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Christoph Jankowski introduces Creative Europe, the new EU funding progamme for the cultural and creative sectors.

Image of Robots and Avatars
Robots and Avatars, body>data>space (London) with partners KIBLA (Slovenia) and AltArt (Romania)

Creative Europe is set to be the next EU programme aimed at supporting the cultural and creative sectors. It replaces the current Culture, Media and Media Mundus programmes with a total budget for 2014 to 2020 of about €1.4bn. The key areas that the new programme focuses on are:

  • Reinforcing skills and competences of sector professionals in audience development and business and management models.
  • Supporting mobility of sector professionals and artists and cultural content and works of art (as in the current programme).

The Culture sub-programme includes all aspects of performing arts, visual arts, literature and heritage, but excludes audiovisual projects which are covered under the Media sub-programme. The bulk of the budget will go towards 'cooperation projects', programmes of activities jointly developed and run between at least three partner organisations located in three different countries. To be eligible, cooperation projects must be a genuine cultural collaboration. What brings together the partnership will often be a joint attempt at answering a question, addressing an issue or having a go at solving a problem; helping the wider cultural and creative sector to work better, or more efficiently, with better skills and a more joined-up approach. A project’s actions, activities and components need to clearly relate to each other, for example, workshops A, B and C must relate to residencies X, Y and Z, and they should all work towards the project's aims.

I believe that the UK cultural and creative sectors are very well prepared to work with Creative Europe

The new programme offers 50-60% funding towards each project, leaving the remaining 40-50% to be raised elsewhere. Importantly, the three or more project partners are not expected to have their share of the budget in the bank on the date of application − they just have to make a commitment to raise their contribution by the end of the project. Every project partner is expected to make a contribution towards this.

It is therefore important to bring funding partners on board. Organisations may have already agreed deliverables with funders and partners, and some of these activities could be built into cooperation projects, which may double these partners’ contributions or funding. There is no expectation that a cooperation project is run completely separately from an organisation's programme, or that it needs to be fundraised for entirely separately.

Applying for and then being involved in a cooperation project is not really difficult. You will need trust in your partners – and patience (not just with your partners but with the process which can sometimes be frustrating). Partners across different countries sometimes work in very different ways, in different languages, on different timescales and at different artistic levels. Planning must therefore begin early as it takes time to develop partnerships and ‘build’ projects. Deadlines are annual, so plan accordingly. You have to apply with a detailed budget and schedule, which means that you will have to do your homework. You will have to plan the project activities, where they will all happen, who will do what, and you will no doubt disagree on how and where to allocate costs. That process strengthens partnerships, and indeed, the stronger the partnership the more trust there is between partners and the better the project will run. Beware of ‘paper partnerships’ where someone calls you up and asks you to sign an agreement, you run some activities and that is it – an arrangement where you are essentially just sub-delivering someone else’s project. The best projects are the ones where all partners, across several countries, feel real ownership of the overall initiative and involvement in running the whole project.

So what then are the perceived barriers to making an application? Here are a few comments made to me:

  • “I'm not sure I have the confidence.” I always advise that others have done it, and have subsequently done it again. Also, the UK Cultural Contact Point provides advice and support throughout the process. (The rate of returning applications is high and most of them are actually small-to-medium-sized organisations, not national or public institutions).
  • “I can't find the match funding.” Raising the 40-50% of the project funding is no small feat, especially in these times, but again, this is shared across the partnership. There is no minimum amount that any partner has to put in, and any source of money - donations, sponsorship, fundraising, and also staff time - is an eligible contribution.
  • “I heard the reporting is hell and we need to account for every paperclip!” A project involving several partners in different countries, and with different languages has to be run as a tight ship, both in terms of coordination, finance and reporting (and you may have to hassle partners to send receipts). But this should not be anything that a small- or medium-sized organisation cannot handle.

Success rates for UK-led projects are high compared to other large European countries – up to 46% in some of the current programme’s strands. However, there are usually fewer applications from the UK than other large European countries.

I believe that the UK cultural and creative sectors are well prepared to work with Creative Europe, and to be successful in applying for support for cooperation projects. This is because UK partners and skills are in demand, the UK cultural and creative sectors are seen as very professional and the Creative Europe priorities are not new for the UK. Indeed, the themes Creative Europe deals with include audience development, new ways of working and skills – something we have been thinking about and working with for years now.

Almost everyone who has been involved has found their work and practice enriched. Joon Lynn Goh was one of the participants of Festival Lab, an intensive training programme run by eight contemporary performing arts festivals. Joon says: “My participation in the project opened up the true breadth of Europe for me – learning with a group of producers from professional backgrounds as diverse as the contexts they championed. The year-long opportunity of experiencing festivals, tenacious debate and on-the-ground producing was a dream. A rare investment in a profession that is all about people and making things happen together."

The UK Cultural Contact Point will change to the Creative Europe Desk, along with what is currently the MEDIA Desk UK (for the EU’s MEDIA programme, run by the British Film Institute). DCMS has not yet confirmed who will be running this, but the best way to keep up to date is to sign up to the CCP newsletter and to keep your eyes open for Creative Europe and the UK Creative Europe Desk where you will get plenty more useful support and advice.

Christoph Jankowski is Manager of the UK Cultural Contact Point (CCP), currently run by Visiting Arts.

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