Ambition for excellence is aimed at stimulating and supporting ambition, talent and excellence across the arts sector in England.
Audio-visual, broadcast and transmission, commissioning, digital creation, exhibition, festival, original work, performance, production
Organisations that have submitted an expression of interest and received our invitation to apply, and are a:
- National Portfolio Organisation
- organisation based in England
- museum, or
This is a rolling programme, from 28 May 2015 to 27 October 2017. We will receive applications in two stages: an expression of interest followed by an invitation to apply.
|28 May 2015||27 October 2017|
About the fund
Ambition for Excellence aims to:
- contribute to the development of strong cultural places
- grow and develop talent and leadership in the regions and across artforms
- give an international dimension to excellent work
- create the highest quality new work, including for outdoor and festival contexts
The fund will support the creation of work for major national moments that build on the legacy of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, enabling organisations to reach international and national audiences.
Our expectation is that 80-90 per cent of this fund will be committed outside London, to support our target that a minimum of 75 per cent of Lottery funding is committed outside the capital by 2018.
Great art and culture for everyone
Our 10-year vision, with five ambitious goals at its heart. Originally published in 2010, this 2013 update reflects our newly-expanded remit for museums and libraries.Find out more
How to apply
We will receive applications in two stages: an expression of interest followed by an invitation to apply.
Those thinking of submitting an expression of interest must download and read the Guidance for applicants in full.
Read the guidance carefully and contact us
Our Guidance for applicants (below) includes all the information first-time and previously unsuccessful applicants need before applying.
We strongly encourage you to speak to a member of the Arts Council’s staff before submitting an expression of interest.
You can contact our Customer Services team to speak to someone in your Arts Council area office who will offer advice on your proposal.
Complete and submit your expression of interest form online
Go to our online portal where you can complete an expression of interest form. You can save any work you've done on the form and come back at any time to complete it further.
Complete your application form online
If you are invited to make an application, you will have four weeks in which to develop your full application and provide the mandatory supporting documents, as shown in the guidance document.
You must apply through our online application portal using the standard application form.Apply Now
Ambition for Excellence - Guidance for applicants
Successful applicants – Round 1
Situations will receive £300,000 to support The Tale which will see artists working outdoors and in the public realm. The project will be a landmark cultural event, presenting a compelling story told across the coastal towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham through visual arts, performance and sound, and inspired by Torbay.
The Tricycle Theatre
The Tricycle Theatre will receive £450,000 to deliver an ambitious programme of UK and international Black and minority ethnic talent development over three years. The programme will create a vital national hub for Black and minority ethnic talent, enabling artistic excellence, risk-taking and ambition through a series of three major co-productions with theatres outside London.
Urban Development will receive £350,000 to establish a national youth music organisation and centre of excellence in commercial and urban music. This will be an accessible and structured talent development pathway offering opportunities for young people with a talent for urban music that currently exist for classical and other genres. The programme will be delivered in conjunction with partners across the country in places such as Bristol, Derby, Newham and Manchester, amongst others, by the Urban Development Music Foundation.
Successful applicants – Round 2
The Cornubian Arts and Science Trust
The Cornubian Arts and Science Trust will receive £500,000 for GROUNDWORK, an ambitious three-year contemporary art programme culminating in an international arts festival in Cornwall. A programme of commissioned field trips and sited works during 2016 and 2017 will build towards a high-profile festival in 2018. Rooted in contemporary art, the festival will be interdisciplinary, involving science, music, performance, film and dance in collaboration with arts organisations in Cornwall and beyond. It will bring outstanding international artists to Cornwall and support creative education for young people through collaboration with Further Education and Higher Education, promoting diversity and innovation. GROUNDWORK will provide experiences ranging from the intimate to the spectacular.
The Lowry will receive £749,948 towards a project that launches a dynamic collaborative producing partnership between three of the country’s leading large-scale dance venues – Birmingham Hippodrome, The Lowry and Sadler’s Wells. Through a two-year pilot initiative, the partners will develop and deliver an ambitious programme of high-quality large-scale dance, relevant and meaningful to both audiences and artists.
Metal will receive £277,500 to create Estuary – a new biennial arts festival that will celebrate the spectacular Thames Estuary. In 2016 the programme of contemporary art, literature, film and music will see 150 artists working in partnership with estuarine communities to develop and present their work. Estuary will highlight the outstanding creativity and cultural importance of this region, whilst also celebrating one of its most important landmarks.
