Blog 2013/2014

Creative Internships Blog 2013/2014

Week 40: Sinéad Owens, WheelWorks

I really cannot believe that this is my last day as the Creative Intern here at WheelWorks and because of that I want to dedicate this blog to my overall experience.

This time last year I was graduating from Queens University with a head full of confusion and not a notion as to what I actually wanted to do with my career. I certainly didn’t think that a year later I would have gained some all important life experience working in a professional environment. In these last ten months I have learnt more than I could have wished for, both professionally and personally. I have been taught how to project co-ordinate, manage a budget, complete funding applications, fill out funding reports and research other sources of funding among many other things. At the beginning of the programme we (creative interns) set ourselves a series of SMART goals. I honestly didn’t think that after ten months I would have reached all the goals I set myself but I was wrong! I have achieved so much in such a short space of time and it has made me realise just how lucky I was to be given this opportunity.

My experience as an Arts & Business NI Creative Intern has been invaluable and has surely helped me progress in the Arts Industry. The assistance and expertise that Arts & Business NI provided during this programme was nothing short of brilliant. From inviting us to master classes and seminars to just a friendly meeting to offer advice, the staff at Arts & Business NI have been incredibly helpful. Through A&B NI we were given the chance to network with inspirational fundraisers, staff members from other organisations and of course our business mentors; who all shared priceless advice. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Vincent McCann for all the help he gave me through this process. I really do appreciate all the learning that took place during our meetings and I know it will be hugely beneficial to my future.

Of course I have to give a special mention to my colleagues here at WheelWorks who have really been unbelievable. From day one they made me feel part of the team and I can honestly say that even after every stressful funding application, funding report and those all important deadlines, I have enjoyed every minute of working here these past ten months. The guidance and support I have received from each and every member of the team has made me feel incredibly privileged to know them and I can’t thank them enough. I have said it before, but it is true, I feel so blessed to have been placed in such a positive work space with co-workers who are enthusiastic and passionate about the work they do and the people they are helping.

Anyone who is thinking of doing an internship like this, I urge you to do so. It has been a fantastic experience. The indispensable learning and opportunities that were made available to me through this internship have provided me with a unique understanding that I might not otherwise have got.

Although this is my last day as the Creative Intern here at WheelWorks, I could not be more delighted to say that, from tomorrow on, my new job title is the Arts Development Officer for WheelWorks.

Both Arts & Business NI and WheelWorks have helped me pave the way to my future and for that I am extremely thankful. 

Week 39: Lauren Webb, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama

If I were to define the College in 150 characters, I would say ‘As the National Conservatoire for Wales we offer new generations leading, collaborative and industry focussed training across the performing arts’. This is one of the fundamental skills I have developed this year; the ability to confidently articulate strong arguments that concisely set out our need in the clearest way.

Working for a College, I have been experiencing all of the excitement that comes with the end of another successful academic year. Plus, the fact that this is a performing arts institution means that graduation was one big creative celebration of our talented students. The achievements here are just so colourful and exciting that they were great to hear about in the speeches! To then be entertained by opera, followed by the coolest brass performance I have ever seen, marked an enjoyable event. I got to chat to lots of lovely people too, first promoting our individual giving scheme, Connect, to all of the proud parents and then entertaining the development table at the graduation lunch!

One slightly more pressured day was the Talk and Tea with the Principal and guest speaker, the first large scale event that has been my sole responsibility. This annual opportunity to gather 100 of our Connect members and Friends of College, allows us thank them for their generous support. I had booked out the foyer and a theatre, where our Principal cast back over the year and gave a behind the scenes insight into what lies ahead. This was going to be followed by an exciting guest speaker, enlightening the audience about our Radio training programme. However, smooth planning decided it didn’t like me anymore and at the last minute our guest speaker had to pull out, although for very understandable reasons. Fortunately another of the ever helpful College staff stepped in and crisis was averted. A beautiful pared back Jazz performance followed, from two student musicians – a sax and bass player, before afternoon tea in the foyer.

It is a real privilege to have got to this point where I can enjoy these levels of responsibility and also know a number of our supporters well enough to have detailed conversations with them. It is sad to have reached the last few weeks of my time at the College, but I know I will be back again and again for the performances I really love, just to name a few: the Christmas musical, the final summer season of drama and not least the puppetry. This year’s spectacular puppetry production, The Impossible Fair, created by our second year Theatre Designers, was the biggest yet. The Mountain View Ranch, in Caerphilly, created a beautiful setting for the audience to wander from scene to scene. Everything from life size elephant puppets to singing candyfloss and 15ft giants filled the tale. I will really miss all of this creativity; even typing this blog at my desk, I can hear a flutist practicing and opera singers rehearsing.

Arts & Business Cymru has given me so many opportunities through this internship, that I couldn’t otherwise expect at this point in my career, and there a couple of exciting work possibilities lined up for the months ahead. I have been challenged in many positive ways and in a much supported environment, developing my fundraising skills. This learning experience has shown me that this is a fulfilling career path, which I really want to pursue, and most importantly I now know that this very varied work is something that I really enjoy!

Week 38: Roisin Daley, Young at Art

It seems like only yesterday I was writing my last blog; time really does pass so quickly.

Recently, myself and the other creative interns met with Arts & Business NI to do a one on one, filmed interview in the MAC. As part of my preparation, I look a trip down memory lane and read through my initial application to be an intern, as well as my goals I had set at the beginning of the program, goals which I felt at the time were slightly overly ambitious and out of reach. However when reading over them, I was amazed to find that I had achieved practically all of them. Looking back on this, I was struck by just how far I have come in terms of my own professional development in such a short period of time. It made me realise that importance of setting objectives and not being afraid to set your aims high.

