New Opportunities for Circus Funding

Feature in Issue 15-1 | Spring 2003

Report by Verena Cornwall, chair of the Circus Arts Forum Steering Group.

Arts Council England (ACE) is the organisation that distributes money from central government and the National Lottery to people working in the arts. The organisation has just undergone a restructuring which means that in each region of England there is now an office of Arts Council England with paid staff who can give out funding for, amongst other artforms, circus...

As part of this change, ACE has just announced a simplified grant application programme which commences from April 2003 onwards. As well as assistance for companies, grants will be available for the first time to individuals to help with researching, creating new work, running projects, purchasing capital items, training and touring.

In order to apply for funding you need to complete their grant application form available from their helpline on 0845 300 6100 or via email on They will send you an application pack with the grant application form contained within and step-by-step instructions on how to complete this. Alternatively, go to and follow the links to download the form directly.

The form contains a series of questions which aim to build a picture of your activity for their assessors so that they can work out if you fit the criteria under which the money is handed out. To 'lodge' a funding application you need to fill out the form and compose a writer statement about what you plan to do with the money. You will also need to include details of how much money you need and how much you are likely to make from the activity you describe.

The funding offered is based around the following criteria so you need to show how your proposed activity will:

- Change people's lives through the opportunity to take part in or experience high quality arts activities.
- Increase opportunities for cultural diversity in the arts. By ‘cultural diversity', we mean the full range and variety of culture in the country, but with a particular focus on race and ethnic background.
- Support excellence, new ideas and activity to help build long-term stability in arts organisations.
- Invest in the creative talent of artists and individuals.
- Increase resources for the arts.

You do not need to meet all of the criteria. Success of your application also rests on the project's management, benefit to the public and feasibility. You will be expected to find at least 10% of your overall expenditure from other sources, such as earned Income

Grants are also available for capital purchases, for touring and stabilisation/recovery programmes, which are grants aimed at larger-scale organisations central to arts provision in England. It is usually only revenue-funded companies (i.e. those that receive public funding on an annual basis) that are eligible, but test cases for circus have recently been made. The ACE national office also has funds available called Flexible Funds which are not normally open to application, being distributed via negotiated partnerships, invitation, solicitation or limited tendering from organisations.

In March 2002, after working closely with the circus industry and the Circus Arts Forum (CAF), Arts Council England published a Strategy for Circus. This recognised circus as an artform for the first time and put forward ways in which circus could be helped to grow. Initiatives that have come from this strategy include the Circus Arts Forum National Conference in April 2003 and the CBProjects National Circus Development Project.

Now there is a strategy in place, circus practitioners and proprietors have the same access to funding as other artists. Each region has the same application forms and the same processes for assessing whether an applicant should get the funds available. For the first time there is an officer in place who has responsibility for circus in each region. So, once your application has been sent in the officer in your region for circus will decide whether to offer you funding.

When you have completed your funding application you send this to the office nearest to your home or headquarters. It is a good idea to make an appointment to talk to the circus officer at this office before you start to fill out the forms as they can help you structure your application.

The existence of officers with responsibility for circus in each region is good news. Members of the Circus Advisory Group at ACE and also at CAF are working closely with ACE to ensure that the new officers with responsibility for circus in each region understand the artform and its potential. To assist this process, find out who your local officer is and put them on your mailing list. The more quality circus work, either participatory or performance, that the officers see, the greater knowledge and respect they will have for the industry.

CAF will be closely monitoring the success rate of circus applications in each region and working with ACE to ensure that the artform receives its fair share of funding available.

This article in the magazine

Issue 15-1
p. 4