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£2.7 million Grants for the arts awards for theatre projects in the South East

  • Date: 19 August 2011
  • Artform: Theatre
  • Area: South East
Bikini State, Accidental Collective. The company are supported with a £10,000 Grants for the arts award to produce four live art events in four venues Bikini State, Accidental Collective. The company are supported with a £10,000 Grants for the arts award to produce four live art events in four venues, Photo courtesy of Accidental Collective

Arts Council England's Grants for the arts scheme supports a thriving theatre community in the South East, helping artists and companies to innovate, produce, tour and stay networked.

Grants for the arts is a National Lottery-funded open application funding programme. It supports arts activities that engage people in the arts and helps artists and arts organisations with their work, and it welcomes first time applicants.

Last year, theatre in the South East was supported with a total of £2,705,169 in Grants for the arts awards. This represents over 20% of the total awarded nationally.

Theatre Relationship Manager, Richard Kingdom, explains more about his role in making this happen, the current projects being supported by Grants for the arts regionally and what opportunities exist through the scheme.

Research and development

Richard Kingdom explains: 'A lot of work supported through Grants for the arts comes in first as research and development, and then it will later come in as an application for full production and tour.

Theatre company Little Bulb, for instance, was first supported with a Grants for the arts award to research and develop Operation Greenfield; they later applied for funding to complete a national tour of the work. In total, the company has been awarded nearly £15,000 in Grants for the arts awards to date.

Richard says: 'The idea needs to be interesting first and foremost but we're also looking to see if there's support from any other organisations. This support could be financial, mentoring, use of space, tour booking, producing. It demonstrates that someone believes in the work. We'll also take the track records of the artistic team into account and it's important for there to be a public engagement element - for instance a scratch night where the applicant can test out new ideas and get feedback.'

Canterbury-based Beady Eye Theatre is an exciting regional company who are currently supported with a £9,988 Grants for the arts award to do research and development for their second show, Bull Baby Balls. The company's previous piece, called Everything Must Go, won a Total Theatre Award in 2009 and embarked on a popular national and international tour including a run at the Barbican. The company has developed a network of venues who are supporting the new work; these include Puppet Centre Trust, Theatre Royal Margate, Farnham Maltings, The Showroom Chichester, Little Angel Theatre and Central School of Speech and Drama.

Kristin Fredricksson, Artistic Director of Beady Eye, says: 'Our award is enabling us to explore our source material in depth, over an extended period of time, and to undertake specific training to help us realise our ideas.

'The funding comes at a critical time: Beady Eye's first show was a labour of love which toured widely but without any public funding. This award is helping us move towards a more sustainable model by developing our presence, links and activities.'

Supporting the infrastructure

Arts Council's Grants for the arts scheme also helps organisations who provide artistic support directly to artists and theatre companies.

In the South East, they include arts venues Newbury Corn Exchange, The Point, South Street, Reading, The Basement, The Nightingale Theatre and Theatre Royal Margate; and development agencies such as PANeK (Performing Arts Network Kent) and initiatives like Rules and Regs.

Richard Kingdom explains: 'These are organisations that are interested in innovation and want to help artists make the best work they can. This network of artist support initiatives is one of the South East's regional strengths.'

One of The Point's associate companies Milk Presents' new show Blue Beard; a Fairytale for Adults was picked by Lyn Gardner as her Edinburgh pick of the day. The show's research and development was supported with a £7,014 Grants for the arts award. 
He continues: 'Kent is an example of an area where the theatre infrastructure has been significantly developed thanks to the efforts of some key organisations with Grants for the arts support, such as PANeK (Performing Arts Network Kent), Applause Rural Touring and Theatre Royal Margate.

'PANek for instance have worked with numerous artists, offering them mentoring and brokering relationships on their behalf. They've helped artists find rehearsal space and put on scratch nights at Theatre Royal Margate and University of Kent in Canterbury. Now they're working with Applause Rural Touring to build closer links between the creation and distribution of work across the county.'

Rural touring

Arts Council's Grants for the arts scheme also supports rural touring in the South East. The region is 70% rural and one-fifth of its population resides in rural settings.

There are several rural touring companies in the South East whose projects have been supported through Grants for the arts, such as Strangeface, Little Bulb, and River People.

Tunbridge Wells-based Strangeface Theatre Company is supported with a £49,989 Grants for the arts award to tour their latest work Rake's Progress this autumn. The research and development was supported by Kent County Council and Farnham Maltings, with whom they are an associate company.

As part of their tour, the company is working with the Applause Rural Touring and Northants Touring Arts, as well as drawing on their strong reputation within rural touring circuits.
Richard comments: 'The rural touring infrastructure isn't as easy to spot as the urban one. It's driven by the enthusiasms of local promoters and their connections to groups within their communities rather than large institutions with websites and complex mailing lists.

'A lot of companies experience something of an epiphany when they first go into rural touring. Often most of the village comes out for the show, creating a real sense of an event and strengthening the community.'

He adds: 'Companies interested in rural touring could get in touch with one of the region's touring schemes.'

Applying to Grants for the arts

For artists and companies considering applying to Grants for the arts, there is help at hand through our Grants for the arts team at Manchester and our relationship managers based in the South East.

Richard goes on to explain: 'Part of my role as a Theatre Relationship Manager is to work directly with companies and artists to help them develop applications to support their projects. I focus on small to mid-scale companies, artists and producers while our other regional Theatre Relationship Manager, Jenny Roberts, concentrates on mid to large scale companies, building based producing and new writing - though there's inevitably several areas that cross-over.

'I can help applicants identify opportunities for linking to existing regional  arts activity and infrastructure , and also help applicants to recognise how their work supports our ambitions for Achieving Great Art for Everyone.
'We're interested in new work and artistic innovation and that's an important part of what Grants for the arts is all about.'

For more information about Grants for the arts and how to apply, go to