Before starting the Creative Interns programme, I had volunteered in many arts organisations but always found it difficult to acquire the responsibility and new skills which I constantly craved. With this creative internship I have benefited from hands on training, insightful seminars and inspiring talks through Arts & Business NI, and thanks to my manager Ali, I have benefited from so many new opportunities, skills and experiences. This program has helped me to get work with a local children’s theatre organisation, Cahoots NI where I now work as a fundraiser on a freelance basis whilst balancing my work with Young at Art. I really enjoy working for two such exciting and important local children’s arts organisations, and I do feel that without this internship I simply wouldn’t have had the skills or experience to get this kind of work.

Although the internship has been focused on fundraising, I have also enjoyed working with other members of the Young at Art team, and getting as much professional experience as possible. Recently I have been coordinating my own project; a free creative parent and toddler group, called ‘Culture Babies’ which is taking place in Castlecourt shopping centre over the summer. After fundraising for the project, I’m really excited to be having a go at programming and project managing the events, and so far it’s been fantastic! I’m also very grateful because Young at Art are keeping me on for another few months, so I will be here until mid-October. I feel very positive about the future now and confident in myself as a professional arts fundraiser. In the next few months I have left here, I want to continue to grow and develop my skills.


Week 37: Jennifer Kirkham, Chapter

Earlier this week I picked up the most recent copy of Fundraising Magazine and whilst skimming through the faces of this year’s most influential people in fundraising and scanning a debate about the lack of giving to small charities I found myself engrossed by an one particular article.

Paul Farthing, the director of fundraising at NSPCC, was discussing the charity sector’s biggest challenge; both finding & keeping talented fundraisers. One line stood out in particular -
‘It could be argued, however, that the challenge to find and keep talent starts right at the beginning of a career in fundraising’ he suggests that allowing people to have real experiences, giving them hands on opportunities and to ‘go through the whole learning curve’ may be the resolution.

He speaks in detail about investing in staff, providing them with ample opportunities to develop – allowing them to trial ideas, fail, learn, and offer coaching.

Well everything he’s talking about, everything about training, development, hands on experience; all of that and more is exactly what the Creative Internship Scheme has provided me with.

Through all the training and support A&B have provided, as well the help from business mentor’s and direct experience within the organisations; everyone that has played a part should be immensely proud that they have not only given 4 graduates a fantastic opportunity & head start in to a career I think we’ll all continue to pursue but also given all of us the qualities of what apparently (and hopefully) makes a talented fundraiser.

I’m so pleased A&B Cymru have announced that the Creative Internship Programme has been extended for a second year because I just couldn’t praise it enough. I’ve loved everything about the experience; so much so that when I was lucky enough to get offered a full time position at Chapter there was no chance I was turning it down!

But as my final blog post comes to a close I figure this is where I say thank you, to absolutely everyone who has helped me along this journey!

Week 36: Faye Hobson, The MAC

Last weekend I had the opportunity to see the MAC doing what it does best - showcasing new and exciting home-grown talent during Pick ‘n’ Mix Festival; a 2 day whirlwind of theatre, dance, performance art and shows in unexpected places. The Festival is just one of the projects that the MAC is involved in designed to support and develop the arts sector in Northern Ireland. It was great to see this happening right before my eyes with artists trailing new pieces of work to captivated audiences. It’s brilliant to see projects like Pick ‘n’ Mix come alive outside of the pages of reports or application forms; the challenge to any fundraiser is to capture the creative essence and excitement of such projects and communicate this to a funder.

Since my last blog I have enjoyed taking the lead on Trusts and Foundations fundraising, an area which I find fascinating because of the huge potential that this type of funding offers. Working with the programming team at the MAC to match projects to funders has been great and I find that as my knowledge grows I feel more confident in offering recommendations about which project I think fits with a particular funder. I also took the lead on my first two funding applications and a funder report this month, an experience that was equally terrifying and exhilarating! When taking these first independent steps into the world of fundraising I was unbelievably grateful for the fantastic training that I have received from Arts & Business NI and felt reassured to have the support of my arts mentor Anne McReynolds (Chief Executive of the MAC), who was able to advise and guide me through the process.

This month the Interns took part in some filming for Arts & Business NI about the Creative Internships Scheme. This gave me the opportunity to get away from my desk and reflect on the internship experience so far. For those of you reading this and considering an internship I thought it might be useful to share some of the thoughts discussed in the films, so here are my top tips:

  • Choose wisely: A well-structured internship can offer really valuable work experience and insights into working within an industry, making it a great first step from education into the world of work. Have a clear idea of the skills, knowledge, networks and experience that you want to gain and choose a host organisation that can help you to realise this.

  • Be a great intern: Make the most of every opportunity, look for areas where you can offer your skills, and use initiative to find ways to add value to everything you do. If you aren’t sure about something don’t be afraid to ask for support from colleagues, you are there to learn after all!

  • Getting the most out of it: It is important to make the most of your time as an intern, an agreed set of objectives can help to focus your efforts and allow you to evaluate how successful you have been. Plan your exit strategy and think about how you can take your new-found experience and networks forward with you.

As my time as a Creative Intern draws to a close I am excited to take the next steps in my career, I have no doubt that the fundraising experience gained as an intern will open many doors for me in the years to come. The Creative Internships programme has been absolutely fantastic and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.


