our case the artist - that knows best. We just support them to do the thinking. Whereas if I'm mentoring I might be really bringing my knowledge - like, why don't you try this, why don't you do that. It's not about that, it's actually about the artist themselves finding their way. We know ourselves best, we might avoid ourselves a lot. I'm quite excited. The business world has known about coaching for years, and business coaches - do you know what? Some of them charge £2,000 an hour!
G - (gasps)
A - We're not interested in that. We could take our method - we were trained, we were sponsored by a-n a few years ago to train with this incredible woman, Debs Barnard, to really listen. You listen for what the next thought is, rather than listening for how to reply. That creates a different space of thinking so often artists say to me - why didn't I think of that before! It's come from within them. Or they'll say - what a good question. And I'll say, well you asked it, I just reflected it back. It's a complicated and thrilling world but it's very easy to ignore our own thoughts isn't it, and just bumble along. So it's exciting, we want to support artists to develop. For some reason that sounds very formal now - but to do what they want to do, and through coaching, to be able to leave some things to the side, and focus. People talk about confidence a lot, focus, what matters… those type of things. What's exciting, going back to the arts council DYCP fund, yes it might be really relevant for an artist to say, actually what I would like is a coach. To support my thinking. So we often work with people over six months and we would just work with them once a month. It's not a crutch, we're not helping someone, we're supporting their thinking. It might be for someone else that they would really like to work with a mentor, so to have that kind of ongoing support… I don't feel like, in the past, that has been clearly spoken, or invited, for artists to have that. Artists are often working on their own in isolation, doing their own admin, their own PR, and trying to make work. The whole thing, now making your own website, how to make… one of the questions people often come to coaching with is about making things visible and knowing when the right time is for that. In the past you might have had a gallery doing that for you. So there's a lot of things to juggle, it's about having clarity of which bit to prioritise and focus on. Actually, one thing about coaching is that I don't need to know the artist's work at all. I make a real effort not to get to know the work. I'm not interested in the work, I'm interested in the thinking. It's a non-judgemental process and it's when we don't judge our thoughts that we can really use them to move forward. Back to DYCP there's also access support so that might be for any kind of, let's say the example I've had is that I've supported people who have some kind of dyslexia so that doing all these forms, reporting, is just really overwhelming. Or maybe part of their creative developing is to apply for more things but they need some support to do those applications. So it's really worth looking into access support.
G - Access support gets a very good review across the board from artists, especially the arts council's access support. People just speak very highly. So even if you're not sure whether it's appropriate for you it would probably be worth getting in touch with them to ask what they could offer.
A - What I think is really good about it is you can be clear about what you need and the person who can do that for you. It's not that there's a set, formal list of what access support is. It's really up to you to define that, and that's important.
G - Definitely. And you do offer it so if someone was putting a DYCP application together, they could come to the Hour Collective and see whether it would be a good fit for them.
A - Yeah, I would really encourage people. That's part of making a good application for any funding thing, it goes back to when you were talking to the printers. Have those conversations up front. Yes it's an investment of time, but actually, whether you end up getting that funding or something else, it's going to be important to working out the best ways to go forward.
G - Definitely. Zarina have you learnt so much about funding today?
Z - I have. There's one last question in our shared doc and I really want to ask it.
G - Go for it.
Z - It's just throwing it out there, but in an amongst all this chat about funding applications and how to write these very specific bids, there is also whole sections of like, the arts landscape that is largely unfunded. Funding is such a snag for so many people. I want to ask you - how do people make it work without funding? Is there a specific way, like a workaround, a knack… that you know of. In terms of like… getting around having to write funding applications, basically.
