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A process and research shot taken with photo booth on my mac book. These are period glasses of the kind possibly worn by the artist whose history I’m working with.

This blog is honestly still BARCELONA IN A BAG, but I’m wrestling the big boss – Grantium – the new Arts Council England funding applications portal. This is taking all of my time (together with preliminary research and project development) therefore this is what I can and must blog about.

Today in an email to a friend I explained that the ACE application process was a mammoth with rather large tusks. Then as I stood dreamily at a bus stop on my way to an ACE funding meeting for my studios I decided that Grantium is my Everest.

I am a neurodivergent (ND) artist, dyscalculic and dyslexic. This means that I struggle to decode new language, formats and systems, and even familiar information takes extra processing time. Some information I will never decode or access, not even with support, but I’ve come to the realisation that the most useful way to understand my difficulties is in terms of cognitive load.

Conceptually – in any task relating to verbal reasoning I am quick – I can keep up with and and sometimes ahead of any such conversation in the moment. But in terms of complex organisational tasks, decoding and managing a large volume of information is what gets in the way.

Consider then the demands of the ACE application for any project, and the sheer weight of information that must be gleaned, processed and organised. This really does feel like my Everest, and it has taken extraordinary motivation to persist.

In my last post I included a link to a video of a group of artists describing what I would say seem to relate to larger societal structural inequalities, which create even greater barriers to ND people. Obstacles which occur prior to even reaching Everest’s base camp.

Those of us at base camp are privileged in relative terms but it can still seem like there is no way up.

I’m not going to critique Grantium, though I could offer to do so in quite some detail from an ND user perspective.

Instead, what I want to say is that Everest suddenly satisfied me at that bus stop in a way that the mammoth metaphor just couldn’t. That is because of the sherpas.

While I truly believe we absolutely do need a radically different system for ND people in order to achieve true parity, I can honestly say that due to helpline staff and access contact I feel supported for the first time in my professional life.

The Arts Council England people interface is what has saved this experience. I could not have even gained entry to the applications portal without it and I feel they are Everest’s sherpas guiding me. It might be a bit fanciful to say that they are willing me on – but it feels like it and I’m an artist and my imagination is very very good.

But I am someone who can manage and process spoken word to a great extent. I am struck by how inaccessible this particular form of access support will be for ND artists who can’t. I am curious to know what is currently offered in it’s place – I’m sure with ACE’s commitment to diversity there should be many alternatives. You have to wonder though how many ND artists are overwhelmed by the challenges to cognitive load in the present system to the extent that they give up.

If you’d like to read about my new collaborative project for which I’m seeking this ACE funding you can do so here:


Originally sited at WordPress to enable my collaborators to join me and to create a separate identity for this project, I will be sharing material from this project here too.

NB. I want to acknowledge ND artist Jon Adams for his contribution to my thinking around some of the challenges of ACE applications. You can find Jon on the link below.



This is a drawing with tape, graphite and charcoal in response to British artist Felicia Browne’s sketches from Spain 1936.Sonia Boué 2016

OK – this is not going to be a long blog post. I don’t have time. I’m busy trying to fill in – nay understand how to fill in – an ACE funding application. Forget the new system (my user perspective is not flattering). Analyse THE SYSTEM.

Today a really helpful video appeared on my Twitter time line. Thank god for Twitter as now my sanity has been restored. For on this video you will see and hear artists describing exactly why ACE funding applications are such a NIGHTMARE. These are all to my knowledge neurotypical people, finding the system daunting and inequitable.

Blow me down. It is not that I am stupid after all. My learning disabilities just make it harder still to gather all the multiple stands of this multi-headed behemoth of a process together. In gaming terms this may be like fighting the big boss – but I probably should stay away from analogies about systems I don’t understand to describe systems I don’t understand. It’s just that I like the mental image.

The interface for ACE is lovely. You get to speak to some really lovely helpful people on the telephone, and I’ve been offered access help and will apply for access funds to make the project possible if I’m successful.

SO equality is understood within his organisation as enshrined by law, and yet you only have to view this video to understand exactly why someone with additional challenges in their life would struggle to even access the access.

Please watch – the video says it so much better than I ever could and artists (ND or not) you may regain your sanity too.



I’ve got the open call blues. Well, no not really. Frankly open calls are always one step away from a shut door so you get used to it. Throwing your time and effort into an open call is the lot of the artist – and very often followed by a long wait until you get a polite little no in the post. Usually by this time there have been other projects to chase and more calls to respond to so you shrug and move on. Sometimes the no is something of a relief. This time it definitely is.

Often an open call is an opportunity to create and show work without prize or remuneration, which incurs significant expenses for the artist. This is something of an unspoken truth. The organisers create opportunity and the artist gets to participate and showcase their work. Both need each other. Where prizes are involved the numbers go up and the lottery commences.

The alternative is to create your own opportunities which mean organising and project managing in addition to the creative work. Often artists feel torn – it’s stressful trying to do it all. We just want to make the work, though learning to create our own platforms can be a satisfying challenge but you have to work even harder.

There is one kind of open call which sometimes feels more like fundraising – the one where you pay to submit an application. Again, artists pay for opportunity – usually a small fee but if multiplied through many open call submissions they add up.

This isn’t meant to be a downer of a blog post. I’m #justsaying

The other day I got into conversation with an artist who has a gallerist – of course the pressure there is to make work without risk. You can feel like you made it, your gallery takes care of you, and yet you lose on creative freedom. There’s an expectation to produce something safer.

How interesting it all is in terms of creativity.

My instinct is usually not to submit to open calls unless they are bang on my practice. I don’t like to be distracted – my project has such an inner compulsion that it drives itself. I weigh things up carefully, though we all know how valuable it is to show and document our work and sometimes this is a great consideration.

I also want to be able to take my process wherever it needs to go.

Maintaining a practice, holding onto creative freedom and finding spaces to show your work are all great challenges for artists – but I LOVE being an artist and so I carry on.

Putting together a project has to be one of the most satisfying jobs in the world.