It’s a delight, the sky is blue, the sun is warm, flowers are out and our Arts Council Application has been committed to the ether. If you are in the privileged position of being one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organizations you are only required to submit a funding application every three years, but when that time comes, as it just has, the pressure is on.
Along with our board of directors we have spent a good amount of time thinking about the future, business planning, drawing up budgets. Looking three years ahead is a subtle business, blending knowledge, with expectation, a touch of guess work and a touch of aspiration. If you become too pragmatic and conservative your vision becomes dull and plodding, swing too much the other way and it tips from being fantastic to fantastical and lacks credibility.
I partially ascribe to a school of magic in which saying you’re going to do something makes that thing happen – providing that after you say it you put a massive load of work into making the magic work. Unfortunately this form of magic is not deemed a sufficiently sound business model to balance an ACE application on, they are more keen on methods and evidence.
They are also keen on target audiences. Their mission: Great Art and Culture for Everyone requires us to identify who out of ‘everyone’ we’re going to provide art for. They can then survey all their applicants and check that cumulatively ‘everyone’ is covered. Unfortunately whilst always thinking about audiences when making a show we’re never thinking about what ‘kind of people’ they are. In the past we’ve always sidestepped that ‘What is your Target Audience’ question by answering ‘people with open minds’. This was mainly because in the past the sense was you were being asked to identify by people by age and race – which always seemed both ageist and racist. Now however things have got more subtle.
At core we probably mostly appeal to ‘Urban Arts Eclectics’ and maybe ‘fun fashion and friends’. In recent years maybe we’ve been pick up more ‘traditional culture vultures’ and ‘mature explorers’. With students we probably deliver ‘bedroom DJs’. Our mates are probably ‘time poor dreamers’. I’m officially ‘Family and Community Focused’ and thus not interested in anything fancy our outside my local setting. I’m not sure if those who eat down the road before coming up to @ A E Harris allow us to also reach ‘Dinner and a Show’. Then our work outside theatre venues and in and around schools starts deliver ‘Limited means Nothing Fancy’ and so it goes on. I ranted an raved for a bit but my resident sociologist calmed me down and sent me back to my computer.
It’s not all be tough. I did a productive solo session in The Talbot, Stourbridge where I got in touch with my inner ‘quiet pint with the match’ (segment type: not currently engaged). Charlotte put early drafts together, helped with fact checking and ensured I didn’t crash the ship by going off on one. Craig provided sub-editing, spelling and grammar checking services. Members of the board delivered further sub-editing, oomph, the occasional key phrase and the vital instruction – stop waffling, tell us what you’re going to do and prove it. There were a couple of late nights and we pressed the ‘be gone’ button a full hour before the deadline.
Now we wait until 1st July to get the results back.