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Arts Awards

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What are Arts Awards?

Arts Awards support the creation of new artistic work that critically engages artists and audiences with biomedical science. We strive to work with all art forms and the diverse community we support includes artists, scientists, curators, writers, academics, producers, directors and education officers.

We believe that artists have a distinct approach to understanding and communicating ideas that can illuminate and challenge perceptions within society. We are convinced therefore that the arts have an invaluable role to play in engaging the public with biomedical science.

Arts Awards encourage creative collaborations between art and science. The Wellcome Trust believes that this exchange generates powerful, personal and visceral art and inspires interdisciplinary research and practice that brings benefits to artists and scientists alike.

You can apply for funding at two levels:

Small Arts Awards (small- to medium-sized projects - up to and including £40 000)
Small Arts Awards can support the R&D of new project ideas or ways of working, investigate and experiment with new methods of engagement through the arts, or fund or part-fund final production costs.

Large Arts Awards (larger projects - above £40 000)
Large Arts Awards can support full or part production costs for high-quality, large arts projects that aim to have significant reach or impact on audiences.

Large awards are primarily for applicants with a track record with the Wellcome Trust or Wellcome Collection; however, special cases can be made for teams with an excellent track record and a strong project idea where the initial research and development has already taken place.

Points to consider
Both the Large and Small Arts Award schemes are highly competitive and we are often even unable to fund very good applications.

Developing artistic practice:
High quality, imaginative artistic practice is a key feature of all successful Arts Award applications. We support professional, artist-led approaches to the subject matter that are likely to result in exciting and engaging work and the development of artistic practice.

Applicants often forget to write about the artistic vision, ambition or process behind their proposal, which makes it difficult for the funding Committee to understand or get excited about the activity they are being asked to support.

Projects that don’t lead to the development or delivery of new artistic work are usually ineligible for funding.

Creating new work:
The creation of ‘new work’ can include R&D towards future projects, or the final stages of making and delivering a project in development.

If you are applying for R&D funding, you should try and show us that you have both the capacity and experience to realise the finished piece in future.

For applications requesting funding towards final production costs, your application is more likely to be competitive if you are able to demonstrate a clear delivery or distribution plan. If this involves working with other partners or venues, indications of their support are valuable.

Involving biomedical science:
Arts Awards projects must have biomedical science input into the creative process. These collaborators may be from an ethics, science or history background, but must be experts in the area of biomedical science you are investigating. The most successful and rewarding projects develop responsive, collaborative relationships, with ongoing engagement.

In making decisions, we look for evidence that you have considered what form the collaboration with biomedical experts is likely to take, and that this is appropriate for your project and partners. Due to the competitive nature of the awards, applications that don’t include a confirmed biomedical expert will usually be ineligible for funding.

Reaching audiences:
The strongest applications are able to articulate why a project is likely to be of interest to its audience and how that audience is likely to be targeted.

The Trust is increasingly interested in supporting projects that reach audiences currently underserved by existing arts and science engagement activity.

Application guidelines and further information on preparing your application are included in the “How to apply” section.

Other sources of funding
Projects that have strong science content, but no creative collaboration, may be more suited to a People Award.

Film projects that are not experimental art films and/or are mass broadcast media projects may be better suited to the Co-production Awards or the Development Awards for development costs. Please contact the scheme advisers if you need further information or advice.

Projects that are not eligible for Arts Award support include health promotion, education or campaign projects, arts projects for therapeutic purposes, factual documentaries, work that is purely illustrative and projects dealing with non-biomedical sciences. The scheme does not normally support the costs of fiction writing unless there is clear evidence of interdisciplinary collaboration with appropriate biomedical input and a strong public engagement/dissemination plan.

How do I apply?

Both the Large and Small Arts Award schemes are highly competitive and we are often even unable to fund very good applications. You are advised to read the following documents before applying:

Applications for our Small Arts and People Awards are not peer reviewed before the Committee meetings. This enables faster funding decisions and relieves the burden of peer review from public engagement professionals and researchers.

The Trust will provide written feedback from funding Committees for all eligible applications submitted to the schemes.

To be eligible for an Arts Award, you and your activity must primarily be based in the UK or the Republic of Ireland. Applicants are usually affiliated to organisations, but you can apply as an individual for a Small Arts Award.

The Arts Awards team are happy to answer questions and discuss the suitability of projects ahead of an application. As we have limited capacity for these conversations please contact us well in advance of your application deadline. Contact details are available on the Deadlines and Contacts tab. We are unable to offer feedback on draft applications.

Eligibility overview:

  • The project must develop new artistic work
  • The confirmed team must include a professional artist and an expert in biomedical science, ethics, medical humanities or medical history relevant to the project’s themes
  • The project activity takes place in the UK and/or Republic of Ireland
  • The funding requested does not exceed £40,000 (Small Arts) or £150,000 (Large Arts).

Small Arts Awards (up to and including £40 000)
Please use WT Grant Tracker to complete your application.

Download a sample application form [PDF 176KB].