Week 35: Johanna Shepherd, Wales Millennium Centre

In a few hours performers all over Wales Millennium Centre will be taking their cues. The National Theatre’s War Horse will play to a full house in the Donald Gordon Theatre. Dance artists from all over Wales will perform their work in the Weston Studio as part of Wales Dance Platform 2014. Jonathan Dimbleby will present Radio 4’s Any Questions in a live broadcast from Hoddinott Hall. In the bar acoustic folk du Remembering August will be setting up for their set, and singer songwriter Sarah Louise Owen will be singing her heart out on the Glanfa stage – just two of over 400 free performances the Centre has planned for this year. “In the room people come and go” from visual artist Shani Rhys James’ installation, Florilingua in the Foyer, and Ernest Shackleton’s King Penguin and Alfred Russell Wallace’s Giant Bee, observe it all from the pop up museum in the Concourse, on loan from Amgueddfa Cymru and Oxford University Museum of Natural History. You might see any of this if you wander into the building this evening.

But even though this buzz of artistic activity is a great example of what Wales Millennium Centre does, you won’t see some of the things I’m most proud of. For example, thanks to the support of Colwinston Charitable Trust and PRS for Music Foundation, the Centre was able to commission a new choral piece from exciting composer Paul Mealor called ‘Spirit of Hope’. Sixty-five children from Wales had the opportunity to perform this brand new work in Cape Town, as part of the celebrations commemorating 20 years of democracy in South Africa. You won’t see it performed in the building, but you can see its UK debut at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod this July.

It’s said that fundraisers should expect 9 no’s for every yes, and some of the other things you won’t see in the building – at least not yet – are the projects that couldn’t get over that final hurdle. But I am proud of the quality and the work that went into these proposals and projects as well.

There are no shortcuts in life, but the Creative Internships programme has provided me with something very close to it: a jump start. My arts mentor, Marie Wood, my business mentor, Gwenda Williams, and countless others at Arts & Business Cymru and the Centre have invested time and expertise in training me, and I've grown in confidence and learned so much in a relatively short time. I wasn't sure when I began the internship whether fundraising was for me; I've discovered to my delight that it is. I've been given the opportunity to try my hand at almost every area of fundraising, and I've seen that there a variety of ways to develop a rewarding and fulfilling career. I've been privileged to work for an organisation that aspires to become an artistic powerhouse, creu gwir fel gwydr o ffwrnais awen - creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration. The Creative Internships programme itself has been a furnace of inspiration for me, and I'm looking forward to refining and building on the skills that I have gained as my journey continues.

Week 34: Ciara McCafferty, Prime Cut Productions 

This week in the Prime Cut office we were finally able to celebrate publicly the remarkable news that our Artistic Director, Emma Jordan, was one of the winners of the prestigious Paul Hamlyn Foundation Breakthrough Award. This award was set up to support exceptional entrepreneurs in the cultural sector in the UK. Emma will receive an astounding £295,000 to develop her work as a theatre director, pursue new international collaborations and will lead a series of development opportunities for emerging theatre-makers in Northern Ireland.

This idea of Cultural Entrepreneurship fascinates me. Cultures and Globalisation: The Cultural Economy suggests that Cultural Entrepreneur’s need to be three things; a strategist who establishes critical new perspectives, an innovator creating new possibilities and a catalyst that makes things happen.

This is illustrated evidently in Emma’s aim to develop opportunities for emerging theatre-makers. She will be working with a number of key stakeholders to strategise for a brighter future for emerging companies and individual artists in Northern Ireland, by brokering chances for them to gain access to the required resources to hone and advance their craft.

As an emerging artist it is a relief to know that established individuals and companies are taking action to help secure the future of theatre in Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole. Recently I have been involved in a number of consultations on how matters can be improved for emerging companies in Northern Ireland. One major endeavour in joined up thinking is the idea of established companies working with emerging companies on applications for funding in order to release funds to the emerging companies who might not be able to gain access to them through their own means.

This economic climate has meant continuous cuts to funding for the arts from statutory bodies and so creative thinking is crucial now more than ever. However, these new perspectives need to be coming from not only the artists but also the grant makers. The Breakthrough Award acknowledges the immense benefits of funding those with compelling visions for how to make great things happen in the arts but giving them the flexibility of  granting them support before they have drawn up detailed plans of work. Now that is responsive funding.

The good news continued in the Prime Cut office with the opening of our new shows, The Chilean Trilogy or ‘The Chilogy’ as it was fondly referred to, with rave reviews including a five-star review from The Belfast Telegraph for Tejas Verdes. These three shows were a massive undertaking for the entire creative team and the five wonderful ladies who performed in all three plays. There is no better feeling than stepping outside of the office and experiencing the productions that you have helped to bring to fruition. I loved every moment of being part of the team that helped to bring these hard-hitting political drama’s to Belfast, a city which has more than a few similarities in its past to Chile. Witnessing the audience experience these immersive pieces really brought home what an unbelievable opportunity the past 8 months have been, I have been incredibly fortunate to work with such a dedicated team.


Week 33: Elizabeth Day, Sinfonia Cymru 

You know you’re settled in when your desk is a constant mess and the office walls are littered with your fundraising inspired mind maps, timescales and post-it notes. I’ve never been particularly good at organising myself using digital technology but Sinfonia Cymru have embraced my mess, and me it seems. I feel well and truly part of the family.

