I remembered why I don’t usually apply for arts funding: it’s far too stressful.
Last time I wrote a funding application was when Contents May Vary did a group show called Under Maintenance at Manchester Victoria Baths in 2007. We got an Arts Council application form and wrote the 500 words we thought was the full thing and then found out with 24 hours until the funding closed that that was just the project introduction. Oh we laughed. I stayed up most of the night writing that application, talking over messenger to two of the collective until nothing made sense anymore and then we submitted it. We got the grant.
But it was a huge amount of work for very little money. As I started collaborating with other artists on other gallery projects, exhibitions and project spaces, we would discuss applying for grants and decide it wasn’t actually worth the time. We did everything on a shoestring and self-funded where necessary. It’s not an ideal funding model but when you only have a 40% chance of getting an Arts Council grant under £15k, is it worth the time writing applications when you can invest that time in the project?
Anyway, Dwell Time needs funds to print the physical copy of the paper at the very least so we applied for £1k from one funder with the intent to match-fund from another. We had the meetings and read the guidance, configured the budgets and I wrote the application – the writing wasn’t too arduous in itself actually. I’ve written countless applications, just only one grant funding application before.
The funders said yes they would like to fund Dwell Time! Brilliant! They called it a ‘valuable piece of work’. Of course we were delighted. Only our partner organisation had also applied to that funder for another project, unbeknownst to us, and there is a maximum amount the funders can award any one organisation. Our partner organisation did not want to give over any cash to Dwell Time. Money in the sector is tight, they couldn’t afford it. So we had been awarded the money, but we couldn’t have it. There’s no blame to be apportioned – we think our partner organisation is great – but such are the pitfalls with partnership working and sector funding which had another 40% cut this year. In an ideal world both projects would be funded.
The funders said please apply next year, we value your project. So we will do that and either come up with another way to fund a print run next year as planned, or delay printing until 2020. There are other funders we could approach, and we will have to set up as a CIC and constituted group for next year which is yet another drain on time and energy. Another partner organisation has also offered us paid work (we nearly fell off our chairs when that happened!) and we can use that as project cash and match funding too. It’s not all doom and gloom but all of this takes it’s toll on mental wellbeing.