Deborah Williams: Applying to ACE

Deborah Williams: Applying to ACE

By Amelia Forsbrook 14/03/12

Applying for public funding can be an intimidating and competitive process, but you won’t have much luck if you give up at the first hurdle. Deborah Williams, a Relationship Manager in the London theatre team at Arts Council England, reveals the efforts her team go to support and facilitate creativity, and explains why you should apply...

At Arts Council England we advocate, develop and invest. We have “Achieving great art for everyone” as our 10-year strategic plan and our priorities are around excellence and engagement, enabling artists to create great work and ensuring everyone has access to fantastic artistic experiences. We're also creating things with digital in mind. Digital and the creative economy are areas that are quite new to the Arts Council so we're learning from the sector in some ways.

Essentially, I have two parts to my role. One is to work with National Portfolio Organisations, supporting them and putting together a funding agreement to help them to achieve our joint aims; the other side is working on Grants for the Arts. Here, I am part of panels that make recommendations on what projects to support. I also offer advice to potential applicants who come to us with enquiries. I’m a writer and performer as well and was once in the same position, thinking, “I have no idea what I’m doing, but I want to do this – and I’m going to!”

I don't think enough people aged 18, 19 or 20 submit applications. Get on our radar. Go to networking events and conferences, pick out a list of people from the Arts Council you would like to meet and introduce yourself so that we know who you are and we get an idea of what kind of projects you might be doing. I think it's good for us to be able to respond to what the sector is doing. We encourage conversations to take place to make sure people are heading in the right direction. This means that when applications come in, the knowledge is a shared knowledge and people don’t have to try too hard to be seen and heard.

Sit down and take the time to figure the application process out. When you’re trying something for the first time, it is going to be daunting. Find all the information you can on our website and if you find you need a little bit more support, you can ask specific questions. We want to make sure that as many people as possible are submitting good applications that best represent what they’re trying to do and achieve.

It’s great if you’ve got friends who have a particular kind of experience. Create networks and work with people who are happy to support you. If you are the artist and the focus of the project, then great, but if you can’t do the producing or the accounting, find people who can. This will enable you to deliver the work to the standard and the quality that you want to deliver it to.

Top tips:

  • Look at the Grants for the Arts web page to familiarise yourself with Arts Council’s priorities
  • Balance your books. Your income and your expenditure need to be the same.
  • Request feedback if you need it. Deborah admits that her colleagues haven’t as much time as they’d like to dedicate to this, but they can offer “a phone call, an email, or possibly a meeting.”
  • Your project may be great, but applying for Arts Council funding is a competitive process. Prepare to think about how you can improve and resubmit your proposal if it is unsuccessful.
  • You don't have to come with a finished product. Grants for the Arts is also available for research and development work. The Arts Council acknowledges that creativity takes time to grow.


Visit our brand new arts funding microsite for more tips and insights...

Arts Council England is organising a Creative Apprenticeship Event on Friday 11 May at Central St Martins, London.

Interested in global collaboration? Look at the Arts Council’s new International Development Fund, which aims to bring new creative knowledge into England.


British Coins by Wwarby available by CC BY-NC 2.0.

Closing Update

20912 Page views

Most popular
Our past collaborators