Josephine Burns, chair of Without Walls, now has a regular column in Access All Areas. In this, her first edition, she talks arts grants.

This month Without Walls grew up. For ten years we’ve been commissioning new work for the outdoors, leaping about on the edge of the cultural landscape like a feisty teenager. More than a hundred shows later, Arts Council England, our main funder, has given us a significant uplift in funding and status.

The UK’s outdoor arts is under-funded compared with other European countries and therefore less developed – we’ve always known what artists and makers need most is time to play, to explore, to refine, released from the constraints of being on the road. Without Walls is delighted to announce its new Blueprint fund will support 21 new R&D projects; these selected from over 100 great proposals that came forward in response to the open-call.

It seems R&D investment is difficult to access in many arts/cultural sectors unlike science and technology. Most investment is focused on ‘outputs’ – a show or event – making R&D hard to finance if you don’t get regular funding.

Last month NESTA published a report that highlights the importance of “cultivating a culture of experimentation in [arts] organisations” (p15). It is mentioned as one of the key challenges to developing the arts in the next decade

Arts Council England has just announced a new fund for individual creatives – Developing Your Creative Practice – which is clearly designed to address this gap though artists have to have three years experience to apply.

The value of artistic experimentation is key to the development of truly high quality work – maybe we’re all growing up now.

Without Walls Projects:

Carousel by Southpaw Dance Company. A Without Walls R&D commission in 2014, this show has toured nationally across the UK ever since.

451 by Corn Exchange Newbury and Periplum. Since Without Walls R&D commission in 2014, this work has toured across the UK, including Brighton Festival, Norfolk & Norwich Festival, Greenwich+Docklands International Festival and Stockton International Riverside Festival. 

As The World Tipped by Wired Aerial Theatre, written and directed by Nigel Jamieson is one of the UK’s most successful large scale outdoor show produced by XTRAX and co-produced with Without Walls. Since R&D inception in 2010, this show has been performed over 50 times to audiences across the UK and festivals in France, Germany, Australia, South Korea, Italy and more across the globe. The show can been seen in August 2018 at the Szigte festival in Hungary.