A - Well one of the traditional ways has been that there is other work people do to support their space of artistic practice. If and when, that in itself earns an income. For some artists it is important to keep their work out of any sense of having to sell or do funding bids and I respect that. So people might teach or work in a bar, people might have a completely unrelated job. But so often unfortunately that just means there isn't the space or time to make or develop the work. So what we all care about is that for many people, there is less pressure on housing costs and economic survival. So they actually can get on and make work. Then there's other people make work… I remember a tutorial situation with a young artist, really struggling with where their voice was in the world. They started talking about the retail store where they had worked for years and I was able to say - this is a space of making work, this is a body of research. It was extraordinary how much that artist had to say about what was going on in the world through that experience, five or six years of it. Oh, hadn't made that connection - so I guess I'm not really answering the question but there's something about our whole lives and how our whole lives come to an art practice and that is what is different, isn't it? Than I dunno, people that have a nine to five job. Which also comes back to the problem with not having the salary. But I mean, yes, I think it would be really important to shift things so that individual practitioners are supported to make work. The difficulty there comes with it not being about deliverables. We all know brilliant artists who are not good at filling in forms and might not appear to produce anything for years on end and then there's… who was I listening to, someone on the Booker shortlist, seven years to write a book. She rewrote it five times. How incredible, that perseverance, how she learnt how to do it, during that. You want take that time away from her, that struggle? No. She described it as learning the craft… there is something about your question which is about time. But then, support, and that's about being in conversation with people. People from studios who have good conversation groups, peer support, coaching, the kind of work that you do where you encourage people to talk to each other and show work. I mean, those are the things that need to be supported as well. If you just have a whole load of artists sitting at home, not worrying about the rent, they might be a little bit not sure why or who they are making for.
G - Definitely.
A - How do you answer that question, Gabrielle? I don't think I did very well.
G - I think in terms of individuals, and funding your own arts practice, or writing practice whatever it is… the realist in me just says you've got to strike that balance between a job and using what you get from that job to buy yourself time or space or a studio. Whatever, materials, everything we were talking about in terms of that DYCP fund. You use it to buy your own development and keep your practice moving and keep making new things and thinking new things and stretching all of that out. What I have seen over lockdown, which has been really interesting to me, and I know this started long before lockdown but I think it is fair to say it has exploded throughout is the amount of artists who have set up their own shops online. Whether they're using Big Cartel or just setting stuff up on their own website with a PayPal link. Artists are taking that into their own hands and starting to market their practice a little more, or commodify it in different ways. People are selling prints, people are selling t-shirts and downloadable wallpaper packs, finally starting to chip away at this issue where a lot of artists, maybe this podcast episode will fix it, but a lot of artists have not felt knowledgeable or comfortable enough to go for funding themselves. Or maybe they haven't qualified for it, for whatever reason. So they've taken that into their own hands and that has really interested me. Like, as an artist, how can you market either the actual physical things that you make or how can you market a skill you've got - so video artists can go into editing, the same for music people, I don't know…. writers can help people with interpretation. What we were saying before about writing bids, they can be bid writers. Artists can go into more graphic design type stuff or logos, I don't know, my brain is failing me at this point deep into the conversation. I like the idea of all these different elements feeding into the practice you already make. It can't not, I know that whenever I've had a job, whatever job I've had, it's always fed into my artistic practice. I consider the White Pube my artistic practice at this point. There was a job I had a few years ago where I was working for Samaritans, the mental health charity, and I ended up writing a lot of contracts. That really helped me with the White Pube, I started to write contracts that I would propose to institutions - like, can we be critics-in-residence? Here's a memorandum of understanding that I've written. It's the type of thinking that I wouldn't have been able to get to without this influence and job being able to push me there. Then when it comes to more public facing stuff, with the gallery, can you attach a commercial activity on the side of what you're doing in order to fund it so that it's commercially viable? So you're not relying on public funding in order to make that happen. That's the research I want to do for the gallery, because I don't know if I want to have to rely on going for arts council applications all the time. Because of what you mentioned earlier, of you don't always know what you want to do with it. With project grants, often people will say OK, this is the project timeline, this is exactly what I'm going to do if you give me this money. Then a pandemic happens and you realise that you want to do something else with it but you're locked in and it isn't quite relevant any more, you're flogging a dead horse. That's the situation I'm in now with the gallery. It's not that I don't want to do it, it's that we can't do the exhibitions that we had planned to do. So I'm in conversations with all of the artists now about ways around that. I'm locked into this funding application that requires an evaluation and an interim report and all this different stuff and I wish that I just had enough money from some commercial venture to say OK, let's completely change it. Let's just be bigger and louder and not so precious about the outcomes.
A - I think that doesn't have to be commercial, that could be the arts council saying that to you. That's the arts council saying Gabrielle! Bloody amazing, what you've done in that space, over the last three years, we trust you that you're going to work on this, here's another three years, let's keep this going. It might be that you don't want to keep a gallery going for another three years, but that kind of responding, that's what I was talking about at the beginning of the conversation about where there's a practice. Obviously people have got to be supported to get to that point that they have something, and it's not about not keeping on our toes. The last thing I want to be told is keep doing that for another - how long have I got, twenty years? Just keep doing the same thing… oh my god, you know I never do the same thing twice. It's not about that. It's about believing and trusting in that energy and that commitment. And letting people make mistakes! It would be a bit awful if we always made everything work. And that's why I want people to come and see the work, because not everything does!
