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Applying for Arts Council England funding? Read Becky's Top Tips!

Our Artistic Director, Becky Mills, has successfully applied for several small ACE Project grants for Curious Pheasant - so we thought it would be helpful to share some of her learning with other small or emerging companies who might be putting in an application!

Back to basics - what sort of thing does Arts Council England fund and how much would you recommend a small company applying for?

It depends a bit on their funding priorities at the time, always make sure you read those to see how your project fits in with those guidelines and how you can creatively interpret them! As long as you can do a good job writing about your project and how it fits - you'll be fine! I'd always recommend going for an under £15k for your first application and also having some well established partners as mentors or support to help ACE know that you will be able to manage the project.

How do you approach writing an application? What are your top tips for the written elements?

I tend to write the bare bones first and fill in the harder bits later!! I always start with a budget to work out how much I need and then go onto the narrative from there. The budget will also inform you of the creative team you want and need and any materials you want which will feed into your application later. I would always say start with your budget and then write the rest piece by piece. I find if I sit down to write the whole thing in one , it's invariably a bit rubbish- but if I write bits and pieces at one time and then come back to it and fill it out, I will find and add things I hadn't seen before. I'd also recommend having someone else to read it (to check it all makes sense!)

How do you approach drawing up a budget, and then working with the budget in practice?

When drawing up the budget, Dan and I sit down and think of all the things and people we'd like for the project. I research costs and figures and put any mid prices in for items (IE not the most expensive version but not the cheapest!) and set fees for people. I then also add a nominal amount for rehearsal materials and travel as we can't always predict how much that will be and then ALWAYS add a percentage for contingency (normally around 4-5%) - just in case! You never know what may happen during your project and you could very well need it!

I then keep a running budget line against our presented budget which I keep up to date for the whole life of the project and we can see where we are , if we're managing the budget correctly and not overspending or if we have more money to spend. This also makes the reporting process at the end much easier and quicker.

Are there any myths about applying for ACE that you'd like to debunk?!

A lot of the questions are worded similarly and people think they need to reply in a completely different way, but you can repeat elements if that's the answer! Don't talk yourself into promising all sorts of different things!

Also, make sure you do include fees in your budget for the company owners- you deserve to be paid for your work too!

What is the one thing you WISHED you'd known before writing your first ACE app?

If you don't succeed first time- apply again!! When you are rejected for funding they give you notes on how to make it better- USE THEM!! And come back stronger!

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