It’s that notion of family and belonging that has been central to the ethos of restructuring the current Friends and Patrons offer from Sinfonia Cymru. The orchestra is at an exciting point. Diversifying and pushing musical boundaries, exploring new ways of presenting quality chamber music and developing an accessible participatory music education programme for harder to reach groups. But in with the new shouldn’t mean out with the old and I’ve been working with Sinfonia Cymru to strengthen relationships with our supporters, encourage new supporters to join us and create a progression route with clear tiers of giving.

One of the other projects I have the pleasure of working on is developing a partnership with Bristol-based accessible music hub, Drake Music. Working on an Arts Council application for the partner organisation has given a completely different perspective of fundraising for Sinfonia Cymru and challenged me to look at ways to raise match funding and organise budgets for projects. Fundraising in a small organisation really is a holistic process. It’s not just about the words you put on the piece of paper, it’s about knowing and understanding every element of how it comes together, what decisions you need to make and why. It’s been invaluable being thrown into the project planning side of working with Sinfonia Cymru, helping to make those key decisions and I’m so excited to be able to help make the first part of a new community programme happen.

It’s been a whirlwind of a journey on the Creative Internship. I can’t quite believe it’s nearly at an end! So what’s next for me? Well, fundraising! The internship has challenged me, educated me, opened doors for me and inspired me. I’m currently fundraising to build The Other Room, Cardiff’s first pub theatre, in partnership with director, Kate Wasserberg. Using everything I’ve learned so far, we ran a successful crowd funding campaign raising £7,555, gained two corporate sponsorship deals and have upcoming meetings with a foundation to fund our capital project. So thank you A&B Cymru for the amazing opportunity. It’s been an incredible experience, and I can’t wait to start the next chapter!  


Week 32: Sinéad Owens, WheelWorks

This past few months I have been incredibly busy working alongside our co-ordinators to plan our programme of activity for this year (2014-2015). This included approaching new groups and festivals to work with, fundraising, project planning and budget handling as well as many other aspects. Getting this type of hands on experience in project co-ordinating has been unbelievable in helping me understand all the planning and organisational aspects that need to take place for each and every project that WheelWorks facilitates, no matter how big or small.

Speaking of big projects, I recently got to spend the day with my Business Mentor, Vincent McCann in the Market Place in Armaghwhere he is the Operations Manager. During the day we focused mainly on a huge event that Vincent had coming up, the Giro D’Italia Concert that was taking place in the Mall in Armagh. It was great to get to learn about all the planning, documents, assessments and procedures that such a big company has to do in preparation for an event. He brought me down to the Mall and showed me the plan for the layout for the concert, it was crazy to see the amount of work that goes into planning an event that will only last a few hours. I was really impressed and it gave me a flavour of the type of work that goes into managing bigger events and projects.

Just this week I found out that a few more of my funding applications have been successful, including the application I wrote about in my last blog. Even though I’ve been doing this for eight months now, every time I find out that one of my applications has been successful I am overwhelmed with such a sense of pride and achievement. I love that I am able to assist in future activities for WheelWorks, mainly because I believe it is an amazing organisation.

At our most recent Arts & Business NI Cultural Philanthropy Seminar Lucy Bird urged us to remind ourselves, during funding applications, ‘why are we fundraising and what difference will this funding enable us to make?’ Although this seems like a simple thought, I found it extremely beneficial. Each time I fill out an application for WheelWorks I now remind myself why I am doing this. I am doing it to raise funds to facilitate bespoke arts based workshops with children & young people aged 4-25 from the most marginalised, disadvantaged and at risk communities across N.I. What difference will this funding enable us to make? Well, through the funding we receive WheelWorks is able to support the social, creative and cultural development of young people through accessible and innovative programmes. Our programmes provide a creative fusion of traditional and digital art forms, harnessing the arts for learning and change and giving young people a voice. Reminding myself of this every time I complete a funding application will give me the motivation for success as it will be a constant reminder of the good work that WheelWorks is doing for the young people across Northern Ireland. 


Week 31: Lauren Webb, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama

Well, it turns out the second half of the internship is flying by just as quickly as the first! Since my last blog I have been super busy, just in the last couple of weeks I have submitted a trust application and an initial corporate proposal, presenting our case for an in-kind sponsorship.
I am going to take this blog on a little detour, but trust me, it is relevant and will make sense in a few paragraphs. For the past three years I have been involved in running a community youth club for ages 10-18 on Council Housing estates in Cardiff and, interestingly, this has keenly informed my views of legacy donation. Volunteering in the team of five, every Friday evening I have been responsible for organising and running the club’s activities alongside my colleagues, providing an enjoyable environment and a reliable escape from home and school week after week. Through this work I have also become aware of the worrying reality that young people are not growing up with a healthy awareness and openness to regular charity giving. If community fundraising could be undertaken with an education aspect in mind, focussing on teaching a culture of charity work and donation, then this would be a very interesting undertaking with the great potential for sponsorship in itself. 

