For the Love of ACE

I’m not easily impressed, me.

In fact I am rather cynical. Suspicious of motives sometimes.

So here is a tale to restore the faith.

Arts Council England gets much criticism. Some of it is undoubtedly justified. The application process is tough. Grantium as a piece of software is a nightmare for most people, impossible for some. However, their one-to-one on the phone service is marvellous. They have wonderful people working for them. I hope these people are well paid and happy.

As well as being cynical and suspicious, I am also rather determined and bloody-minded. My thoughts have always been that ACE have money to distribute. They HAVE to distribute it. So some of it might as well be to me. And indeed, some of it already has over the last few years. So I have been rather dogged in my attempts.

This is a tale of determination on my part, and of openness and helpfulness from ACE.

In April 2018 I made a submission which was rejected. As is natural I was very upset about it, but after stomping about a bit, upon re-reading I realised they were right. It was far too complicated and unclear.

It took me a while to get my head in the right place, due to all sorts of art and non-art reasons. A year later I submitted a leaner meaner project which was also rejected, but this time the feedback was rather more positive. They commented on the bits they liked, and told me that although it was considered fundable, there were areas of my application that were weaker than others they were considering at the same time. Fair enough. They only fund 40% of applications, so I’m fine with that. I was encouraged by the positive, addressed the negative areas and resubmitted in June. 

This time it was rejected, but with feedback saying I had not met the criteria. WTF??? At this very moment I was in the middle of hanging my work for Cause and Effect, so decided I didn’t have the headspace to complain, or ask for an explanation, but made a note to get back to it as soon as the exhibition was over.

I didn’t have to wait though… three days later I had an email from Keir Gill who is Senior Manager of Compliance and Improvement saying it had come to his notice that I had received conflicting feedback for my application. I was absolutely gobsmacked that someone had noticed, and got in touch so quickly! He was unreservedly apologetic, and extremely kind and understanding of my frustration. We had a short exchange of emails with a few questions from me, but basically arranged to have a telephone conversation after my exhibition, to go through things.

In this initial phone call, which lasted about 45 minutes, he assured me that my second application DID meet the assessment criteria, and that it was indeed fundable… and if I wanted to resubmit he would be very glad to go through my form with me to give me the best possible chance of success (being very careful to say this was not guaranteed). Well I would be stupid to say no to that wouldn’t I?

What he also offered was an opportunity to send a draft for him to check before I submitted. Again, I’d be daft to say no! 

So at the moment, I have submitted it again. With all the suggestions followed, and edits made. I have learned loads about their process in the doing of this, and whether I get this project funded or not, it won’t take that away, it’s been a valuable experience.

I wanted to blog about this before the result, because I feel it was important to acknowledge the efforts, without being overly influenced by the result.

I have been extremely impressed by Keir and his good-natured responses to my questions, and his super helpful attitude. Throughout the whole conversation it was clear that he sees these projects as important. That fairness and clarity and transparency are of the utmost importance.

Thank you Keir!

And so, for those extra cynical people like me, who doubt things, be reassured that ACE are doing a good job.

And if you have a project in your head, apply for funding, ring them up, ask for advice, they’re lovely. If it gets rejected, read the feedback carefully and try again. You never know, you could be in the 40% that gets a yes. But you won’t if you don’t try.

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