Funding, creativity and the dominant discourse

Michelle Golder, 29 September 2012

The idea of this question was to look at how the process of seeking funding from arts organizations including the arts council might have an influence on the creative process. It turned out to be fairly controversial!

We first looked at the perceived difference between what the funding body “wants' and what the artist might want. For example, a funding body might be interested in a particular ”product“ (youth theatre, musical, incorporates technology, science oriented) or a particular audience, while the artist at the ‘looking for funding’ stage may not know the answers to those questions and may need the development time to figure it out!

The point was made that the application process itself might be a way of developing the concept.

However, I raised the question of whether in following an ”outsider's“ (i.e. the funding body's) agenda, the artist is being influenced - even if very subtly - and that taken as a whole this might be creating a sort of ”dominant discourse“ of style or content.

The discussion then focused on whether funding itself was a ”closed circle“ in which funders regularly returned to support the same artists and organizations. There was nothing wrong, people agreed, with funders looking for artists and groups with a track record of successful work, or even just people the funder knew and enjoyed working with.

Some people also felt that the arts council in particular was very open to ”the big idea" so artists shouldn't be put off by the perception that their idea was out of the usual way.

People suggested that the artist must persevere, and network, to enter the inner circles, and that social media, especially Twitter, made this easier than before. Connecting with an established artist whose work you admire, following them, learning all you can about them, and then contacting them to volunteer or pitch was suggested as a positive way to go about things.

It was also suggested that starting with small, seed grants was a way forward, a way of getting oneself known and establishing a track record for delivering.

We touched on the role of Arts mentoring organisations such as ArtsAdmin and Fuel. Those familiar with them said they were very useful for the artists with whom they work but as with other bodies the problem was getting in with them in the first place.

We then discussed the role of scratch nights. Were they useful? Who were they useful for? Ideas included that they were useful for venue audience development and education, and for artists to connect with collaborators or potentially funders. However, scratching a production at an early stage was not necessarily a positive thing for the work.

The suggestion was made that for scratch nights to benefit the artists as well as the venue venues should offer benefits to the companies performing, such as free rehearsal space, dramaturge, etc.

The final point made was that it's okay to be frustrated!


Theatre, Arts Council, artsadmin, arts council, fuel, Funding, dominant discourse, funding, scratch nights, Arts council, grants, theatre