National Portfolio

So I’m going to jump right in: we’re totally fricking delighted to be an Arts Council NPO for the 2018-2022 round. It was our first time applying, we made a very conscious decision to write an application that didn’t misrepresent who we are and the work we do as a small artist-led collaboration making contemporary performance. We wanted to be funded as artists to make our work, and we believed (and still believe) passionately that ACE should make space in the portfolio for artists whose raison d’etre is making new work. It seems like this is beginning to happen, and we’re thrilled to be part of it.

We want to say a couple of things and make some commitments:

  •  We believe artists who are ready should be funded through the portfolio to make their work, and we will support artists who wish to apply for the next round.
  •  We will use our position as an artist-led NPO to advocate for the role of artists as decision makers, leaders and strategists, as well as makers and drivers of extraordinary artworks
  •  We will use our position as an artist-led NPO with a long history of independent self-sustaining practice to advocate for fair payment of independent artists
  •  We have some money now (you can check how much all the NPO’s get on the Arts Council’s website. We applied for and got £92k per year), and although our main focus is making our work, we will of course work with other people as part of that process. We commit to paying well above industry minimums- we actually already do this, but we wanted to say it out loud.
  •  Since we have some money, we’re going to give some of it away. From 2019 we’re starting an annual bursary/fellowship of £6k in cash for an artist on the cusp of being able to quit their day job to help them commit to their practice full time. Of course we’ll also support, mentor and champion them over that period but lets be honest: money is the single most enabling force for independent artists.
  •  We tour a LOT. One of the bad things about that is we miss Bristol. One of the good things is we meet incredible amazing artists, most of whom have heard of the city but never visited. Or, if they have visited it was a ‘hit and run’ scenario where they showed their work and left the next day. So once a year we’re going to invite an artist from outside the UK to Bristol to host a Lab with makers from the city and further afield.
  •  We’ll mainly be making our work, and it’ll be bigger and more brilliant
  •  Here’s a thing that people say when they hear you’re an artist who has applied/received NPO: “so will you have to be totally different now?” The answer is no. We applied to be a company whose main focus is creating work. That is what we will do. Sure, there’ll be a bunch of stuff we have to do to be accountable for the money we receive. But really, that is a privilege. Managing a career based on project funding and touring the shit out of everything you’ve ever made also takes a phenomenal amount of planning, reporting and accounting but you don’t have the resources to help you do it and you don’t get paid to do most of that work. we’ll report back in a couple of years to let you know how the two ways of working compare.
  •  We wrote our own NPO application. We felt like we needed to say that, just to counter a couple of insinuations to the contrary. These suggestions were not ill meaning, but I think its important for other artists to know that you can a) be an artist and b) write a really great funding application and c) generally have your organisational shit together whilst d) being an independent company without external producing support. Actually I think its good for the whole sector to know that.
  •  That said, a whole bunch of people read drafts and fed back to us. We also read other people’s drafts and fed back to them. We are planning to work with some excellent people to support and collaborate on AH’s future. I don’t know who they’ll be- in the Autumn we’ll put out a call.

There’s probably other stuff to say but for now, that’s it. Its taken us a couple of weeks to process, hence the late announcement. But anyway. We’re so pleased.

Big love

Gemma & James xx

We have a very long list of thank you’s, Gwyneth style. In no particular order:

Theatre Bristol- without their continued support there’s literally no way we’d be here now. I can’t overstate that enough.

Alex Kelly and Third Angel- total legends who’ve mentored us since 2005 when James did a placement as a gangly MA student

Helen Cole- Helen’s support for us as young, unknown artists was really the sole reason we were able to begin a practice in Bristol

Tamsin Drury- our first ever gig was at GreenRoom as part of Emergency in 2005. You were meant to live in Manchester to be able to participate, but we didn’t. To get around this we said we’d perform in the bar.

Ilana Mitchell- whenever we’ve had an idea for a totally implausible project that pretty much no-one would let us do, we’ve gone to Ilana, and we’ve done it. She makes shit happen.

Laura McDermott- helped us with planning the next 5 years, general all around dude and supporter since she saw us perform in London in 2006. She told us to drop by to chat if we were passing nearby BAC. We drove to London to meet her and pretended we’d been visiting a friend and were in town already.

Paul Burns- at the start of 2016 we were deep in a hole of illness, stress and disillusionment. We went to chat to Matt Burman who told us we needed Paul Burns. He was right, we did.

Mel Scaffold- our producer from 2013-2016. I think we would’ve quit if it weren’t for Mel.

Farnham Maltings- the incredible generosity of this organisation is really something else. In the second half of last year they gave us a fellowship of £15,000 no strings attached which changed our lives. It is in the spirit of paying it forward that we’ll offer our own bursary/fellowship thingy.

Our advisory board: Kate Yedigaroff, Laura McDermott, Paul Burns, Richard Gregory, Mel Scaffold- literally the best bunch of people you could get together in one room.

Residence- we’re in it for life, dudes.

Forest Fringe- again, we’re lifers.

Bretton Hall- quite simply was the best place on earth to learn, practice & run around in the woods. Bretton 4 Eva. RIP.

Ben Francombe- our tutor at Bretton Hall, continues to support us (and take the piss out of us) from Chichester university.

Artist friends- Laura & Dan, Lucy & Simon, Jo, Karla, Andy Debbie & Ira, Brian, Jess & Tim, Tim & Tanuja, Pete & Jodie for convos into the night about art, theatre, life.

China Plate and Nick Walker – the Darkroom residency saved us when we were in a creative rut and the work we did in those 2 weeks continues to inspire us now

Collaborators old and new- too many to list, all of them we’ve learned from and been enriched by.

The people who come and see our work – megafans, the ones who write us thoughtful and touching emails afterwards, the ones who heckle, the ones who tell us they’ve been inspired to make their own work, the bemused people hiding at the back – all of you are brilliant

Arts Council England- Phil Hindson, Phil Gibby, Neil Darlison & Michelle Dickson for encouragement, guidance & belief.

Bristol- love ya.