Since artist Rachel Dobbs first shared her ‘cheatsheet’ for Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts process on 12 August it has received phenomenal praise from artists and arts organisers. Her initial social media post attracted over 150 shares, and an a-n news story published on 18 August has also been widely shared on Facebook and Twitter.

Dobbs was inspired to develop the resource after supporting several artists who are neurodiverse – with dyslexia or on the autistic spectrum, for example – through the Grants for the Arts application process. Speaking to a-n last week, she said:“It has really hit home how difficult it is for a range of people to navigate the form and new system.”

Sharing Dobbs’ post, artist and project manager Gordon Dalton wrote: “Stuck in arts funding hell? This Grants for the Arts cheatsheet will make the process at least 50% less frustrating. Share and improve – brilliant work Rachel Dobbs.”

One comment, from an artist based near Bridport, said: “Having applied on the cusp of [the] old system and this new form (and failed to get the funding under 15k) [I] wish we’d had this to help.”

The rate of views, comments and shares testifies to the importance of the Grants for the Arts scheme to the visual arts while also revealing artists’ frustration with the often lengthy application process.

Useful resources

Also commenting on Dobbs’ Facebook post was Robert Daniels of Bootworks Theatre, who shared more resources that he has found useful during the grant application process.

“This by Laura Sweeney is also really helpful – found it via Jake Orr’s blog… we’re putting an ACE app together at the moment, so I’ll give this one a look and let you know how it goes! Great resource, thank you for sharing!”

Comments also turned towards Arts Council England’s own approach to devising the application process. Jakki Carey felt the need for such a form demonstrated a problem that the funding body should be looking to solve. “So now in addition to a near-incomprehensible online system which is explained in an 88-page guidance document, we need to refer to a cheat sheet. Not that I don’t appreciate the sheet’s author’s work – I do – but it shouldn’t be necessary.”

Speaking to a-n News, Carey added: “I used to be a web accessibility and usability consultant and website author, specialising in disability friendly websites… I can safely say that Grantium is one of the worst systems I have seen in terms of usability for people with cognitive issues.”

On Twitter, a conversation between artists and individuals who identify as being neurodiverse demonstrated the relief that initiatives such as the cheatsheet bring.

Sonia Boué, who has blogged about her late autism diagnosis, wrote: “It’s a really heart warming turn of events.” And @VoxVisual tweeted: ‘Fantastic idea! One more barrier lowered a bit… Good stuff.”

The ACE Toolkit/Cheatsheet by Rachel Dobbs is free to download from the artist’s website. Further information about the Grants for the Arts scheme is available from Arts Council England

1. Rachel Dobbs during a LOW PROFILE performance. Image credit: Oliver Rudkin

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