Why Not Apply for Funding? [Part 2]

The 8 metre wide poster of Lucy Lavers on the Maritime Heritage Centre in Stiffkey, North Norfolk

I wrote a post back in March called Why Not Apply for Funding? which I’ve now suffixed with ‘Part 1’.

In that post, I briefly outlined various reasons why I like to fund The Lifeboat Station Project in the way that I do.

I gave one specific example of The LSP Society but I thought it would be pertinent to write this second part now while I have another live example underway so that you can see a second thought process in action, one that works very well for me on a number of levels.

OILING THE WHEELS

When I started making giant posters just over a year ago (see my latest example above), it soon became clear that they’re pretty expensive to make — not just on the printing front, but the other costs too such as travel and accommodation.

To put it bluntly, if I was going to make these posters happen within the challenging landscape of a pandemic, I could really do with some financial help to oil the wheels.

Several well-meaning folk pointed me in the direction of Arts Council England as they were sure this would be an ideal candidate for funding my new idea. They were undoubtedly right but, if you’ve read Part 1, you’ll already know what I felt about that.

The thought of filling in application forms — and potentially having to adapt my language and approach in order to jump through the necessary hoops — made my blood run cold. Not to mention waiting for a judgement as to whether or not my proposal would be deemed worthy of funding.

Because I have utter conviction in my work and I know that it is worth funding, I kept on thinking.

Then the perfect idea hit me: I could rally people to get behind this new dimension by asking them to sponsor the individual sheets that make up a giant poster.

Within an hour or so, I divided a digital file of the photograph into a grid of 44 greyed-out sections (representing the number of sheets I needed to print) and posted it onto the project’s Posters page.

I then asked my Twitter followers and patrons if they’d like to sponsor my next poster at a cost of £10 per sheet.

It soon took off and, as each sheet was sponsored, I ‘activated’ the greyed-out squares to make it into a more engaging experience.

Within just a few days, all 44 sheets were sponsored and the costs were covered without a funding application form in sight!

It had worked brilliantly, so I repeated the process for the second installation of the giant Lucy Lavers poster in April, this time with 35 sheets:

Again, the second poster was fully sponsored within just a few days.

Furthermore, I also introduced 60x50cm commemorative posters for £10 so that people could purchase their own smaller version of the poster.

By combining that with instructions on how to paste your own poster, it made for a highly successful and engaging experience for anybody who wanted to get involved.

NORTHERN EYE PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL

As well as speaking at the Northern Eye Photography Festival in October, I’ve been invited to paste three more giant posters as part of the the fringe festival.

It was such fun to come up the ideas I’ve described above that — you’ve guessed it — I’m doing exactly the same again in order to fundraise some of the costs.

At the time of writing, 20 sheets have already been sponsored following the launch two days ago:

If you head to the Posters page for a closer look, you’ll also see that I’ve added the commemorative posters for these new photographs too.

LIMITED BY OUR IMAGINATIONS

In conclusion (for the moment), I’m sharing all this with you to offer other ways of thinking about funding your own work, and to remind you that we are only limited by our imaginations.

It may be the convention to apply for funding from recognised institutions but, to my mind, it takes a lot less effort to come up with ideas like these than it does to fill out one of those lengthy forms.

It’s much more dynamic and, depending on how people pay, the funds can be with you instantly.

Not only that, an approach like this directly engages your audience and gives them an opportunity to connect with the artist and the work they’re creating.

Furthermore, I know my audience — my crowd — approve of the work they’re supporting because otherwise they wouldn’t have parted with their hard-earned money to directly support it.

By contrast, logos of institutional and corporate organisations may well appear alongside artworks they’ve approved using public money but it doesn’t always mean that the public agree with how the money has been spent.

Please remember that this isn’t an attack on public funding or public funding bodies. I’m aware that they have their place and that there are many beautiful projects and artworks that wouldn’t have been able to happen had it not been for their help.

I’m simply hoping to get your cogs turning in a world where there appears to be set ways of doing things. Perhaps the rules and conventions aren’t as cast iron as you might think.

JR CHRONICLES

On a final note, I’m very excited this evening as we’re heading to London on the train tomorrow to see JR Chronicles at the Saatchi Gallery.

JR is the person who inspired me to start making giant posters of my photographs when I saw his TED Talk and Visages Villages, the film he made with Agnès Varda.

Anyway, that’s all for now! Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Keep on keepin’ on,

Jack Lowe

Creator of The Lifeboat Station Project


Why Not Apply For Funding? [Part 1]

Jack Lowe at The Lizard RNLI lifeboat station (photograph by John Chennells)

I first posted the following words yesterday as a Twitter thread. The topic seemed to resonate with many, so I’m posting it here too as a more permanent resource:


‘Why not apply for funding?’ regularly comes up in conversations about financing my project. But is it really such a crackpot idea to keep working towards my vision of sustainable funding for creators: for projects to be funded by the people who follow them and whose lives are enriched by them in some way?

I believe that notion is entirely within reach for many creators without having to resort to pots of institutionalised funding, which can limit thinking and become serial flashes in the pan rather than a much more valuable source of income — one that is sustained and more predictable.

There are other benefits too: no corporate logos attached to your project; no pound of flesh to the body funding it and perhaps claiming more credit than is due; not having to adapt your ideas to suit institutional agendas; not having to adapt your language in the application to be ‘awarded’ the money (a particular bugbear) and not having to pay somebody to fill out an application form (an even bigger bugbear).

In short, my vision enables a creator to make their work freely on their own terms. As I mentioned at the top, I truly believe this is entirely possible. We can all be inspired by the fact that other creators are doing it right now. Brandon Stanton and Amanda Palmer spring to mind — two longstanding influences of mine on the indie-funding front.

And I’m getting there myself. It might help to spur you on to know that there are now few days of the month when I don’t receive *some* income from my independent membership platform, The LSP Society.

Some days it might be £1 and other days it might be £100 (many signed up on/after launch day). It feels like manna from heaven to know, that no matter how difficult things are, there will always be something coming in at some point soon.

It’s great for a creator’s psyche and I’m concerned that the path of institutional funding can actually be damaging for a creator’s psyche.

There will be people conflicted by this conversation and I also know that pots of funding do suit certain projects but I keep plugging away at this ethos. After all, if people were interested in a topic ‘back in the day’, they wouldn’t have hesitated to buy a magazine from the newsagent. In fact they would have looked forward to it! So why not now?

Well, I believe that people can and will support projects now. They just need to be shown how and many will be delighted to do so at the drop of a hat.

One final thought: if choosing this path, creators must commit wholeheartedly with passion, belief and conviction.

I’ve seen people gamble weeks (and small fortunes) filling out an application form without knowing what the outcome will be. So why not consider redirecting more of those energies on a mechanism that can sustain you every day for years to come and on your terms? It’s much less risky and the results are often immediate.

Food for thought I hope, as well as food on the table.

Keep on keepin’ on,

Jack Lowe

Creator of The Lifeboat Station Project