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Submitting a grant application can be a difficult and confusing process. Deaf artist Olivier Jamin shares his tips for disabled applicants.

Photo of a full motion screen in Birmingham with Olivier's artwork on

I’ve recently been funded via Arts Council England’s (ACE) Grants for the Arts programme to show a series of art installations and public exhibitions in Birmingham. But I wish someone had told me years ago that ACE can provide you with access costs when you submit an application.

My top tip is don’t keep waiting for someone to help you until it is too late. Contact the Arts Council for guidance and advice. And remember this: if you don’t ask for anything, you’ll never know what could’ve happened.

Understand the process

Before you begin, you have to know what you’re applying for. There are two different versions of Grants for the Arts:

  • One for grants of £15k or under
  • Another for grants of over £15k

You can apply for the lower grants and get an answer from ACE within six weeks, but it will take up to 12 weeks to hear if your application for a grant of over £15k has been successful. So it is very important to think about applying in advance – you can’t start an application within a month, for example. The best advice is to apply three or more months ahead to have the project started. There’s more information on ACE’s site here and here.

Plan for your own disability

I am Deaf and require British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters to support me with my application. Personally, I prefer looking at images or watching BSL videos to going through pages and pages of text, so I have an interpreter to translate the application sections, guidance packs, emails, and website into BSL for me. I also need an interpreter when attending meetings and when making phone calls to keep in contact with colleagues or with ACE’s customer service team.

Photo of a poster featuring one of Olivier's artworksYou have to remember that writing an application is hard, and that each section has a strict word count. Do you need questions to be explained to you? Do you need help condensing your answers? How will you contact people? How will they contact you? You must factor in this and the time to explain your full vision, aims, knowledge and goals to the person supporting you. I don’t think my application would’ve been possible without an interpreter – so bear this in mind.

ACE has some useful advice here:

Know how to ask for help when you need it

The Arts Council was very helpful at every stage of my application. I met with the Relationship Manager in Birmingham and also contacted the customer services team via interpreted phone calls.

Use the customer services team. They have been helpful – trying their best to reply to all of my questions and offering advice. They cannot say which applications will be successful because they are very clear that they advise everyone equally, whether the application will be successful or not. 

If you are Deaf, you have three ways to contact them: via an interpreter, via the minicom phone number for your local Arts Council office, via the enquiry form.

Understand costs

Once you know what help you need, you need to think about costs.

ACE will provide access costs for applicants with disabilities. You do not need to pay this back during the application process, but you need to be aware about adding the cost of support, as well as how many hours you need after receiving the funding, into the form. For example, do you need to book support for launch days and workshops? How long would you need that support for?

Photo of a Olivier's installationsYou must discuss how much support you’ll need with ACE, through your local office and the customer service team. It’s important to get their approval before going ahead and booking interpreters.

I chose freelance BSL interpreters who knew my background, art and my vision for the project. If you’re Deaf, you can choose either a local interpreting agency or a freelance BSL interpreter. BSL interpreters must be registered with NRCPD. ACE can check Interpreter’s ID records via the NRCPD website to ensure they are fully qualified and have the right level of training.

Olivier Jamin is an artist who has been Deaf since birth. He is supported by 'Grants for the Arts' through Arts Council England. The art installations started on 1 February and will run until 28 February 2017.

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