One of the key areas I was to explore during this module is how I can begin to operate past my former commercial practice into areas that compliment and co-exist with my current working practice as a lecturer. I have been planning to continue my look into funding, grants, and bursaries. Previously, I have created unsuccessful applications for the RPS (Fig: 1) and Grain Photo. I am currently awaiting to hear back from Format 21, where I created an application for an exhibit under the theme of ‘Control,’ which has a number of links to my research into the idea of the agency inherent in the qualities of the photographic process.
Figure 1: Phil Hill (June, 2020) Discussing entering awards and applying for RPS Bursary
Considering the lack of success in my application to these previous grants, I really need to unpick the way that I am approaching and constructing my proposals. To support this, I aim to share my ideas much more, and also seek mentors to support the process of application. One area that I am able to do this is and the next step for me is applying for an Arts Council grant. After much discussion, I have been able to gain the support of an artist team, Jenifer Essex and Harry Man, who have a great deal of experience in gaining both research and development grants and also performance and publication funding. I have collaborated with the pair previously to create images for their projects and now able to draw on their experience and knowledge in creating an application to the Arts Council myself.
One area that I am keen to explore is to work on a collaborative project with the FE college where I work. As my research project centres around the idea of community, the college performs a vital role in the community – potentially more so than other educational institutions when considering the idea of lifelong learning. There also seems to be a tendency to forget about further education when discussed in a political sense; funding for colleges has remained stagnant for some time and many are struggling as a result and there was also the exams chaos over the summer months that left FE students right at the bottom of the pecking order when receiving their results. Additionally, the Btec qualification that the students are studying has become a slang term for anything considered second rate, even by the students who are working towards them. This demographic is also the least socially mobile, with 13% of working class boys making it to university, for example. (Coughlan, 2020), and likely to feel the aftermath of the current pandemic the most. My project proposal to the Arts council, intends to focus on celebrating the kids that attend FE in a collaborative way, with the potential to collect stories, portraits and images taken by the students themselves. This is a work in progress alongside my current research project to test possibilities.
There are plenty of crossovers and links to my research project, especially in Ferdinand Tönnies concept of Gemeinschaft and Gesselschaft, or community and society (2002). The college exists as part of the community in its societal function however there is a personal connection for me in not only that I work at the college, but I also attended one and also come from the same demographic as the kids that I teach. Historically, there is a precedent for this particular kind of project offering the potential for a re-photographic review of the state of FE. photographer Matthew Finn recently published his work ‘School of Art’ which consists of a portrait series of students from the late 90s during the shift in politics and culture (Fig: 2). Finn’s work was actually created at a previous iteration of West Herts College where I work now and before it was merged into the present college. The work was also created at a similar time to when I was also attending college. I feel that as a result, it could make an interesting review of the state of FE at another turning point for young people.
I have help initial discussions with various elements at the college who are very supportive of the idea. I was initially worried that owing to the current situation we may not be able to create such a project. I am aiming to be as transparent as possible with the project and also need the support of institutions to make it work. There are plenty of logistical challenges that would need to be overcome, for example the seeking of permissions. However, there are systems in place at the college that can support with this. Arts Council are very keen on working with the communities on projects, so I will work to create a series of workshops and talks to support the project. In my initial discussion it was mentioned that there is a current town initiative to re-brand Watford as a creative hub outside of London, which means there is potential to showcase the creative students in particular and as a result may create another opportunity for collaboration and support from other stakeholders. It also has the potential to provide me with images for my project and material to be used by these other institutions.
Coughlan, S. (2020, September 27). University entrance: The ‘taboo’ about who doesn’t go. BBC News. Retrieved October 10, 2020, from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-54278727
Tönnies, F. (2002). Community and Society. Dover.