Joined Up Thinking & Application Fatigue
At the early stages of applying for subsidy to support new creative work, the project and research rarely changes; subsidy is being requested to allow the project to shift through being challenged, refined and deeply explored. However, artists are repeatedly being asked to reframe their work for each funding organisation offering a small amount of support in the endless stream of application systems.
In order to realise get Experts In Short Trouser in 2016, from my records I undertook over forty short applications, sent in excess of eighty initial contact emails to secure partners, contacted seventy venues to secure the tour and followed all of this up to create a solid foundation before completing my £65 000 Creative Scotland application.
Is it any wonder I am still feeling the effects of this application fatigue almost two years after having toured the work?
'But why don't you copy and paste?', I hear some of you cry...
Firstly, this also takes time and we would be foolish to pretend it doesn't.
Secondly, I have sat on dozens of panels. It is blatantly clear when someone has lifted text from another application. In a sector where a 1 in 4 chance is classed as great odds, would you want to risk your chances of success to save a little time by copying and pasting?
The trickle down effect of the creative sector being under-resourced is that on a daily basis independent artists are having to work harder, compete more and are encouraged to become more 'entrepreneurial' without sacrificing their artistic integrity - a contradiction in itself, surely?
In a sector where the artists and their work are the back bone of the industry, where is the joined up thinking approach that places these things at the centre of application process?
When the process of applying began in 2014, what if there had been a way in which I could gather all of the organisations who supported the work, and those who did not, in a room to discuss the project as a whole. What is alongside this I could have discussed the values of my practice, what was needed to take the project further and asked what these venues need in order to achieve their aims?
How much time would have been saved?
How much less of my emotional resilience would have been spent?
How fewer emails would have needed to be sent by everyone involved?
How many relationships could have been built, grown and contributed to future projects?
There are some schemes like this which exists but none, that I know of, where everyone brings their diary and juggles things round so that the artist leaves with a schedule with contracts imminent.
In my experience, the events that do bring people together leave the artist with a large to do list and an inevitable couple of months travelling unpaid around the country for follow up meetings with each organisation.
Obviously, even if this time was saved and reinvested into actual research for the project the artist would still not be getting paid. But, surely it is better that this unpaid work is an investment in an artists practice than a needless lesson in application writing, building a strategy around various venue deadlines and repeating yourself.
So, getting all of the artists in the region together in a room once per year to discuss their work would be problematic. So, building touring routes that are applied for by face to face pitching could take away some of the programmers autonomy. So, having to respond with a definite answer is complicated.
That said, if we do not start to distribute some of the problems, strategic limitations and commitment phobia to other players in the sector then all we are doing is diluting the work created through the process of exhausting the artists who make it. Or worse, we dilute the artist by asking them to undertake so many roles they have no time to focus on their practice. Neither of which is a successful means of ensuring the health of the Scottish sector or those who fuel it.