Cultural Investment Fund
Financial support for creatives and cultural organisations, who want to create cultural initiatives, test new ideas and develop concepts
The Cultural Investment Fund is designed to seed fund cultural initiatives through an open call, grant-making process. It is a collaborative effort that sees National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) in the city pool budgets and jointly commission activity that aligns with the strategic objectives set out in the Culture Plan.
It is not simply about commissioning artwork but instead looks to fund time and opportunity for testing new ideas and developing concepts that will help improve and advance the creative and cultural sector.
We value the process as much as the output so this funding gives us time to think, test, research and pilot. The intention is that this research generates a range of shared learning that can be disseminated to the cultural sector for others to learn from and adopt best practices.
In 2021/22 the NPOs agreed the thematic of ‘Togetherness’ (see footnote for more) for the CIF programme. This was aligned with a wider programme of work being undertaken by the NPOs to improve Inclusion in the arts and culture sector, with year one focusing on race and anti-racism action.
It is not an accident, therefore, that the three projects commissioned all had aspects of race and anti-racism at their core. These commissions were seen as an extension of and complementary to the NPO programme of work, and whilst they operated independently of this work Plymouth Culture has sought to connect learning between the projects and NPOs.
The information and documents below are the learning outcomes from each project, which we encourage you to read, reflect and act on wherever possible. We, as Plymouth Culture and the NPOs collectively, have done the same and have the following learning to share:
- Work around race, exclusion and underrepresentation takes time and it is necessary for us to be flexible and extend project timeframes to recognise this;
- Anti-racism work requires personal and emotional investment in change. The whole person must be present in the work in order to identify the systemic issues of racism and understand how you personally can take positive action and contribute to change;
- Whilst the projects were commissioned under a shared theme the work was necessarily specific to each organisation and as a result the ability to share information and the value of doing so changed as the programme progressed;
- Anti-racism work is about depth not scale and we need to carefully consider how we appraise value in a more nuanced way in future commissioning;
- Trust is everything and there is much work still to do within and between the NPOs and wider sector partners to build and rebuild trust;
- Cultural organisations and projects need to think carefully about how they approach anti-racism work and action, to avoid causing more harm than good. Lived experience, support structures, safe spaces, clarity of roles and motivations need honest consideration before making decisions, and indeed before commissioning. This work requires complete and ongoing commitment.
We are working with our NPO partners to assimilate this learning and consider next steps connected to our own anti-racism work programme and future CIF commissioning.
Read about each of the projects commissioned below:
The planning and development phases of DECAMP/RECAMP identified factors critical to the project:
- that the problem of ‘white privilege’ (and class privilege) especially as found in the arts, is embedded in the objectifying, commodifying paradigm and structures of capitalism, and so is a toxic situation for all;
- before getting to the theme of ‘togetherness’ there’s a need to address exclusion in a way that is deeply personal, and potentially discomforting;
- that these changes in strategies have to come from profound changes in a person’s belief systems;
- that this work undertaken is not new, and will require participants to continue the application of their learning and time together in their daily lives as well as in influencing the strategies and structures of decision-making used in CAMP
DeCAMP/ReCAMP is an active research and co-learning project between artists who embarked on a sincere agreement to do deep personal work toward embedding racial justice within an arts institution, so they can help to continually dismantle racism in the arts and cultural sector.
The Project Aims were to understand how CAMP, and other arts institutions, may be less harmful and less exclusive spaces for the continued engagement of artists and arts workers of colour.
The project sought to identify strategies for de-exclusion, and most importantly to establish a continued, live conversation with a commitment to the life-long work of dismantling racism in the arts.
With CAMP as a case study, the project sought to address what personal interrogative and introspective work needs to be done by CAMP members and leadership as prerequisites for creating an environment of meaningful de-exclusion.
The DeCAMP/ReCAMP Project was guided by a Core Working Group of 3 who also participated in the project. The project engaged 5 CAMP artists of colour, and 5 of the then-current CAMP leadership all of whom identify as ‘white’ while being diverse in other ways, to comprise an initial cohort of 10 and eventually 9, all participating in a series of 7 sessions over a year.
DeCAMP/ReCAMP Session 1 introduced participants to each other, and offered an insight to the working group as well as the structure of the following sessions. It also established the need for each individuals’ commitment to all sessions, for attentive collective mutual care throughout, and to the deep personal work on the journey ahead.
For the Working Phase in Sessions 2, 3 & 4, participants worked as two strands; the CAMP Artists of colour participants (Strand A), and 5 self-selecting CAMP co-directors (Strand B).
Strand B engaged in a facilitated process led by core working group member Monica-Shanta, with support facilitator Ella S. Mills, of inner work, investigation, and research through shared creative practice.
Strand A self-steered their own programming and personal and/or creative development over the same period, led by core working group member Carmen Wong, who coordinated this programming and led on communications.
The Interwoven Phase of sessions 5, 6 & 7 brought to dialogue the topics and issues uncovered in previous sessions, to collectively digest challenges of race-based exclusion. This phase led, at the last session, into thinking, discussion and focus on actionable next steps of how to effect some of DeCAMP/ReCAMP’s key-learnings into the everyday working challenges encountered by the participants, CAMP’s programme, and outcomes shareable with Plymouth Culture.
All sessions concluded with a shared meal.
The entire project process aimed to nurture an environment of genuine deep listening, holding differences with attentive care, and bringing focus to the existing harms and exclusions, experienced by artists and arts workers of colour, that are present in current organisational practices.