Our youth group numbers are currently higher than ever and I feel an important part of this success is remembering that the young people’s enjoyment is the most important element. This must be regardless of how my day has been or the pressures I am under, providing a positive environment from which they can expect consistency, both from us as leaders and the evening as a whole. Consistency and openness are essential in building relationships of trust.
I am currently developing our legacy strategy at the College and have found that, similar to youth work, it is crucial to gain a donor’s trust and recognise the importance of their enjoyment and their own life experiences, identifying how these relate to the charity’s ambitions. To build a donor’s enthusiasm and secure their trust in this way, it is essential for a charity’s message to be consistent, ensuring that a donor can be confident in that charity’s work. Donors should be reassured that their gift can be reflective of what they care about in life, and this is even more fundamental when that gift is a legacy.
It has been fascinating to learn how The Legacy Foresight research programme estimates that, by the middle of this century, legacy income in real terms will be worth £5.3bn, against £1.9bn today. This is due to the baby boomers, the post Second World War generation that stands out for its wealth and numbers, dying in upcoming decades. However, as our younger generations get older, it is questioned whether the value of giving to charity is something that has really been taught? After speaking to a will advisor at a local law firm, it is clear to me that very few people consider leaving money to charity anymore. There is also the issue that 35% of people in the UK say they'd happily leave a gift in their will, but only 7% actually do. Dr. Russell James’ research into Legacy Science clearly demonstrates that “the decision to make annual gifts and legacy gifts used very different parts of the brain. The decision to leave a legacy gift was connected to the same part of the brain we use to think about our own life story” and that “to motivate donors to leave legacy gifts, we must connect their life stories with our charity’s mission, vision and values”.
To combat legacy giving no longer being a social norm in the UK, Remember A Charity has created a consortium with over 140 registered charities. Together they promote that, if legacy income can be grown by just 4%, we could raise an extra £1 billion for UK charities. These charities offer services that support some of the most vulnerable people in society and yet, as the Charities Aid Foundation reports, the over-60s are now more than six times more generous than the under-30s, compared to being less than three times more generous thirty years ago.
One day I would love to fundraise for a community educational project that encourages an ethos of regular charitable giving. I recently read a different blog on how new generations can be lovingly taught to be philanthropists, I hope you find it as interesting as I did:

Week 30: Roisin Daley, Young at Art

One of my favourite aspects of this internship is that I am always learning new skills and partaking in so many new activities. Recently I have been working on securing a sponsorship between my organisation Young at Art and Castlecourt, one of Belfast’s biggest shopping centres. Since January, Young at Art have been renting a vacant retail unit in the centre, and facilitating art workshops and exhibitions which are free and open to the public. This has been a fantastic way of introducing the work that we do to new audiences and spreading awareness of our organisation, particularly over the Belfast Children’s Festival. The results have been tremendous and we have engaged with hundreds of families, who got to spend an afternoon getting creative with their kids and trying something new, with Castlecourt also seeing increased spend in local cafes as a result of our initiative.

Recent conversations between Castlecourt and Young at Art have lead to talks of continuing the relationship through an Arts & Business NI Investment Programme, which promotes and sustains partnerships between businesses and arts organisations. The programme is a great way for businesses to try new ventures and encourage existing partnerships to develop and thrive. After discussions with both Castlecourt and Arts and Business, I drew up an application to A&B NI to receive funding for Young at Art to hold a parent and toddler group in their retail space in Castlecourt. After submitting the proposal, I was pleased to hear back that it had been successful, and that the project would go ahead. After discussing this news with my manager Ali, she suggested that I project manage the scheme from start to finish. I am really looking forward to the responsibility and hopefully making it a big success over the next few months.

Aside from that, I have been busy compiling reports for the organisation’s different funders. It has been great to get this kind of experience, as this internship has taught me it is not just about securing money for your organisation, it is also about ensuring that funders terms and conditions are met and adhered to.

Another highlight of the internship is that myself and the other creative interns are regularly given opportunities to partake in training and avail of attending interesting seminars. We were recently invited by Arts & Business NI to a very interesting discussion at the Ulster Museum about philanthropy in the arts. Organised by A&B NI and Audiences NI, the event featured special guest and expert fundraiser Lucy Bird who discussed how arts organisations can try ways to increase their contributions of their donors. Lucy has an impressive track record with fundraising; having recently coordinated a £12,000,000 endowment fund, and it was fascinating to hear her speak about her own first-hand experience in overcoming the obstacles and challenges which many people face as a fundraiser. Lucy was very witty and honest about her experiences, and it gave me real insight into the possibilities of increased philanthropy in my own arts organisation for the future.

Week 29: Jennifer Kirkham, Chapter

The Arts & Business Cymru awards recognise and celebrate the innovative partnerships between businesses and the arts across Wales, every year they host a sell-out black tie event which involves a dinner, entertainment and of course the presentation of awards to the deserving winners.

Last Friday saw the 21st annual awards come to life in the Welsh Millennium Centre where over 400 people poured onto the stage, all glammed up and high on the buzzing atmosphere; I was right there amongst them all.

Arts & Business Cymru gave Lauren, Jo, Bizzy & I the fantastic opportunity to help out on the day; helping set up and ensuring the event ran smoothly it was all go and non-stop. It was some intense, hardworking, first hand event experience that without a doubt was 100% rewarding.

Throughout the evening No Fit State Circus performed part of their breath taking show Bianco, Graffiti Classics got everyone joining in with their comedy take on classical music (yes a fair few glasses of wine had been enjoyed at this point) and of course 11 beautifully commissioned awards were presented to the winners of the various categories.

Two days previous I had found out that Chapter had won not one but two awards and believe me when I say I struggled not to blurt it out to my colleagues as I was so excited for them. Renault was announced as the winners of the Arts, Business & Environment award for their support and partnership with us. Richer Sounds were listed as a finalist for the Arts, Business & Brand Identity award for innovative business branding (and they’re determined to come back and win next year).

But the highlight of my night was standing at the edge of the stage and watching my colleague’s faces as we were not only announced as a shortlist but then announced as the overall winners of the Legal & General Arts Award for 2014. It was a huge achievement to have Chapter recognised for our vast variety of partnerships, and the much appreciated £2,500 will be going directly back into supporting our education and outreach programme.