G - Exactly. And I think that is partly why I am also excited about the successful funding application library on the website, because people have started to attach evaluations when they submit things. So you can see the before and after, you can see this kind of elasticity in the whole process of applying to do this thing. I just wish that it was already accommodated for. I wish for exactly what you were describing.
A - Can I say a wish, now? I wish that when you wrote one of those evaluations to the arts council, they replied and said what they thought! Because you write them and you think, I wonder if anyone reads this. Like, I'd actually quite like to know that they think. That's what I mean about conversation, there's no conversation and they might say there's not time, well then, don't even ask us!
G - Do you know what. So I applied for £12,000, then £11,900, then £34,000 from the arts council to run the gallery. That was the arts council part of it and then there was match funding on top from all the different little partners that I'd roped in. I met with the arts council, with the relationship manager, just a month before I applied. They said this is a great application, this is what Liverpool needs, because it was a gallery that would only work exclusively with people on or based in Merseyside. I've not heard from them since this whole time, right. And when I submitted the application for £34,000 they sent a few notes in the acceptance letter that mentioned something about putting more towards the marketing. Which I'd not seen in any of the others until then but it was so helpful, so I could just move things around, I worked with the Bluecoat Print Studio to create tote bags, I worked with a designer to make branding for the gallery, we got these poster templates made, I printed 5,000 leaflets off which now are sitting in the gallery and completely useless because of the pandemic. I regret doing it but it was helpful at the time. I can't believe that I've just submitted an interim report about everything we've done so far, everything we've managed to do, and now we're going to have to shift things, and I've not heard anything. It amazes me… what are the implications for evaluations in that sense where people can say what they want. There's nobody checking your homework, there are no critics to make sure that you did this woke, social value project you claimed you were going to do. People can hold back on sharing any critique that they were given on the project because they can put whatever they want in the evaluation. That could be a whole other podcast in itself.
A - Yes. It is a curious ones. Because to be able to have a conversation that really helps to drive and develop the work, it's really interesting.
G - But maybe if the relationship managers were more visible, the staff were more visible and there were officers in these different places, that would be happening anyway. It's just not happening because everyone is so far away and they're not going to bother to email you.
Z - I think what this comes down to, both of you have mentioned this separately, this need or want for the arts council to be way more localised. In that localisation, relationships are two ways, not just unilateral from funder downwards, telling you what to do once and then disappearing like some actual Wizard of Oz. The idea that the arts council could be populated by people who care about giving out money for the arts. You'd think they'd do that but there are these little bits in the bureaucratisation of arts funding, however that happened, historically. In terms of leadership, how that all works, it feels like there are tweaks that could make it more personable. Which is interesting, because I think I thought that already, and now I know that I was right.
A - I always visualise, there was a really interesting artist Lee Milne who worked as an arts council officer for a while when we were first applying for money in Archway. She used to trundle up the hill… nobody came to Archway to see art, really, they didn't, I remember one particularly rainy night, a small little event. She came on her bicycle in all her waterproofs and we had a chat and she saw everything that worked and didn't work, about that piece. We were just, I don't know… I think she used to go and see a lot of work, on her own time, probably wasn't supported. That was a different way of being in conversation with the actual thing rather than with a form. It's got to be important, hasn't it? I think there are lots of people who want to.
G - Yeah, it would be so nice for artists not to have to rely on podcasts like this, made by people who don't work for funding bodies, to explain things when in another world they could just drop into the office and have a chat. It would be so much nicer. The access support would be even better than it is now, in those instances. Anyway, we're going to wrap it up there, thank you so much for sharing this information with us. Thank you to our listeners, I hope it has been really helpful. If you want to check out the successful funding library, everything is on our website at thewhitepube.com/fundinglibrary if you want to check out the Hour Collective on instagram you'll be able to see options for coaching that might enhance your DYCP application and Air Studio has a website too where you can see all of Anna's projects over- how many years has it been? How many years have you been doing Air for?
A - Approximately 14.
G - Wow, amazing. Thank you so much for listening, bye bye!
Z - Byeee!
A - Bye!