Arts Council England has handled 2,478 Grantium enquiries since 1 January 2017 and published a third help document.
Arts Council England
Arts organisations are struggling to use Arts Council England (ACE)’s “nightmare” funding portal, Grantium, ahead of the deadline for National Portfolio applications next week.
Between 1 January and 5pm on 25 January, the Customer Services team at ACE handled 2,478 Grantium enquiries, made up of 2,191 calls and 287 emails. This represents 40% of all enquiries that ACE has dealt with since 1 January.
“It’s a nightmare,” one Chief Executive of a producing theatre told AP. “Having worked on the application for a month, I was told last week I had to set up a whole new application and start again, because it would not accept edits.”
This marks the first time large arts organisations have grappled with the £930k system – normally used by North American government departments – which has become infamous among Grants for the Arts (G4A) applicants for its incomprehensible language, confusing design and lack of accessibility for neurodivergent applicants.
Though then-ACE Deputy Chief Executive Althea Efunshile blogged in 2016 that “One word that keeps coming up from the organisations we tested the system with is [original emphasis] intuitive,” ACE has been obliged to release another help document to guide Grantium applicants.
Responding to Efunshile’s promise that the introduction of Grantium would “save around £1 million each year”, artist Dan Thompson said this came through passing the cost over to applicants:
“Grantium savings are supported by massive in-kind donation of artist time, as they support each other through applications,” he tweeted.
ACE's Grantium savings are supported by massive in-kind donation of artist time, as they support each other through applications. https://t.co/BWwyGf2UH6
— Dan Thompson (@artistsmakers) January 13, 2017
One Chief Executive of a leading NPO told AP: “We're pitching across a dozen online portals each year now; all have got leaner, sharper and a better fit for talking about art. Except Grantium, which polices your answers by character count.
“Grantium is more than just a giant leap backwards; it's actually an existential barrier to getting funding to UK artists.
“It's funny, because it's so painfully bad; a typical civil service IT disaster. But then it's NOT funny because Grantium is a real access issue for arts orgs without the capacity and experience to handle the additional challenge.
They continued: “ACE tells us Grantium comes from Canada, but in the office we think it's a clear case of sabotage by Russian hackers.
“Grantium actually looks and feels like a Soviet-era interface for monitoring grain harvests.”
NPO applicants have until noon on Wednesday 1 February to submit their completed formlets.