Creative Europe funding 2014 – 2020 * £14.7 billion + £1.46 billion!
Recently, Raj Patel, Relationship Manager Children, Young People and Learning at Arts Council England, suggested I write about my experiences with the EU funding system and my thoughts about the new programmes which have just come on line under the title Creative Europe.
Opera Circus successfully led a two year Cultural programme called Wake Up using EU funding, some €92,000. In addition, we found the same sum in match funding and since then have also led a couple of Youth in Action programmes, the latter now called Erasmus +. [Youth in Action will be still be called the Youth programme but it is now under the umbrella of Erasmus Plus, alongside the other programmes such as Leonardo da Vinci, Grundtvig, etc.]
Simply Human, the last event in the EU Cultural Project, Wake Up – youth cultural leaders from Srebrenica and Suceska in Bosnia, presenting their political challenges to the All Party Committee on Bosnia at the Houses of Parliament.
I am an artist who runs a chamber opera company that also does a significant amount of development work, which is also called ‘education’, ‘engagement’, ‘participation’, or whatever is the currently approved terminology. Who decides when the description of a process changes anyway?
I am not an accountant nor a manager, but an artist who co-founded a music/opera theatre company 22 years ago with a group of other opera singers. I notice I’ve already mentioned the word artist twice in only a couple of sentences. I have to keep reminding myself that’s who I am to stop drowning in a sea of funding applications, CPR checks, social engineering and bureaucracy.
We started the company because we wanted to sing arias no one would pay us to sing, travel widely and create our own work, particularly if it involved physical theatre, clowning and some, questionable, acrobatics. But it worked and we revelled in touring all over the world with our own productions, some winning awards. Our next production is a new chamber opera called Naciketa, with the inspirational composer Nigel Osborne and playwright Ariel Dorfman.
I applied for the first EU Culture programme grant in 2009 with the help of someone who knew their way around Euro-speak and who had worked in Brussels. We were successful for a number of reasons. Anne was experienced with EU forms including budget spreadsheets. I knew the work we wanted to create inside out and we had established partners whom I trusted. We also liked each other, which helped during the endless hours sitting in front of a computer. I had to find a couple of thousand pounds to pay for the invaluable guidance.
Geoffrey Brown, the EU funding guru [who runs Euclid*], said at a recent funding seminar, that the British are very good at applying for EU funding, and our success rate is much higher than most other countries which apply. On the other hand the number of us who actually apply is very low. We are also good at providing a wide variety of partners and we are creative in our choices. We innately understand that to have only France and Germany involved is not as interesting as, for instance, Lithuania, Portugal and Turkey.
Geoffrey talked about the importance of ‘The Idea’ and ‘The Partners’; get these right and the forms are not so bad. I would also add, one must truly understand what the EU means by ‘financial reporting’. Their rules and regulations about the invoicing, receipts, signatures and everything else they require before they release 1 Euro, are beyond anything we ever have to manage in the UK in terms of our accounting. And they don’t really understand the word freelance! They refuse to pay an incorrectly submitted invoice, for instance, one that doesn’t have a signature on it. They refuse to pay anything that you haven’t identified and itemised in the original application and they will only pay the final third of the grant once all your technical and financial reporting has been approved. This is the case, no matter how successful your project. The Brussels office is also late with practically everything they say they are going to do, including paying the first and last tranche of the funding for the project. Our first payment was 2 months late, so make sure your project start date is well in the future and that you have sufficient cash-flow to survive the late delivery of the final tranche at the end of the project. This also goes for the British Council who are the new UK contact point for Erasmus Plus (working with Ecorys). Another useful organisation is SALTO.
The second event in Wake Up, the first ever performance of a live opera in Srebrenica Bosnia, with Nigel Osborne’s Differences in Demolition. There were speeches beforehand in the Cultural Centre. The then British Ambassador, Michael Tatham, watches as Milena Nikolic, the President of the Youth Council at that time, talks about the aims of the Young Cultural Leaders in the town and the work of the Youth Council and Youth Centre.