Culture Squared will receive £495,000 to deliver the Bradford Literature Festival. The festival is developing international partnerships – from Bronte and Japanese collaborations, to a Sufi programme encompassing Pakistan and Turkey, and the presentation of International Booker prize events – to further connect with and grow more diverse audiences in Bradford. The festival is the UK’s first literary festival programming for all communities, led and curated by two British Muslim women of Pakistani heritage.
The Young Vic will receive £250,000 towards their Directors Program, the only one of its kind in the UK. It provides young and emerging directors with professional support, networks, skills, research & development and work opportunities. In 2016 the Program will reach over 1,200 people in a variety of ways, extending across the UK and beyond, nurturing the most talented directors and artistic leaders. The Program is especially focused on widening the range of backgrounds of those who will be the future leaders of theatre in England, and it promotes and encourages greater collaboration between England's producing theatres.
Blackpool Grand Theatre
Blackpool Grand Theatre will receive £680,000 towards a project that will be delivered in partnership with LeftCoast, the Creative People and Places team for Blackpool and Wyre. Made up of two distinctive productions that celebrate Blackpool’s unique heritage and landscape, 2016 will see DreamThinkSpeak’s Absent, a walk-through dreamscape, re-imagined for the North West. This will be followed, in 2017, by a re-telling of the King Kong story that works across artforms, multi-media platforms and locations across the town. Kong Live! will be written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and will involve hundreds of local people in its delivery.
Successful applicants – Round 3
Birmingham REP will receive £750,000 towards FURNACE, a three-year programme of community participation work, bringing members of the public together with professional artists. It will enable emerging artistic talent to work alongside major UK and international artists to create and deliver three new large-scale shows and a range of smaller projects, all with community participation at their heart.
East London Dance
East London Dance will receive £101,892 for East Wall, a long-term talent development programme jointly conceived by East London Dance and Hofesh Shechter Company which will culminate in an ambitious new production for summer 2018. Working with some of East London Dance's most exciting emerging artists and choreographers, Shechter will curate and direct the production which will explore themes of race, cultural identity and immigration. Commissioned and presented by Historic Royal Palaces and LIFT, East Wall will feature a large cast of young east Londoners and professional performers in an outdoor night-time spectacle.
Shape will receive £749,949 towards Unlimited International. Unlimited is a national commissioning and development programme to support the development and profiling of high quality, ambitious new works by disabled artists. Unlimited International will extend the global impact of Unlimited by co-commissioning extraordinary English and international disabled artists to further transform the cultural sector worldwide in relation to access and equality. Working with the British Council, Southbank Centre and Tramway, Unlimited (delivered by Shape and Artsadmin) will tour work from Japan, Brazil and Australia throughout England in 2016, supported by Pallant House, Drake Music and Watershed to help build momentum in the lead up to the co-commissions process.
Successful applicants – Round 4
MK Gallery will receive £750,000 to create ‘City Club’. This ambitious arts project will bring together artists, arts organisations and the local community, inspired by the city’s heritage and design, as part of Milton Keynes’ 50th anniversary celebrations. The project, which aims to develop the city’s cultural offer in preparation for European Capital of Culture 2023, will create new cultural spaces in the area surrounding MK Gallery, MK Theatre and the approach to Campbell Park. ‘City Club’ will include new commissions and be supported by a range of talks, events and projects involving the local community.
Making Ways is an ambitious three-year project that will develop, demonstrate and celebrate exceptional contemporary visual art produced in Sheffield. It will develop artistic talent and leadership, and create a living economy for the artistic community that will stimulate and support growth. The Sheffield Culture Consortium (including Yorkshire Artspace, Sheffield Theatres Trust, Museums Sheffield, Site Gallery, The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University) will coordinate a visual art programme that complements the Year of Making Sheffield 2016 – a new festival and a new partnership between culture and business.
Artichoke will receive £750,000 for its proposal London’s Burning, the centrepiece of the Great Fire of London 350th anniversary commemorations later this year. The project represents a continuing artistic collaboration between Artichoke, the Burning Man organisation in the USA, the UK and European ‘burner’ community, and award-winning filmmaker Penny Woolcock. Unemployed young Londoners from boroughs surrounding the City will work to help design and fabricate an extraordinary, sculptural representation of 17th-century London, which will ultimately be set alight as the climax to the Great Fire 350 commemorations.
