I’ve realised for a while now that if you want to cut it in the arts world, you need to get yourself some funding. It’s second only to publishing as a writerly status symbol. I was always a bit daunted by the idea, the questions on the application forms, especially the money ones, and all that extra documentation you have to gather. It always seemed that there were too many hoops to jump.
But I also realised that if I want to take my practice as a facilitator of creative writing workshops to the next level, I needed to engage with the wider arts community. And if I found a project I was really passionate about, that passion would overcome the fear of jumping through hoops.
One day I received a link on Facebook from the Director of Arts and Disability Ireland, for an arts project called Arts and Disability Connect. It’s a project which encourages artists with disabilities across all artforms to collaborate with arts organisations. It can be any kind of project. Being visually impaired, I qualified.
When I read the link, a lightbulb went off in my mind. I had been thinking for some time about doing creative writing classes for blind and visually impaired people which would culminate in an anthology of their writing. Here was the perfect opportunity to make it happen. I was planning to go to the Irish Writers’ Centre (IWC) for a conference and I decided to ask them to be my partner organisation.
When I went to the conference, I was introduced to the Director by another writer who I knew, and I blurted out my little spiel. I happened to be going to Dublin again a few days later for a meeting, so she said she’d meet me then. My pistons were firing, and I decided to also arrange a meeting with the Director of the National Council of Ireland’s (NCBI) training centre, who I had tentatively approached about doing a creative writing class.
So I had my whirlwind of meetings and plans began to fall into place. The NCBI Director said I could use his centre and that he would help me find people to take part in the project. The IWC Director said that they would be my partner organisation if I sent her a draft application and draft budget within a few days, as she was heading off on a week’s holidays. Gulp.
Luckily, I was meeting a savvy business friend for lunch two days later, and she was a great help in the struggle to decide what my expenses to submit. But between us, we managed to get the books to balance.
Drafting the Application
I had already made notes based on some of the questions on the application form. On the advice of the writer I knew at the conference, I had tried to use the words used on the application form, like collaborate, develop, feasible, relationship etc. I formulated these into proper answers to the questions, based on my notes and the information I had gathered at my two meetings.
I fired off my draft and was rewarded with a phonecall from the IWC Director saying she was impressed with my application and was happy to be my partner organisation. She supplied me with her signature for the application form and a CV for herself and for the IWC.
Still, my work wasn’t done. I had to assemble various bits of documentation. My savvy business friend scanned the signature page of the application form and sent it to me. Again, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was on the home stretch now. But the thing is, there’s always more to these applications than you think.
Scramble for the Finish
Three days before the due date, I took a casual look at the checklist of documentation I had to submit, which actually included a document containing a list of supporting documentation! It said I needed a letter of commitment from the IWC. Major gulp. The Director wasn’t due back from holidays until the day before the application was due. I’d mentioned the letter to her, but it had slipped both our minds.
Luckily, I came up with a solution. I rang the Assistant Director and suggested I draft up the letter, and then the Director could sign it when she returned. The signed letter pinged into my office on the afternoon of her return. I decided to sprint the home stretch and put all of the final touches together.
I fine tuned my wording, gathered samples of my work, tweaked my CV, went onto the file transfer site, uploaded the many files, checked them and checked them and checked them, then hit send and allowed all the air to go out of my body.
Current State of Play
The application is now with the good people at Arts and Disability Ireland and awaits their approval. If I am successful, the funding will be from them and from the Arts Council. I will also give you updates about the project on this blog as it unfolds. If am unsuccessful, you will hear no more about it. I will be in a corner, licking my wounds. But I am quietly confident (or deluded, depending on your point of view) that I’ll succeed.
Have any of you ever applied for Arts Council funding or any other type of arts funding? How did you find the experience?