Artichoke’s Lumiere light festival is hugely reliant on sponsorship. As it prepares to come to London for the first time, Sarah Coop describes the unique challenge of securing support in a new city. 

Photo of Durham Lumiere 2015
1.26 Durham by Janet Echelman, produced by Artichoke in Durham for Lumiere 2015

Matthew Andrews

I’ve been raising money for the arts since 1984 and in my experience sponsors are all looking for different things. My goal is always to avoid pigeon-holing donors according to the amount they give. If a sponsor likes a project enough to contribute to it, then I want to ensure that both sides get the same level of satisfaction from the partnership. Branding and PR opportunities, hospitality packages and media interaction are widely sought after, but Artichoke consistently tries to offer extra, unique benefits to a sponsor that can entice them to carry on giving beyond the duration of the project.

Artichoke is one of the UK’s leading creative producers of outdoor events. We create large-scale, high-impact, free events in public spaces. We work all over the UK and spend a huge amount of time researching prospects for each project. When a new event in 2009 took us to Norfolk, we had to begin fundraising without a single lead, not knowing anyone in the area, and placing ourselves in competition with establishments and outfits that had been cultivating sponsors for years. I have no doubt that our success in meeting project targets lies in our flexibility, in the extent to which we research and consider the priorities of sponsors, and in the way we involve sponsors at every stage of an event. Consistent communication and a willingness to listen are key, and it is when both of these factors come into play that the most rewarding partnerships are achieved.

The hardest part is finding the founding supporters, which takes a huge amount of time, detailed research and perseverance

In January next year we will bring the light festival Lumiere to London to transform the cityscape with a series of art installations which will surprise, delight and literally stop people in their tracks. It will take place in the streets around St James’s, Piccadilly and Regent Street with a satellite site in King’s Cross. The festival will build on the legacy of the success of London 2012, providing an unmissable opportunity to show London’s heritage, architecture and history in a new light.

The primary challenge with Lumiere (and indeed any Artichoke project) is that it is a free event, staged in the public space, which means that we have no access to ticket income. Conversely, this makes our business model low risk, since success does not rest on a box office target. We receive a grant from Arts Council England that covers four-fifths of our core costs, but the target for each project (usually around £2m) has to be raised from scratch. The money for Lumiere London has had to be sourced from the usual combination of statutory funding, sponsorships, grants from trusts and foundations, individual donations and support in kind.

It was the success of Lumiere in Durham (we have staged it biennially since 2009 in the city) that led to the Mayor of London commissioning a Lumiere for London. The highly distinctive nature of the festival fits within the Mayor of London’s strategy of positioning London as a world-class cultural city and tourist destination. Although we have not worked in London for some years, we have a track record of fundraising for multi-million pound projects countrywide.

We treat every event as a capital campaign, initially looking for a principal sponsor, followed by major supporters, installation sponsors and working down to corporate entertainment packages and in-kind sponsorship. The hardest part is finding the founding supporters, which takes a huge amount of time, detailed research and perseverance. The beauty of projects like Lumiere is that they are scaleable. While initially we may be working to a budget of £2m, this can increase according to interest, allowing us to produce a festival that is even more appealing, both to sponsors and to the public. Happily, we have reached the £2m point for London, but at this late stage we are still in conversation with a number of corporates for some significant sums.

Fundraising for Lumiere London is a completely different experience from raising money in Durham. The Durham budget is £1.8m, a target we hit in early September. The sheer number of sponsors involved in Durham – we have a huge support base of 70 sponsors – presents a challenge, as servicing them all and meeting their business objectives takes a significant amount of work. Our fundraising efforts this year were supported by a fantastic development board of prominent business people from the region, and we also get a great level of support from the council in helping us to identify sponsors.

As this is our fourth Lumiere in Durham, most of the local people love it and are aware of the benefits that it brings to the city. The extent of public support is a major motivator for prospective Durham partners. At our last festival in 2013 we counted 175,000 visitors to the city. Helped by this footfall, we brought £5.8m of economic benefits to the region. These figures have also helped to create a convincing argument to put to London sponsors, who recognise the advantages of drawing visitors into the public space during a traditionally quieter time of year. However, in London we are in competition with a whole host of major arts organisations all looking for sponsors, and it is crucial that we tailor our proposals to suit our partners.

Sarah Coop is Development Director at Artichoke.

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Photo of Sarah Coop