As such, the project evolved to integrate supervisory support from a mediator and psychotherapist who specialises in the issues at the core of the DeCAMP/ReCAMP project. This supervisory support emerged as essential to the necessary collective care, and individual self-care required for the emotional labour involved in a project unflinchingly confronting the painful realities of race-based exclusion in the arts.
The project conferred, at its conclusion, with Plymouth Culture to consider how to share what was learned with the wider arts and cultural sector in Devon and Cornwall.
These Next Steps are not recommendations for policy changes, rather – How we commit to keeping this conversation alive to continually reflect on and co-influence other artists and CAMP members in a shared life-long work of dismantling racism in the arts.
Listen to the concluding project discussion to hear the final outcomes and impact.
Cine Sisters SW was founded in 2020 as a CIC, with the aim of developing a network to inspire and support womxn filmmakers and moving image artists in the region.
Laura Denning, Kate Paxman and Lauren Tenn, directors of the CIC at the time, worked in collaboration with Katy Richardson, a member of the North Star Study Group’s project North Star Stories (which recently created the Welcome Walk Plymouth web-app).
Their project was initially conceived around the idea of developing a project to enable women from newly arrived communities to access the means to make short films. After a period of research and consultation with the community, a decision was made to change the focus to that of research.
Their CIF research project centred round the accessibility of cultural activity in Plymouth to newly arrived and displaced people, refugees and asylum seekers.
Their research question asked – how can and should we support diverse communities in the city? Can creative practice get people together to collaborate as active participants in the city’s cultural offer, and raise the city’s profile as diverse and inclusive and a genuinely welcoming city?
The initial research period of the project posed several key questions which launched the enquiry and helped to evolve the project over time:
- What happens to refugees and asylum seekers when they first arrive in Plymouth, and how long might they expect to be here?
- What are Plymouth cultural organisations, institutions and communities doing to engage these people, and how might they more effectively do that?
- What projects exist elsewhere in the UK and further afield that could provide models for increasing and improving refugee and asylum seekers’ engagement with cultural activity here in Plymouth?
Read the concluding project report which shares the final outcomes and a series of learnings from the personal learnings within the project.
Beyond Face is a South-West based theatre company founded in 2015 by Alix Harris. Alongside creating their our own productions, Beyond Face works with local global majority artists and young people to help them to build their own creative work and sense of community.
The CIF project, ‘A Different Perspective’, exists under Beyond Face’s Regional Voices Programme, which is a strand of work seeking to engage people who currently have little to no engagement/experience with the theatre industry. Beyond Face worked alongside Creative Producer, Lorna Rose whose work incorporates arts research alongside, designing and coordinating projects which elevate Black and Brown voices in the art field.
Beyond Face had a core research question which asked “How will a specific, bespoke audience development campaign help to engage more black and global majority audiences?” With a focus on those who currently do not engage with the arts in the city.
The project brought together and worked with a focus group of individuals to examine how current people feel about theatre and what can be done to use theatre differently.
Initially the focus group explored what is stopping people from going to the theatre, what would entice them to engage with the arts and what stories they would want to hear. These conversations evolved into a second project phase considering how this research could inform future Beyond Face audience development strategies.
Although the focus group discussed many aspects of theatre and culture, the theme of community and connection featured prominently. All participants wanted to connect culturally and become a part of a space to freely exist and create in. One participant compared finding Beyond Face to finally seeing the beacon on a lighthouse, a place of safety and refuge. It is hoped that this project can be that at its very core and more in the future.
Read the concluding project report which shares the final outcomes and a series of recommendations from the personal learnings within the project
Definitions + FOOTNOTES
Footnote 1: National Portfolio Organisations.Note that at the time of commissioning the 2021/22 CIF programme the funding NPO’s were – Plymouth Culture, Real Ideas, The Box, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Barbican Theatre Plymouth, KARST, Literature Works, Take a Part and Plymouth Music Zone.
Footnote 2: For the purposes of the CIF open call, Togetherness was defined as – a broad theme that links inclusivity with diversity and in turn to a sense of belonging thus bringing people, organisations and communities together. Now more than ever, we need to come together in communities and in partnerships to help address the inequalities we see in the sector and society. A sense of togetherness is about building genuinely inclusive and diverse sector.
Togetherness is a broad theme that links inclusivity with diversity and in turn to a sense of belonging thus bringing people, organisations and communities together. Now more than ever, we need to come together in communities and in partnerships to help address the inequalities we see in the sector and society. A sense of togetherness is about building genuinely inclusive and diverse sector.
Research & Development
The idea of starting with a theory, question, line of enquiry of concept that you investigate and interrogate through research and phased development. This is normally the first phase of building an idea into a reality and may involve desk research, interviews, workshops, prototypes, feedback and other ways of testing and idea.
Findings and recommendations that come out of the funded proposal which can be applied to other organisations and initiatives. These may be thematically based and can be disseminated in different ways.
This is initial funding that enables the first phase of a proposal to take place. It does not necessarily fund the full project but is a key component in catalysing work on the initiative.
For the purposes of this fund we will apply the definition set out in the Culture Plan which takes the DCMS definition of the creative industries to include publishing, computer games, software publishing, computer programming, computer consultancy activities, Film, TV, music, radio, Heritage, retail of music and video recordings, manufacture of musical instruments, reproduction of recorded media, Heritage, Arts, museum activities. It excludes sport, gambling and telecoms.
The reason we are calling it an investment is because we are prepared to take some risks, in that we will be buying into a cultural initiative rather than a guaranteed artistic output. It is an investment because we are also looking for long term, scalable impact.