Good partners bring wonderful gifts to everything you do; they inspire, they generously contribute skills you may not have and they provide support and strength. They also sometimes deliver on their promised match funding contribution, but sometimes they don’t. Really good partners remain so for ever. We are lucky enough to have that with Youth Council in Srebrenica, Bosnia and with Teater Mimart in Belgrade, Serbia, both of whom were involved in Wake Up.
The EU grant enabled us to run this 2 year programme of exceptional events in the Netherlands, Austria, Belgrade, Srebrenica and Bridport, Dorset. At the end of the project we estimated that about 10 million people had heard about the work. We inspired large groups of young people in the Srebrenica region of Bosnia, in Belgrade and Dorset, and 31 Ambassadors got to see our last opera performed in concert at the Hofburg Palace, Vienna. None of this would have happened without EU funding. We also thank the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) who were the most generous and supportive of partners, the British Embassy and the British Council, BiH, Serbia and Austria.
We have run a series of youth programmes through Youth in Action, in Bosnia and Bridport, all of which have full reports on our web site. These were as successful as the events above, involving hundreds of young people, helping them to develop skills, learning tolerance and what global citizenship means and becoming more engaged in culture and the arts.
Poul Smidt, Diplomatic Advisor to the EU President in BiH, talking with a group of youth leaders from Bridport and Dorchester, Dorset and Srebrenica, Bratunac, Milici and Suceska at a lunch at the restaurant Bato in Srebrenica town.
Our first Youth in Action funded project Like a Film in My Mind began as an evaluation of Simply Human and a big celebration of the importance of culture and the arts to inspire communities. The second was a Job Shadowing process with Hariz Alic, Director of the Suceska Youth Centre and Nemanja Zekic, Director of the Srebrenica Youth Centre.
There was a period after the endless grappling with the EU office over a final tranche of our grant, that I thought, never again. But, a year later I look at the new Creative Europe guidelines and see that they have become more flexible. They also allow for more creativity, and we can now engage our Indian partners as the guidelines are open to a new category of Associate Partner, who can be from anywhere in the world.
Exploring Naciketa with partners Vidya Sagar, Chennai and the Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry in India – artists include Nigel Osborne, composer, Darren Abrahams, Prakriti Dutta, Simon Thacker and Embar Kannen, singers and instrumentalists.
There is €1.46 billion available over 7 years for creative work in the arts, culture and the creative industries. In addition, the Erasmus Plus programme provides €14.7 billion for both projects and small-scale mobility activities that are focused on education, training, young people and sport – and some of this is granted by the British Council in the UK, so is a little easier to access than submitting applications to Brussels . They are keen for us to develop audiences, inspire innovation, create lots of projects with young people and encourage employment through developing new skills. I also know that in 2015, ACE is going to help with some match funding as investment that will make tackling this difficult aspect of any project budget a lot easier.
In the Cultural funds there are two programmes, small and large. The small one offers a maximum of €200,000, which can be no more than 60% of the total budget and the large one up to €2 million which can be 50% of the budget.
If you want to be really connected with a web site that knows what’s going on join Connexus* and try to attend one of Geoffrey Brown’s seminars on EU funding, which are clear and simple and remove some of the fear. Once the British Council have caught up with the new funding guidelines, you can contact them as well.
Geoffrey Brown has agreed to come to Dorset and give artists and cultural organisations their own seminar and it’s reasonably priced. Dorset County Council, in their continuing support of the rich creative and cultural life in this county, has offered some funding to help cover the costs.
Applying is hard work and again I will have to find someone to guide me through some of the process, but how can I complain that there is no money for art when there are these cultural riches in Brussels aimed at artists and encouraging them to create new work? And the new funding is flexible enough for us to apply for the costs of the new opera’s production and its first tour, and will allow participation with all our partners, including those in India. There is no choice but to apply.
Lidjia Antonovic, photographer from Belgrade, Maja Djukanovic, Steve Tompkin, UK Architect and Nela Antonovic, Director Teater Mimart, Belgrade. At the Youth Centre in Srebrenica after a discussion of the importance of cultural spaces.
All photographs and film by Robert Golden, except India which was taken by Maximilian Lutoslawski. With thanks.