I am at the stage now where I am sharing my first drafts of my funded project idea (Fig: 1) with some of the stakeholders and supporters. Over the module break, I hope to develop the idea further and then start to create an application.
Continuing to look at ways of funding my work, I have made an application to the Carmencita film lab and Kodak grant (Fig: 1), which provides up 50 rolls of film together with processing and scanning.
I was particularly drawn to this grant as the timeframe would give me the opportunity to gain valuable resources to support my FMP. Although, I would consider this still in the development stages, I have also found it quite useful to consider my ideas for FMP and create a proposal based on this and it will inform the FMP proposal that we will be asked to create.
Figure 1: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Carmencita/Kodak Grant application
This week I met with the Art Development and events officer for Watford Council to discuss my idea for working on a funded project and also ways that I might be able to gain support. This was extremely valuable as I was able to gain a number of insights into the kind of projects that Watford funds and also consider ways to strengthen my own application.
With the aim of working on a community themed project, which aligns with my research project goals, my idea is to work with students that attend the college that I work at and work with them to create a picture on the impact that recent current events is having on their generation (Fig: 1). The idea has been well received by people that I have shared it with, artist’s Jennifer Essex and Harry Mann noting that there are opportunities for a range of community engagement with such an idea (Fig: 2). That said, they suggested that I might consider widening my scope to include other institutions and also I should aim to take my time to develop a really strong application to the Arts Council.
The Art Development officer was also very positive about my idea for the project and also made some suggestions to strengthen my approach. Chiefly, my application would need to demonstrate the following:
- Education: This is an area that I had in mind for the project as I am keen to apply my teaching experience to create a more socially engaged approach. Potentially, I would include a number of workshops that could initially include photography and talks to work with the young people and give them the tools to create their own stories.
- Collaboration: Very much linking to the above. My aim is to work with the people I want to photograph and also give them the opportunity to shape the direction of the work. Their contribution will be incredibly valuable to the process.
- Sound Budget: Something that I am currently working on. I think value is at the heart of what I am aiming to achieve here so my budget will need to reflect this. I am keen to create the work on film as it lends a tangibility to the project that the 16 -19 age group may not have experienced so will need to justify this additional cost of production.
Additionally, he also mentioned the following, which would really help support my application and getting the project off the ground:
- My idea was inspired by the idea that the demographic of an FE college has one of the worst levels of social mobility, coupled with the ongoing economic impact of current events and the way that FE was essentially forgotten about during the summer exams issues, with some of the student still awaiting outcomes for their exams and qualifications. I am keen to showcase this age group and highlight some of the challenges faced by them. The Arts Officer was keen on this aspect of the idea and although he suggested that this shouldn’t be overtly political, it is something that exists and should be part of the application and project.
- Watford was due to be Herts city of culture. Postponed due to Covid. However, there is potential to put something together for this ready for next year when this is planned to go ahead.
- There have been relatively few applications to the Arts council from this area and they are keen to see some happening. This is particularly positive as I was concerned that the south east would be an area of high competition and it would be a challenge to cut through. Not to be complacent however, I intent to work on a robust application and ensure that it can be a success.
As a result of this meeting, I will be developing my draft proposal to share with Watford Council and consider the ways in which it can be supported. The Officer mentioned that there are also a number of other funding options available that my idea might suit, which provides additional potential to have my project funded.
After some initial idea planning (Fig: 1), I shared some of the plans with Artist duo Jennifer Essex and Harry Man, who have experience with Arts Council grants. The made some positive contribution to the way that the idea is developing and also some very useful suggestions that will hopefully strengthen my application.
Figure 1: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Ideas on Funding blog post.
- I should work to remove central focus from a single institution as the Arts Council wouldn’t want to fund a project that they might consider be me doing my existing job. The application is also for an individual artist; therefore, it should be about me working with a range of institutions.
- It would be beneficial to find the local Arts Council officer to discuss my idea, which would support my application when it is ready to be submitted. There might also be a bridge person within the local council already who works with placing artists into educational settings. It is important that I then pursue any connection to the council to support the development with my idea and application. This might also include some match funding that the Arts Council would ultimately be expecting to see as part of any application.
- It would be worth pushing for some kind of outdoor exhibition – potentially in the high-street – as the Arts Council would be keen to fund a project that is seen to be reacting positively to the ongoing Covid situation.
As it stands, the biggest challenge for my application is in the lack of other institutions to approach for the images. This in itself is not hugely problematic to overcome as I will happily make those contacts. The main challenge actually would be finding the time to go and work with them. As I work in an educational setting, finding the time would present the biggest obstacle.
Clearly, I have some work to do in order to develop this idea. I have made good strides so far, including some key contact within the council. Jen and Harry both mentioned that these applications take some time to put together, there is a fair amount of logistics to consider and also in gaining support from other stakeholders.
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.