Successful applicants – Round 5
Dorset based Activate will receive £367,103 to work with And Now: and Landscapes for Life to explore the ancient 400 mile Icknield Way as inspiration for an artistic programme of work. Life Cycles and Landscapes will culminate in an ambitious new large-scale artistic work The Way in 2018. There will be a programme of professional development in 2016 and 2017 focused on the landscape and a national strategic agreement between outdoor arts and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB) will be made.
The Future Arts Centres network
A partnership of nine founding organisations which supports a wider network of 90 arts centres, has been awarded £398,000 for a number of initiatives to develop European collaboration. Led by ARC Stockton and the Albany, London, the initiatives include forging new international creative partnerships across Europe, developing international collaborative projects including six co-productions between UK and European partner venues, and opening up access to European funding opportunities for arts centres in the UK.
Hull UK City of Culture 2017
Ambition for Excellence funding of £750,000 will support the delivery of outdoor spectacle and site specific work as part of Hull UK City of Culture 2017. Focusing on the creation and delivery of major world-class commissions, this work will help to increase the quality and ambition of the outdoor arts sector, particularly across the north, building local, regional and UK-wide capacity and skills.
Creative agency ArtReach will receive £655,000. This funding will help transform its Leicester-based Journeys Festival into a national event. Over the next two years, ArtReach will produce festivals in Leicester, Manchester and Portsmouth. These will create a platform for the art, music, theatre, and culture that refugee artists bring to England. The festivals will celebrate our country’s rich artistic and cultural diversity. Local cultural partners and community groups will work with ArtReach to connect artists and audiences. A talent development programme in each city will also help to support the next generation of creative producers.
Successful applicants – Round 6
The New North and South
A three-year programme between a network of three Northern cities and five South Asian biennials, and the British Council, has been awarded £730,000. The Whitworth, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester Museum, Liverpool Biennial, and the Tetley in Leeds, will work with the Lahore, Kochi, Colombo, and Karachi biennials and the Dhaka Art Summit on a series of co-commissioned exhibitions, performances, critical dialogues and professional development activities.
Successful applicants – Round 7
Culture has been at the heart of Folkestone’s regeneration over the last decade, helping to make it a more exciting and vibrant place to live, work and relax. With the support of £750,000, the Creative Foundation will build on this success by expanding the reach and impact of its work in the town. The local community will remain at the heart of its plans, with increased programming at Quarterhouse, more support for talented local artists and an enhanced programme of community-focused activity. The investment will also ensure the Creative Foundation can continue to develop Folkestone Triennial, a festival that generates international interest and marks the town as a cultural destination.
Freedom Festival has been awarded £156,000 for Sura Medura UK to improve artists’ practice through cross-fertilisation and international working in an established Artists Residency Centre in Sri Lanka. Working with Inside Out Dorset, Norwich & Norfolk Festival, LIFT, 101 Outdoor Arts Creation Space, UZ Arts and ArtsAgenda it will create a new development opportunity for arts professionals working in non-conventional and outdoor spaces. The work produced will be presented in both Sri Lanka and the UK.
Successful applicants – Round 8
Heart of Glass
St Helens-based Heart of Glass has been awarded £487,500 for a collaborative project with culturally diverse communities of women from across the town. Working with partners ANU Productions and contemporary art organisation idle women, Heart of Glass will use genealogy, unconventional practices and historical research to explore the personal everyday histories of the women. Through the project, Heart of Glass aims to establish St Helens as an excellence centre for collaborative arts practice and develop pioneering digital ways to involve people in the project.
Collusion in Cambridge have been awarded £325,000. Cambridge is recognised as one of Europe’s leading technology innovation hubs. in_collusion will capitalise on this to establish the city as a research and development centre for artists, collaboration and production. The three year project will bring artists, academics, and technologists together to work on the next generation of immersive and interactive artworks in Cambridge and five hubs beyond – Bury St Edmunds, Huntingdon, King’s Lynn, Peterborough and Wisbech. As part of the project, the team at Collusion has included a specific focus on creating more opportunities for communities living in lower areas of arts engagement, such as Peterborough, King’s Lynn and Wisbech, to experience some of the best emerging arts and technology practice.
