Posted 11 July 2023
Written by Lara Monro
Mention Arts Council England

What is Arts Council funding and how can you apply for it?

With an annual budget of around £446 million, Arts Council England (or ACE) is the UK’s largest public funding body for the arts and cultural sectors. But even though it’s supported a huge number of incredible initiatives, it is notoriously hard to apply for, with complicated guidelines. This is where Lara Monro can help. As an access support worker and bid writer, she has helped countless creatives through the process, and here she shares her most valuable insight and advice.

What funding is available through Arts Council England (ACE)?

ACE has two strands of public funding for individual cultural and creative practitioners, collectives and arts organisations:

The national average success rate for submissions to ACE is approximately 10-20%.

You can apply for the funding via Grantium, Arts Council England’s platform for submissions. Currently submissions are open until August 10, 2023, and successful applicants will be announced on November 2, 2023.

Who is the Develop Your Creative Practice grant for?

Since 2018, the DYCP fund has supported over 4,000 creative and cultural practitioners, both individuals and small groups based in England – across music, theatre, dance, visual arts, literature, libraries, combined arts, and museums practice.

With the grant, you can apply for funds between £2,000 and £12,000. Unsurprisingly, it is an exceptionally competitive grant, as you can only apply three times a year (whereas with the NLPG you can apply all year round).

The DYCP funds creative development opportunities or projects that can last up to a year, such as a period of research and development (R&D), learning new skills, experimenting with a completely different creative or cultural practice.

To give you more context, here is what ACE classifies as a development opportunity:

  • Building new networks for future development/presentation of work
  • Creating new work
  • Experimenting with new collaborators or partners
  • International travel to explore other practice or work with mentors
  • Professional development activities
  • Research and development time to explore practice and take risks
  • Practical steps to support your work to be more sustainable in future

What are the criteria for DYCP funding?

The DYCP grant is available to creative and cultural practitioners at all stages and levels of their practice. ACE’s definition for who is eligible is broad, encompassing everyone from dancers, writers, producers, musicians, actors and directors, to designers, curators, DJs, arts and cultural educators and creative technicians. Check out their website to see the full list.

In order to apply you must be:

  • At least 18 years old

  • Have one years’ creative practice experience outside a formal education context (this could include work as a librarian, musician, performing in a dance troupe or circus, exhibiting in an art or non-art setting, performing spoken word, writing for a publication, organising cultural events/programmes, facilitating community art workshops)

  • Have a UK bank account in the name you are applying in (if you apply as a small group, one person should submit the application and provide bank details)

How can an access support worker help?

The applications for ACE are notoriously complex to get your head around – let alone if you have specific access needs. Thankfully, ACE identified this issue and introduced ‘Access Support’, which also includes support for those involved in the mental health system or with a learning disability.

As an Access Support worker and bid writer, I help alleviate any anxiety around the application process by offering my expertise, guidance and constant encouragement. If you know what to say and how to say it, you won't want to run for the hills when thinking about applying for an ACE grant.

A note for neurodivergent creatives and creatives with a disability

Access Support can be used to help with reading the funding guidance or making an application online, access a BSL interpreter to support you in one-to-one meetings, translating applications made in BSL into written English, as well as assist you with navigating Grantium, the platform where you upload and submit your application.

To secure the support, you will need to submit a request via this online form. As part of the request, you will need to outline your barriers, and share a breakdown of the support you will be getting from your support worker.

What are examples of successful applications?

To give you the best chance at securing the funds, ACE shares successful DYCP applications via their website, which can be a useful resource when looking to apply.

Below are a few examples:

The White Pube is also a brilliant resource – they have a whole library of successful applications, including successful NLPGs.

✍️ Expert tips for creating a great application

1. Create your Grantium account now

In order to submit your application, you have to create a profile on Grantium. This involves adding basic information (including your address).

It can take up to 10 days for ACE to approve your profile so if you wait until the last minute, in the worse case scenario, it could mean you are unable to submit your application. To avoid unnecessary stress, do it sooner rather than later.

2. Don’t write your application in Grantium

The Grantium portal is not very user-friendly, and often crashes. If you are writing your application in the portal and it crashes, you will lose the material you have been working on; there is no undo button on Grantium.