Grants are usually paid 90% upfront and 10% at the end of your activity once the end of grant reports have been submitted.

Large Arts Awards (between £40 000 and £150 000)
The Large Arts Awards are primarily for applicants with a track record with the Wellcome Trust or Wellcome Collection. Special cases can be made for teams that can provide evidence of an excellent track record and a particularly strong project idea, where the initial research and development of the project has already taken place.

Please use WT Grant Tracker to complete a preliminary application.

Your application will then be acknowledged and reviewed by one of our advisers. If you are successful at this stage, you will be invited to submit an application form, which will be peer reviewed and assessed by a committee. If your application is shortlisted, you will be invited for interview where you will be asked to present your project and answer questions.

Grants are usually paid 50% upfront, 40% at an interim point partway through your activity and 10% at the end once the end of grant reports have been submitted.

What projects have been funded?

Arts Awards support imaginative and experimental arts projects that explore biomedical science. These are some recent highlights.

For the best, Mark Storer & Anna Ledgard
Funded in 2010

Inspired by and created with adults and children attending hospitals in London and Liverpool, For the Best was a site specific performance and an imaginative, creative exploration of a family's experience of living with renal disease.

The aesthetic, rhythm and sound of the piece was inspired by the honesty and bravery of the children, the adults and their families that the team met in developing the work.

We especially liked this work because it brought the patient’s experience of biomedical science to the forefront in a sensitive way, resulting in an innovative and moving performance. Over a long period of engagement, Mark Storor’s creative process broke down barriers between patients and staff, with the clinicians involved saying their understanding, empathy and communication with patients and improved as a result.

The team’s dedication to the participants and process also led a comprehensive evaluation report, one of the best we’ve seen. You can download it here.

Tales from Babel, The Clerks
Funded in 2011

Building upon The Clerks’ previous work, Edward Wickham and Christopher Fox created a score for the six voices of The Clerks that explored the neuroscientific, psychological, and linguistic challenges of hearing words in a complex auditory environment (the so-called ‘cocktail party problem’) in an entertaining and innovative way.

Alongside performances of the work in Cambridge, Middlesex and Huddersfield, each presentation included listening tests for the audience, which have provided a unique opportunity for scientific collaborators Dr Antje Heinrich and Professor Sarah Hawkins to study data from large cohorts of participants in a live performance environment.

Generating research outcomes alongside an exciting piece of new music makes this an especially interesting project for us. While arts awards aren’t expected to generate research outcomes (and for many it’s simply not appropriate) The Clerk’s experience shows a genuine collaboration between scientists and artists running at the heart of the creative process.

Going Dark, Sound & Fury
Funded in 2011

Going Dark is an immersive performance about a man losing his sight due to an eye disease. Using the company’s innovative theatre vocabulary of surround sound design, moments of total darkness and imaginative lighting and projections, Going Dark explores perception and vision, through the story of man dealing with the consequences of the onset of blindness.

Over the last three years, Going Dark has continued to tour across the UK.

We’re always delighted to see collaborations between artists and scientists extend beyond simply fact-checking or providing information. Sound & Fury’s collaboration with biomedical scientists influenced and strengthened the narrative of the performance from an early stage, providing part of the structure and character inspiration at the heart of the piece. This has provided critical engagement with biomedical science within a very human story. The Trust’s funding also enabled the company to develop and refine its artistic practice, furthering future innovation within their work.

During the financial year from October 2013 to September 2014 the Trust received 266 Arts Awards applications. Of these, 39 were funded, giving an overall funding rate for the scheme that year of 15%. The Trust received 22 preliminary applications to the Large Arts Awards. Of these ten were shortlisted for full application and three were funded, giving an overall funding rate for the scheme that year of 14%.

You can read summaries of all our previous Arts Awards funding here.

Deadlines and contacts

Small Arts Awards (up to and including £40 000)
Upcoming deadlines are:

  • 27 November 2015 (17:00)
  • 4 March 2016 (17:00)

Funding decisions will be made approximately 10 weeks after the relevant deadline and we will tell you the result shortly afterwards.

Large Arts Awards (between £40 000 and £150 000)
There is one deadline a year for Large Arts Awards Expressions of Interest. The Committee will then invite selected applicants to develop Full Applications to be submitted by 22nd April.

Of these, shortlisted applicants will be invited for interview in mid-July.

  • Expression of Interest: 17 February 2016 (17:00)

Please contact us if you wish to discuss these arrangements in more detail.

The Arts Awards team are happy to answer questions and discuss the suitability of projects for the fund ahead of making an application. Please note we can’t offer feedback on application drafts.

Jenny Paton (on secondment)
David Cahill Roots
Lily Rose Davies
Marie-Lise Sheppard
Alice Carey

You can contact us at:
Arts Awards
Wellcome Trust
Gibbs Building
215 Euston Road
London NW1 2BE, UK

T +44 (0)20 7611 5757

Wellcome Trust, Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, UK T:+44 (0)20 7611 8888