University of Reading
University of Reading have been awarded £495,000 and will work with Reading Borough Council, Artangel and a coalition of local arts organisations to produce Reading International. This new initiative will create a high quality contemporary visual arts offer for artists and audiences in Reading. The three year programme includes a unique exhibition in the Victorian architecture of Reading Prison and a site-specific project in the Reading Abbey Ruins. The project aims to build on the momentum developed by Reading Year of Culture, helping to increase artistic ambition and audience expectation for the town.
Future Everything CIC in Manchester has been awarded £450,000 for FAULT LINES, a talent development and commissioning programme across all artforms, sectors and scales. A group of artists will be supported to develop ambitious new work outside their artform and through collaboration with technology and research partners. It will include an extraordinary partnership with Manchester International Festival, working with one of the world’s leading artists (details to be announced as part of the MIF17 launch), and opportunities for artists to develop new artistic works in major UK and European innovation projects such as CityVerve.
Successful applicants – Round 9
Cirque Bijou and Diverse City will use an award of £719,322 towards developing Extraordinary Bodies with a vision of it being the national integrated circus company of the UK based in the South West. Over two years they will: develop and produce an ambitious outdoor touring circus show of scale, featuring exceptional disabled and non-disabled UK artists; explore integrated practice with major venues, producing partners and communities through creative explorations; explore circus technique and future co-production through an international residency; develop talented young disabled artists in partnership with major UK circus schools; and work across arts sectors to develop and invest in integration.
Successful applicants – Round 10
Plymouth Culture has been awarded £635,000 towards a major two-year visual arts programme which aims to further enhance Plymouth’s visual arts scene. The Horizon programme will develop four major arts events in the city, support a talent development programme for artists and visual arts producers, and will enable communities to commission visual artworks.
Successful applicants – Round 11
Watershed Arts in Bristol will use £561,134 towards Creative Producers International: a three year programme to build the capacity of Creative Producers as city change-makers, supporting them to engage communities and deliver public-space projects. Combining the skills, networks and ambitions of Watershed and partners from UK, Lagos, Mexico City and Tokyo, this global programme will build on Watershed’s Playable City to create a lasting network of individuals, organisations and communities sharing ideas, skills and projects in person and online.
Manchester International Festival
Manchester International Festival has been awarded £640,000 to develop its programme of new commissions into two new spaces – public work and digital. It plans to move into these areas for its 2017 programme by developing talent in the city and demonstrating how live large-scale public work can exist in a digital space.
Project Art Works
With the support of £573,611 Project Art Works will create and deliver EXPLORERS – a programme of inclusive cultural activities and partnerships nationally and internationally. Working in partnership with the Forestry Commission, Tate, artist Ben Rivers and Project Art Works’ artists EXPLORERS will track an investigation of a forest, the outdoors and wilderness in collaboration with a group of people who are highly sensitive to the sensory stimuli of the world around them. EXPLORERS aims to increase public, artists’ and arts professionals’ awareness of the extraordinary contribution people with complex needs can make to mainstream culture.
NewcastleGateshead Initiative, in partnership with Northern Roots and Newcastle University, has been awarded £595,190 to bring world-renowned artists and local diverse talent together to produce Freedom City 2017, which will launch a three year programme creating a step change in the way artists and organisations programme and present diversity in their work.
Successful applicants – Round 12
Capsule will receive £450,000 to produce Home of Metal. This three-year international programme will tell the story of how four working-class lads from Birmingham changed the face of music. Through the creation of a digital archive, commissioned artworks and a touring exhibition, Home of Metal will turn its focus directly to audiences, by exploring fandom, people’s collections and the genre’s global impact. The project will bring together artists, cultural venues, academic institutions and fans, sharing the story of this Birmingham-born musical genre with people across the West Midlands and beyond.
Site Gallery has been awarded a grant of £750,000 for City of Ideas, a major programme that connects communities, artists, young people, technologists and academics to develop new approaches to art and culture in the public space. The programme will focus around the creative industries quarter of Sheffield city centre. It will include the creation of a permanent ‘Art Street’, new festival and public squares, as well as outdoor furniture, building facades and urban play sculptures designed by artists.
Northern Ballet has been awarded £750,000 to support the creation of the Leeds Dance Partnership. The partnership will bring together a group of organisations to raise the profile of the exceptional dance offer in the city. Over the coming months they will be recruiting a Partnership Director to help take the programme forward.