Instead, I strongly advise that you work from a Google Doc to write your application. This also means that you can share your material with other individuals; this could be your Access Support Worker and/or friends so that they can make comments and edits.

3. Add ‘milestone reflection’ and evaluation days

In the project timeline within your application, including ‘milestone reflection days’ shows ACE that you are making a conscious effort to assess and learn from the development opportunity.

A ‘milestone reflection day’ is an opportunity for you to review and evaluate your project so far. For example, journaling about your experiences, having check-ins with a support worker, having professional or creative mentor sessions to assess your progress.

Milestone reflection days
When you add a ‘milestone reflection day’ to your timeline, it can look something like this:

  • Milestone Reflection Day: To review and reflect on community outreach sessions in September with young people and plan for upcoming sessions in October.
  • Milestone Reflection Day: Half a day working with creative mentor XXX to review draft of book and half a day incorporating edits and comments.

Adding an evaluation period
You should also include an evaluation period at the end of your project timeline to show ACE that you have factored in space to carry out their evaluation form (don’t worry, it isn’t a big form – they just ask you a few questions about your project including how it has supported your development).

I usually suggest to my clients that they allocate three to five days for this with a description along the lines of:

  • Evaluation of DYCP Project: Final review of achievements and any changes that occurred during project.

4. Always include a contingency in your budget

I recommend having a contingency budget (a cost that allows for potential events that are not accounted for) in a cost estimate. This should be around 5% of your total budget, as this ensures you have a cash reserve in the event of anything unexpected happening.

If you have not included a contingency in your budget, ACE will view this as a risk and won’t fund the application. By including contingency, you are showing initiative, which fills the marker with confidence. It will also come in handy, I assure you!

5. Add in personal access costs

Similar to the Access Support you can secure for writing an application, you are also eligible to request Personal Access Costs in your project budget. These costs will be separate to your main budget as they will be covered by ACE.

Personal Access costs include: a support worker to assist in the management of your project (e.g. overseeing your timeplan and budget), a specialist tutor, counsellor, note-taker and/or BSL interpreter.

6. Make sure you’re paying everyone

One of ACE’s main priorities is ensuring creative and cultural practitioners are paid fairly. With this in mind, remember to budget for payment of both yourself and anyone involved. It is always beneficial to use industry rates and to show these in the breakdown of your budget. You can use different payment guidelines for this.

  • Artist Fee for 6 month DYCP project: £8400 (£175/day @ 2 days/week) – calculated using A-n pay guidelines
  • Conductor Fee for 9 month DYCP project: £2250 (£250/3 hr session @ 1 session/month) – calculated using Using Music Union Rates
  • Creative Mentor Fee for 4 months DYCP project: £600 (£150/session @ 1 sessions/month – rate agreed with individual)

7. Be confident in your answers!

The markers have a lot of applications to go through, so the clearer and more confident it is for them to get an understanding of your project, the better.

Always back up a statement with how you’ll achieve something. Try to avoid writing in a narrative style. Instead, use short sentences and bullet points to outline and breakdown your project.

Be confident
Rather than say: I aim to create a series of sustainable sculptures.
You should say: I will create a series of sculptures.

Say how you’ll do something
E.g. I will create a series of sustainable sculptures. I will achieve this by XXX.

Be clear
E.g. DYCP will fund a period of 6 months R&D in script development for a draft performance focusing on mental health and creativity. This will include:

  • Monthly crit sessions with XXX
  • Monthly experimentation and feedback sessions with actors

  • Weekly draft reviews

  • Final presentation & feedback session on script development at XXX


DYCP will support skill development in fabrication for a site specific installation to present at XXX. This will be achieved through:

  • 6 one-to-one sessions with technical fabricator XXX

  • Weekly mentor sessions with XXX an established site specific artist

  • 1 week fabrication course at XXX

Arts Council England’s Develop Your Creative Practice funding (Round 18) is open for applications and you can request free Access Support. It closes on August 10, 2023; and successful applicants will be announced on November 2, 2023.

Whether you are neurodivergent or neurotypical, feel free to get in touch with Lara to find out more about how she can support you in submitting an application: [email protected]

Written by Lara Monro
Mention Arts Council England