This post was written by chum Pete Ashton, about a project we applied for together.


A few weeks ago an Arts Council funded commission came over the tootvine which looked pretty interesting. Turning Point West Midlands and Writing West Midlands were looking for a writer and visual artist to undertake a road trip across, you guessed it, the West Midlands and create some art during and about it in return for £4,000. My writer chum Jon Bounds suggested I put my photographer hat on and we apply for this thing, bringing Jon’s frequent writing partner Danny Smith on board as well. It was one of those rare occasions where you read something on an art funding website and think, hang on, I not only understand this but I reckon I could do it.

Neither of us had written a proposal like this before and while Danny has a fine art degree he was bad poorly with the sick and I don’t think he ever went in for that proposal writing thing anyway. But we have friends who can do this sort of thing in their sleep so advice was to hand and in the end we put together something fairly coherent.

Yesterday the rejection emails were sent out and we got one. Apparently there were 78 applications which apparently is a lot. And apparently an organisation which is in part there to assist artists in the pursuit and creation of their art isn’t able to give feedback on individual applications (and I do understand why writing 77 feedbacks isn’t necessarily the best use of public money) so we don’t know if we were in final shortlist or throw in the round filing cabinet right away.

It strikes me that while the whole arts commissioning thing has some fundamental flaws. There exist 77 ideas for a road trip across the West Midlands which will never see the light of day. Even if we apply Sturgeon’s Law and assume 90% of them were shite ideas that’s still 7 good ones. And think about all that time those people spent on their applications, time that could have been spent on something more productive.

More importantly, there are 154 people (2 per application) who aren’t going to do a thing they were intending to do. That strikes me as a terrible shame. Yes, the ideas wouldn’t exist without TPWM/WWM sparking them with the commission but that’s one hell of a bottleneck.

I hate bottlenecks.

We’ve decided to make our application public for anyone to read.

Here’s the PDF and here it is online.

We’re putting it out there for a few reasons.

Firstly to get a bit more feedback on this thing. We’d really value any comments, positive or negative from people in the industry.

Secondly to publicly demonstrate what we’re capable of and willing to do. We’d like to get paid to do this sort of thing more often and we think this document helps that cause.

Thirdly to see if anyone else wants to commission us to do it or something similar. The bid is written with TPWM/WWM’s raison d’etre in mind and we can probably adjust it for other box-ticking requirements.

Fourthly because it seems a shame to spend so long writing something and to only show it to a handful of people. We are natural bloggers after all. To not publish it feels weird to us.

But mainly to test the water for a crowdsourced crowdfunding exercise.

On the one hand we could try raising a sustainable level of cash to enable us to do it. Not necessarily four large but enough to put dinner on the table.

On the other hand it’d be really interesting to get the funders to collectively write the commission. Bear in mind I’m making this up as I type and haven’t consulted Danny and Jon at all, but let’s say we decide on the How but you decide on the Why. You give us our remit, our focus.

Or something like that.

Of course it could be that our idea is shit and should rightly be rejected by all and sundry. And if that’s the case then that’s fine. There are plenty more where that came from.

Final note – please don’t read this as sour grapes or an attack on TPWM/WWM and the whole arts funding setup which has real value in certain situations. It was our first ever application and we’re realistic about our chances. It just seems a shame to waste it.


If you’ve a comment to make, please leave it on Pete’s post for coherence.