Published date 14 May 2024

New cash to help regional artists and creatives grow their businesses

Person playing guitar Image credit: Creative Power Town

New £2,000 grants for West of England freelancers working in the creative sector are available from Mayor Dan Norris through Culture West.

Freelancers are at the heart of creativity and productions in the West of England and across the country. 47% of workers in the world-leading West of England creative industries are freelancers, compared with 15% of the wider regional workforce.

But they have suffered from a disproportionate lack of investment and government support, with many freelance artists leaving the sector, especially since the pandemic.

Enter this £200,000 creative fund from Mayor Norris who is on a mission to back talented West of England artists, technicians, designers, curators, producers, writers and other freelances to develop their skills or learn a new creative practice to get on in the world-leading creative industries.

Creative freelancers can apply for grants of up to £2,000 to support various activities such as research and development, professional development, creation of new work, collaboration, training, and more. Projects can span up to nine months and should be completed by June 2025.

Mayor Norris who will go behind the scenes at Bath’s Egg Theatre where Bath Theatre Academy are busy putting the final touches to their musical Little Shop of Horrors with the help of ten expert freelancers, ahead of its opening night, said:

“One of the very first decisions I took as Mayor was to back freelancers who had been hammered during the pandemic.

“Without talented freelancers across the arts, our region’s theatres, high streets, buildings, film and TV and museums would be sorely lacking in creativity.

“But we know that trickle down of investment in organisations and support doesn’t always flow through to freelancers. That’s a big problem – not least in terms of limiting access to our world-class creative industries.

“This new funding underlines my commitment to actors, fashion designers, artists, animators and many others to grow, and get on in our creative industries.”

Mayor Dan Norris has invested more than £1 million supporting over 800 of the region’s creative freelancers since his election in May 2021. Tessa Cobb, a top-notch West of England children's author and illustrator, won a grant under a previous version of the mayoral scheme. She said:

"The grant from the Mayoral Combined Authority enabled me to take risks and try new processes. Since the grant I've created four books which are far more expressive than previous work. I've completed an MA, and secured agency representation. My books are currently out on submission with 25 global publishers.

“I'm really grateful to have had this time to try new things that really enhanced my work which is taking me into new markets. "

Phil Gibby, South West Area Director, Arts Council England, said:

"We’re proud to support the future of freelancing with the West of England Mayoral Combined Authority, through our joint Culture West programme.

“From actors and set designers to photographers and producers, self-employed creatives can be found in every corner of the cultural sector, yet we so often hear they feel like an invisible workforce.

“This cash boost goes some way to recognising their dedication and retaining specialist skills, so that culture can continue to flourish in the West of England for the good of all audiences."

James Moore, Head of Engagement at Theatre Royal Bath, added:

“The Bath Theatre Academy season of work represents the excellence that can be achieved when we give young people access to world-class theatre makers in an extraordinary venue. The Egg has gathered a huge team of over 50 freelancers to work on the four productions being staged this May, enabling our in-house students to experience making theatre to a professional standard.

“It’s paramount to the success of the industry that young people, and freelance creatives, are given the opportunities and means to make work locally.”

Applications are open (this Wednesday 15 May) at https://www.westofengland-ca.gov.uk/what-we-do/innovation/culture-west/creative-freelancer-grants/.

Group of creative people in the theatre
Group of creative people in the theatre
Group of creative people in the theatre
Group of creative people in the theatre

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