The question on everyone’s lips when it comes to setting up a production: where on earth is the money going to come from? Well, it’s the producer’s job to secure the funding for your production, so you better be brushed up on all the different ways you can wrangle the most cash for your show!
I’ve written this article about funding as a mid-scale regional theatre producer, I should mention up front that my experience in production is solely in this area. I do, however, have a good understanding of the fundamentals of funding and have included below some of the best routes to take when trying to achieve a strong financial backing for your show.
Do it Yourself
Putting your own money into a project saves a lot of the hassle of having to find yourself a budget from anywhere else.
It really can help.
But it’s not practical. You set yourself for massive risks and there is a very good chance you will lose money.
If you simply want to help get your show up and running, putting your own money in can be an option. But it shouldn’t be, and in most cases, it won’t be an option – if like most other people making small-scale theatre, you don’t have a disposable income to syphon into your creative endeavours.
But if you do, and you’re prepared to handle the risk, then more power to you.
Arts Council funding
The Arts Council may appear an enigmatic organisation – a practically incomprehensible eldritch horror guarding all the money for making subsidised theatre in the UK behind tall proverbial walls – however, they are a public funding body and it is important to remember they are in the business of supporting artists and making quality, sustainable (and demonstrably impactful) art happen.
With that in mind, I believe anyone can begin to discern what it is Arts Council England are looking for in their application forms.
I think it’s fair to say the Arts Council is an ideologically driven organisation, steered by a desire to engineer social change through art and supported artists: hence their characteristic insistence on outcomes and inclusion. They want to support work that promotes diversity and fair representation and they also want to support work that involves communities and groups of people that have historically not been engaged with theatre-making.
Understanding this is one way into thinking about how your work might better serve the narrative that Arts Council England is hoping to build.
That being said, how on earth can anyone begin to understand their inner workings and nuances?
Point is, you don’t have to.
If I haven’t done a good enough job of explaining what I understand the Arts Council look for in a funding application, it’s because I don’t have to either: Claudia West and Rachael Dobbs are far better placed than I am to help unravel the mystery of the Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants.
Trust them. They know best.
Trusts and foundations
To be or not to be… a charity.
A question raised at a recent meeting of theatre-makers at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre that I attended was, “Does registering as a charity make it easier to get funding?”
The delegate that raised the matter had noticed that many pots of funding are available exclusively to organisations and companies that are registered as a charity: “Do we register as a charity, then?” became the undercurrent of the discussion thereafter. (No consensus was agreed.)
It is quite possible that being a charity will open more funding opportunities for your company, but doing so also requires that you clearly outline your intentions to run a business for the benefit of the community – which I think would be a good thing – but you may disagree.
I would also recommend looking at the gov.uk website, naturally. I would also suggest you consider the way in which you want to make theatre, if you haven’t done so already.
You’d be surprised at the kindness of strangers. More surprised still around the kindness of your friends and family.
Crowdfunding for a project isn’t as much of a begging scheme as you may first think. Plenty of theatre crowdfunding initiatives offer tiered incentives for donations, such as signed merchandise or free tickets for smaller donations or a meet and greet with the cast after the show.
Deciding what website to do your crowdfunding can be made a lot easier by crowdfunding comparison websites like these.
At the end of the day, you’ll choose the option that works for you. I hope this guide has been useful to you, and best of luck in your future funding endeavours!
Joe Ramsden was raised in Wiltshire and Somerset, but maintains that his birth and in Burnley, Lancashire, qualifies him as a ‘Northener’. He lives in Liverpool and wherever possible he makes time to watch theatre.