Feeling the brunt of the arts cuts? Or perhaps you're not eligible for IdeasTap funding? Look no further: this is the first article in a three-part series about alternative arts funding. This week, we talk to Kate McGrath, who runs innovative theatre company Fuel with Louise Blackwell. You can also check out our funding microsite for a full list of funding organisations...
Fuel has been going for six years. Our mission statement is to produce “fresh work for adventurous people by inspiring artists”. Lots of the work we do is devised or collaboratively made. We’re obsessed with audiences and making sure their experience of our work is rewarding and enjoyable.
We work in unusual spaces and locations with artists who are interested in the same things as us. We have some long-term relationships with artists like Sound & Fury, who made Kursk [pictured above] – we’ve been working with them since before we started Fuel, and produce all their work. All of this means that the way we approach funding has to be a bit inventive.
We fundraise from a really wide range of sources. We often co-produce with venues and other arts organisations that can bring money to the table and do more than we can individually – there’s a lot of talk at the moment about the importance of collaboration and co-production and it feels very natural and positive. We have a really good set of relationships with regional venues like Warwick Arts Centre and Bristol Old Vic, who often commission the work we’re developing. We’ve been working with them throughout the six years we’ve been running Fuel. They know our artists, commission early on in the development process and receive the work when it’s touring.
We also fundraise from trusts and foundations. We’re currently deciding whether we want to become a charity, because there’s lots of funding available, but it comes with some restrictions, which isn’t appealing if you want to be entrepreneurial. However, there are lots of trusts and foundations you can apply to who don’t require charity status. Jerwood Charitable Foundation is one, and we also get some money from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, which gives £25million annually towards risky, unusual and groundbreaking cultural projects. I would also add the Wellcome Trust to the list. They support projects in building excitement and interest about science and society, and have supported quite a few of our pieces where we’ve engaged with them on biomedical issues.
Fuel also has an individual giving scheme. Our bottom level of giving is £5 a month – you become what we call a “firefly” and you get various benefits back from us. That’s popular with supporters who aren’t wealthy but want to help. At the top end, you can give £5,000 a year; of course, we’d accept more.
I think there’s an overlap between audience development and low-level funding. When we did our show Electric Hotel, we built a bar in the ground floor, because even if we were in an unusual location, we wanted people to be able to get a drink – and we sometimes have merchandise at shows. For me, that all connects with having a different sort of relationship with your audience. They buy a ticket, then might make a donation or perhaps become a friend of the company. Develop your relationship with them and it can grow into financial support.
Kate McGrath was talking to Miriam Zendle.
Read our articles about film funding, visual arts funding and crowdfunding.