It had been an unbelievably long day, and I certainly enjoyed a beverage or two to celebrate at the end of it, but I came away feeling exhilarated (and a little tired). I felt this immense sense of pride to be part of a team with Chapter and with Arts & Business Cymru and all I can say now is roll on next year! 

Week 28: Faye Hobson, The MAC

Like everything in the art world my role at the MAC continues to evolve and change rapidly to meet organisational needs. This itself brings challenges, but is also teaching me how important it is to be able to adapt and balance a diverse workload; skills which I’m sure will be vital going forward in my career.

During my first 6 months at the MAC my role mainly focused on venue hire - a key revenue stream for the organisation – an area which I am now working on refining and streamlining in readiness for the recruitment of an Events Officer. Whilst part of my role continues to be related to venue hire, I am also now working in a much more wide and fundraising focused role. I have supported a number of applications to Trusts & Foundations and Statutory Funders. This has been a fantastic learning experience and is something which makes me incredibly grateful to have been placed within such an experienced and supportive staff team.

When recently completing a piece of research into arts membership schemes I discovered a real interest in Individual Giving, something which became apparent when printing what was meant to be a 3 page report but had actually ended up being 20 pages. It was brilliant to have the support of my Business Mentor, Caroline Armstrong (Major Donor Executive at University of Ulster) when completing this research. Though Caroline ordinarily works with much larger donations than I was researching her knowledge of individual giving and memberships is a really fantastic resource to have.

Over the last few months I really feel that I have grown into my role as an arts fundraiser.  This became apparent to me on a recent visit to London, when visiting The Photographers Gallery for the first time since it’s re-launch (and on the first day of the Deutsche Borse Photography Exhibition may I add), I found myself much more interested in the donation boxes, membership scheme and list of funders than the actual artworks. Let this act as a warning for those of you interested in becoming a Creative Intern in the future, fundraising will take over your life!

Week 27: Elizabeth Day, Sinfonia Cymru

There have big changes since my last blog! I’m continuing on the internship journey with the wonderful Sinfonia Cymru, a progressive chamber orchestra based right here in Cardiff. 

I was first introduced to Sinfonia Cymru last October, when us Cardiff based interns were invited to an Arts & Business Cymru event. It was a wonderful evening of networking, meeting corporate professionals and of course seeing the fabulous Sinfonia Cymru. I never knew I liked classical music until I saw this company perform. And I was utterly blown away. 

I’ve followed them since, keeping an eye on what they’ve been up to in Cardiff, and feel massively privileged to now be working with this fantastic company. And with a new organisation, comes new challenges and new things to learn! 

I’ve been very fortunate to gain lots of experience in writing applications for trusts and foundations over the last 6 months, and now the focus has shifted to individual giving and corporate sponsorship. Working closely with General Manager, Sophie Lewis (who won Orchestra Manager of the Year 2012 from Associated British Orchestras don’t cha know!), we’ve come up with comprehensive and involved fundraising tasks around defining Individual Giving tiers and identifying and developing corporate sponsorship opportunities. 

Sophie’s role as General Manager is all encompassing and her wealth of knowledge and experience is inspiring. Shifting from a large organisation to a very small organisation has been a real eye opener experiencing the change in dynamic. Fundraising is a totally different ball game in smaller organisations and I’ve had to dramatically change my thinking which is challenging but very engaging. A smaller company with fewer resources really requires you to get creative!

It’s a very exciting time for Sinfonia Cymru. Following a significant rebrand in 2012, they’re now working towards building a stellar youth and community programme and have some super exciting, very innovative projects on the go through Sinfonia Cymru Curate. As Wales’ only revenue funded chamber orchestra there is a fantastic opportunity to be part of establishing and growing income streams.

No two days have been the same here so far! Whilst I am here to learn fundraising, there is no separate dedicated fundraising team and everything is very much integrated. I’ve spent a lot of time working closely with the marketing officer to reshape the current friends and patrons offer and there’s a really joined up way of working across the company. That is, the 5 of us that share the office! 

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, settling in and getting to grips with a new company but I’m well and truly stuck in building trust and foundation resources, researching corporate sponsors and developing new individual giving schemes. I’m really excited to see where the remainder of the internship will take me and absolutely loving working with such a dynamic and bold organisation!  

Week 26: Ciara McCafferty, Prime Cut Productions

Collaborate: to work, one with another; cooperate. 

There really is no finer word when it comes to describing the working environment within the artistic sector. Which is why Collaboration was an inspired choice as the theme of this year’s annual Audiences NI conference held at the striking Titanic Belfast. Audiences NI concentrate on audience development across Northern Ireland through assisting organisations in the sector to understand, increase and diversify their reach to audiences. Being able to represent Prime Cut Productions at such a key event really was something quite special. 

Select ideas discussed during the day included: exploring why collaboration is essential to our survival within the Arts in Northern Ireland, analysing best practise case studies, sharing success stories and identifying the benefits of collaboration. I was keen to use this opportunity to network with arts practitioners from right across Northern Ireland. One of the most stimulating talks for me personally was hearing from the Nerve Centre team regarding their key role during Derry/Londonderry City of Culture 2013. They examined; the impact of their programme throughout the year and what they hoped their lasting legacy would be from City of Culture. This included a word of caution when it came to running competitions on Facebook due to the phenomena of buying ‘likes’! 

