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Grants for the arts supports culturally diverse arts in the South East

  • Date: 3 December 2012
  • Artform: Combined arts, Dance, Music, Visual arts
  • Area: South East
Celebrating Arts & Culture Festival, Milton Keynes Islamic Arts Heritage and Culture Organisation, 2012 Celebrating Arts & Culture Festival, Milton Keynes Islamic Arts Heritage and Culture Organisation, 2012, Photo courtesy of Milton Keynes Islamic Arts Heritage and Culture Organisation

Arts Council England's National Lottery funded Grants for the arts scheme supports a range of culturally diverse artists, events and community projects. The South East has a lot of exciting Black and minority ethnic communities, including Southampton, Crawley, Slough and Milton Keynes.

Arts Council England wants to see more applications made to the scheme, to support projects that reflect this rich diversity. As outlined in our Creative Case for Diversity, we know that greater diversity and equality sustains and releases the true potential of England's artistic talent regardless of people's background.

We talked to a few recipients who recently received Grants for the arts awards in the South East to find out what advice they'd give to anyone, particularly from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds, thinking of applying.

Milton Keynes Islamic Arts Heritage & Culture Organisation

Milton Keynes Islamic Arts Heritage and Culture Organisation (MKIAC) received a £9,600 Grants for the arts award towards their artistic programme for their summer festival, Celebrating Arts & Culture Festival, which ran in August and was part of Milton Keynes Summer of Culture

MKIAC promotes Islamic arts, heritage and culture through education. During the two-day festival, they offered an exciting range of arts and cultural activity such as Islamic geometric pattern and International visual light calligraphy art, canvas art design, lantern workshops, live music performances from Aashiq al Rasul and Silkroad. They also coordinated exhibition Art of Integration to Muslim Heritage and a photograph competition.

Anouar Kassim, Chair of MKIAC, tells us more.

How did the Grants for the arts award help your activity or develop your work?

'It gave us opportunity to engage with the best artists, which helped to mentor us towards the activity and develop our work by working together and be innovative.'

What did the award allow you to do that you wouldn't have otherwise been able to do?

'It allowed us to gain new experiences, engage with new audiences and create new opportunities for people to take classes in Islamic Art to develop themselves. It also allowed us to develop ourselves as an organisation, aiming for better heights and quality and seeking quality partnerships to continue our work.'

What advice or tips would you give to other people from diverse backgrounds thinking of applying for the first time?

'Research and research, plan and check. If you have quality resources for your programme, be clear in what outcomes you wish to achieve in order to make a difference.'

Noraay and the Creation project

British-Moroccan singer songwriter Noraay received a £9,997 Grants for the arts award this year to support her latest music project. The Worthing-based singer created a new 10-song show with professional musicians cellist Matt Constantine, Oud player and guitarist Stefanos Tsourelis, double and electric bass player Jon Mapp and Mauritian turntablist DJ Tigerstyle. The eclectic one-hour show blends Arabic, Neo-Soul and HipHop sounds and was performed around the South East, culminating in a performance at the prestigious London Jazz Festival this autumn.

How did the Grants for the arts award help your activity or develop your work?

'The award enabled me to transform my musical and lyrical ideas into a professional one-hour live show. It enabled me to collaborate with professional musicians to produce the show and present it to a wide range of audiences at four performances including the legendary world music venue Momo in London and the Barbican Freestage at the London Jazz Festival 2012. It has enabled me to explore a fusion of music which incorporates my musical influences. It has also helped raise my profile and make contact with national and international promoters in places like Jordan and Malaysia.'

What did the award allow you to do that you wouldn't have otherwise been able to do?

Having the funding to recruit four professional musicians to work on this project, as well as cover their costs and rehearsal has meant that the quality of the work has been very high. I was also able to collaborate with an emerging visual artist Shana Layzell in producing artwork which serves as a backdrop to the live show. It meant I could take the time and space to create artistically and practice, as well as manage the project.  Having funding to subsidise some of the live shows has meant people who otherwise may not have seen the performance had an opportunity to do so.'

What advice or tips would you give to other people from diverse backgrounds thinking of applying for the first time?

Find the people you want to work with before you put in an application. I put out adverts for musicians before submitting the Grants for the arts application. Find someone to coordinate/assist you on the project, as well as someone else to take care of PR, marketing etc - basically the message is delegate. Don't try and do everything yourself. Make your artistic idea strong and get bookings to present the work secured before submitting the application. Use the resources on the Arts Council website to assist you in writing the application. I put in a lot of planning work pre-application, and I definitely think this improved my chance of success.'

For more information about the Arts Council England Grants for the arts scheme and how to apply, see: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/apply-for-funding/grants-for-the-arts/