April has brought the start of rehearsals for Prime Cut’s next production ‘The Chilean Trilogy’. This is an ambitious co-production with The MAC, where Prime Cut are the resident theatre company. The Trilogy consists of: a double bill of ‘Villa’ and ‘Discurso’ by Guillermo Calderon and ‘Tejas Verdes’ by Ferman Cabal. These three powerful plays, performed by an all female cast, revolve around the central theme of the Pinochet regime in Chile following the coup in 1973. During this period approximately 5,000 detainees were brought to the Villa Grimaldi where many were tortured and hundreds ‘disappeared’.  This will include a triple bill of all three shows on one day, an event that promises to be stunning. 

This show has brought about inventive collaborations, such as working with the restaurant at the MAC on tying in offers on Chilean wine and special food deals on the day of the triple bill. Three shows are bound to work up an appetite for the audience as well as the cast!

The interns were asked recently to fill out an evaluation of the Creative Interns programme so far; this gave the opportunity to reflect on the past six months. I was blown away by the amount that we have covered in such a short space of time. The sheer volume of training workshops, master classes and net working events has lead to an extremely fulfilling programme. If I had been told six months ago that I would soon be filling out applications for tens of thousands of pounds I would never have believed you. Or not only attending seminars on sponsorship but progressing onto the advanced sponsorship seminars! This programme has opened my eyes to the world of cultural fundraising, how it is a constant process but by getting inventive with your methods it is never dull. 


Week 25: Johanna Shepherd, Wales Millennium Centre

As councils across Wales are closing arts centres or slashing their funding, and cuts passed on to the Arts Council of Wales take funding levels back to their lowest since 2009, now is an interesting time to be in fundraising. This challenging funding landscape is why the Creative Internships programme came into being. 

Since my last blog post, I’ve had the opportunity to write two funding applications from start to finish, one to a private foundation and one to a statutory source. For the second, I found Baroness Kay Andrews’ recent report to the Welsh Government on culture and poverty particularly helpful, and encouraging. In the foreword, she writes, “By identifying access to and participation in the arts, culture and heritage as an aspect of social justice itself and a powerful weapon against poverty, in all its manifest forms, the Welsh government has made it clear that it understands the role played by culture in making us the sort of people we are and the people we want to be.” The report, Culture and Poverty: Harnessing the power of the arts, culture and heritage to promote social justice in Wales, can be downloaded from the Welsh Government’s web site. 

On the same site you can also find Professor Dai Smith’s report on the Arts in Education, which serves as an introduction to the research on the role of the arts in raising academic achievement levels of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. A body of evidence exists both for and against the stronger claims of the arts in education, but to anyone working in an arts organisation, it’s clear that engagement with the arts really can - and does - transform lives. 

It might sometimes be difficult to measure, but art and culture have a unique role in raising aspirations and broadening horizons.  To give an example from my own family, my father’s mother was the daughter of immigrants, one of 14 children, and she grew up in a blue collar community. I am certain that her natural love of the arts – music and opera especially – was a factor in her own children going on to careers in medicine, law, and teaching art. I never knew my grandmother, but her legacy lives on, in part, in me. 

Last night I saw a new play at Wales Millennium Centre in the Weston Studio called The Good Earth. It’s based on the true story of a community in the Valleys, and one family in particular, battling to save their homes, their identity, and their heritage. It reminded me of another quote from Baroness Andrews: “For a country such as Wales where change has been so rapid, and in recent years, so dislocating of communities and skills, looking to our culture and heritage as sources of power for the future is as important as the confidence that comes from knowing who we are and where we have come from.”

One to print out for your notice board! Or maybe just include it in your next funding application. 


Week 24: Sinéad Owens, WheelWorks

It seems like yesterday that I was writing my previous blog, time is flying by so quickly here. 

We have not stopped for the past few months. The month of March proved particularly hectic for all of us at the WheelWorks office. We had a plethora of workshops with groups all across Northern Ireland. That is the beauty of this organisation; especially the ArtCart, we can bring our artists and facilities to any location in Northern Ireland, be it a small village hall, in the middle of a field, or outside your local community centre. Each workshop was different in its own way. Particular highlights for me have been the ‘Kick Start the ArtCart’ consultation sessions and our different workshops surrounding the theme of St Patrick. 

Of course, there have been some fundraising highlights too; mainly being a funding application I completed in March. To begin the process I began recruitment of three separate groups, after discussions with the youth leaders I then met with the young participants and heard what types of workshops and sessions they would like to take part in and what themes they would like to explore. I then developed a project plan and put together an outline for a series of sessions with each group. After all of that I compiled a funding application which incorporated all three groups. I am still waiting to hear back from the funder but fingers crossed!! At the moment I’m keeping busy completing funding reports, it is that time of year after all. It is brilliant to get experience in this area, to learn that the job of a fundraiser isn’t just securing funds, but researching, monitoring and evaluating as well. 

I have also been given the chance to help expand my knowledge of project co-ordinating, which is fantastic. I am looking into potential groups to work with and helping to co-ordinate some summer activity for our ArtCart. This learning opportunity has been amazing and the skills I am being taught here are invaluable for my future. I can’t thank the staff of WheelWorks enough for all their guidance and support, especially for all the tips and hints they are giving me. 

Recently I began sessions with my Business Mentor, Vincent McCann. Vincent is the Operations Manager at the Market Place, Armagh. The Market Place is a theatre and arts centre that presents the best in arts and entertainment. It is a venue that I have always been interested in and have visited many times for different events. Vincent’s role is to help me to develop my professional practice, business thinking and career development. Because one day I plan to run my own arts organisation, Vincent’s help is indispensible in helping me learn how different arts organisations are run. 

I feel like all my blogs are just me harping on about how much of a wonderful experience I’m having, but it’s all true. I am so thankful to Arts & Business NI for giving me the opportunity to work with such an amazing company and I can’t help but smile when I talk about working with WheelWorks this past few months. 

Week 23: Lauren Webb, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama

Guess what, sponsoring the arts really does enrich lives! Obviously the most inspiring arts projects enrich the lives of those they reach, and the lives of those who sponsor them are enriched with the knowledge of the lasting difference that they have made in arts education. However, as my internship progresses I realise more and more that, alongside these impacts and the obvious member benefits, sponsoring the arts is just such an enjoyable experience! I know, duh, right? I guess I myself have loved being immersed in a creative workplace so much that I am, only now, thinking more and more about how fulfilling involvement with arts charities is as part of a supporters’ cultural calendar.  

Sponsoring the arts is not a one way donation, their funding not only makes a difference to the project they support, but the supporters themselves get so much back through benefit packages. Getting to be part of creatively devising and promoting such a variety of these benefits is fascinating, and I too get to enjoy so many performances.

In the last 10 days alone I have seen three powerful plays by our acting students and a striking opera by our singers, accompanied by our musicians. The three plays are part of a new season of productions by the Richard Burton Company, our student led repertory group formed of third year students across a number of departments. Our actors, theatre designers and stage managers come together under a student director and create at least 15 productions each academic year. For this latest season the College commissioned emerging writers to create new plays and, following on from 4 days of performances in Cardiff, this week, for the first time ever, the productions are being taken to London.

This new London season and the opportunity to perform new writing has been made possible through the fundraising team at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, who prior to my internship had inspired a joint vision amongst sponsors that the next generation of practitioners are offered the best opportunities for exposure. It is inspiring to be here to appreciate the highly successful outcome of a development team’s hard work. I can see what direct influence fundraising has on these young people’s careers and I feel privileged to enjoy this rather unique experience that bridges fundraising for education and the performing arts. 

Week 22: Roisin Daley, Young at Art

Working with both Young at Art and Arts & Business NI means that I get invited to lots of interesting events and even the occasionally glamorous party, such as the recent Allianz Arts & Business NI Awards at the Ulster Hall in February. I volunteered to help out behind the scenes of the event, and met and spoke with many different and interesting people from both arts and non-arts organisations. The awards show was a big success and it was brilliant to see local people win awards and get real recognition for their contribution and collaboration in both the arts and business sector in Northern Ireland.

However, the life of a fundraising intern is not always glitz and glamour; the past few months have been extremely busy at Young at Art HQ with the annual Belfast Children’s Festival, which kicked off from 7th-14th March. A resounding success, it showcased the best of local and international theatre, visual arts, music, dance, and was our most engaging yet to date. I assisted in the festival marketing campaign, working closely with our marketing officer, Rosey, and also liaising with box office manager, Karen, to boost ticket sales and create awareness through our social media channels. I really enjoyed having the responsibility and independence which this gave me, as it meant I also got the opportunity to see and tweet about all of the fantastic high quality shows! Although hard to choose; my two favourite events were ‘Bang’; an eccentric, surreal performance by French duo Compagnie Volpinex, who used toys and crazy gadgets to create a small scale spaghetti western in front of a live audience. It was an unforgettable show, which had the audience rapt with laughter and amazement in equal measure. I also adored ‘A Mano’, a beautiful puppetry performance by Spanish company El Patio, which used clay figures to convey the harsh reality of economic hardship. It was incredibly moving and thought provoking, and there were very few dry eyes in the auditorium that afternoon (myself included..!) It was incredible to witness just how much children enjoyed the performances and activities on offer. I saw young primary school children sit hypnotised while watching experimental contemporary dance from Sweden at ‘Bartholomeo’ and three year olds hypnotised by German performers at Cocoon whilst a few days earlier I had been watching parents boogying with toddlers and babies at the Indian themed Bollywood baby rave event.

Managing the social media channels meant that I had the opportunity to speak to many people, both online and also in person whilst attending different events. Even through casual conversation I was struck by their positive feedback, as many teachers explained to me how much they look forward to booking every year, and parents spoke how attending the festival had become a new tradition in their family, with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all coming together to attend, some from over 50 miles away.  I was perhaps most humbled by people’s reactions to our ‘relaxed performances’, specially tailored accessible theatre performances for children with autism, and other sensory sensitivities. Many parents spoke passionately about how invaluable these shows were in reducing stress and anxiety which some children can face when trying new experiences, and were also thrilled by how much their kids enjoyed and engaged with the plays. It made me realise that this is exactly what arts fundraising is all about; bringing these kind of life changing and accessible experiences to people and making things happen.

The aftermath of the festival has also been very busy with completing evaluation reports, however in the midst of all this I was pleased to hear back from another two successful funding applications! It has been so encouraging and fantastic to get such positive results, and it has made me feel so much more confident and capable in myself as a fundraiser. This has also been boosted by my recent meeting with my Arts Mentor, Eimear Henry, who works as a Tourism, Arts Culture and Development Officer at Belfast City Council. Eimear has already achieved so much in her career, having previously worked as Executive Director at Replay Theatre Company, and I am delighted to have her as my mentor. Already she has been giving me lots of useful advice about where to take my career next, and I am really excited about the future.

Week 21: Jennifer Kirkham, Chapter Arts Centre