If you ever had an idea for a public art project, have you wondered how it could come to life? I hope this article can be of some use to somebody thinking of applying for funding, or even inspire them to try!
in 2019 my partner Paulie and I submitted an application to Creative Commissions, a grant funded by Adur & Worthing Trust for new projects within this area. It was successful, and I'm delighted to have been invited to join the judging panel this year. Reading about our experience could be helpful if you are considering applying this year, and perhaps haven't yet taken the plunge.
Our idea sprang up on a hot June day in 2018, when I was painting the floor of our understairs cupboard. With all the junk cleared out of there and with a nice coat of paint, I thought what an overlooked space this was, and joked with Paulie about what we could do with it. We happened to have an old cinema seat from a local cinema's refurb, that had been cluttering up the house for two years. And you know how people turn their understairs cupboards into toilets? Well, putting the cinema chair in there instead and making the tiniest cinema would a) give the chair a use and b) be really fun.
It was coming up to our 5th year of participating in Worthing Artists Open Houses as 'Ashdown Road Artists', and we've always tried to create a welcoming environment for visitors. It's quite a big step for people to go into a stranger's house on an art trail, and the event can end up being a little exclusive. The pressure to buy something can put anyone off! And we don't want people to worry about talking to us, or feel like this event isn't for them.
This slightly ridiculous cinema idea could be just the thing to offer as a fun and free activity for all ages and backgrounds, as well as being a great talking point to engage people with. If we could make our Open House more inclusive, it could be one tiny step towards shaking off the homogenous image of the typical 'art-trail visitor'.
The name came from trying to think of a gender-neutral version of a one-man cinema... And as far as we can imagine, we all have a bum, and need to use it for sitting on the seat, so One Bum Cinema Club was born! The name made us smile, and was totally inclusive, so we knew it was right.
We are lucky enough to have local friends who are artists, illustrators and animators, who were willing to collaborate and bring the idea to life. My personal involvement didn't go far beyond the idea, the name and the funding application, because Paulie, not normally involved in the creative side, took this on as his project with our fantastic gadget-man friend Matt Simkins. Taking short, funny animations as the focus, our friends from Persistent Peril created a showreel of shorts by them and Laurie Rowan. And hello DODO created the brilliant logo.
The funding application was instrumental in getting the idea off the ground, because not only did it give our idea focus, it gave it accountability for being more than just our personal whim. When writing the application I explained how we would use this project to reach out to a new audience, attract people from outside the area to the town, and how it would provide a service to the community. After making these pledges, our humble little chair-under-the-stairs had to be good, and we also had to work hard to publicise it and get real visitors into our cupboard!
Working out the budget in advance helped make the idea more solid, and by researching the costs before applying we were well prepared by the time we needed to buy materials.
We designed and distributed flyers, and posted about it on instagram and facebook, asking our fellow artist-exhibitors to do the same. Colonnade House, Here and Now Magazine and other local businesses helped us publicise it too.
When the Open Houses festival came around, Paulie and Matt had our little cinema set up, the space painted black with a black curtain, and we'd cut a hole in the sloped ceiling to attach a shelf to the back of a step for a tiny projector. The showreel ran off a Raspberry Pi computer programmed by Matt, and we even had hidden speakers. Our screen was a piece of mount-board, and Matt had installed a red button on the wall that would dim some cinema-style lights and start the 6 minute showreel when pressed. This was such a nice touch, and when sitting in there it really felt like being somewhere else!
It was wonderful watching people of different ages and demographics taking the plunge and going into the tiny space through the curtain. Once they were in there we could hear lots of giggling, and many children went in over and over again. We even had a queue!
After Open Houses Paulie and Matt created a freestanding One Bum Cinema, thanks to Neighbourhood Store in Shoreham wanting it in their shop! Then it started its own tour, going on to my shop FOUND shop & studio, Art Jumble, Colonnade House, Unbarred Tap Room in Brighton and the Peckham and Nunhead Film Festival. It would have gone to the Larmer Tree Festival, but Covid put a stop to any further adventures for the time being. It will hopefully be appearing at Hand Brew Co in Worthing soon!
Since our cupboard experiment, Paulie has been dealing with amazing international animators and agencies... it's refreshing to discover how many people are willing to volunteer their time and expertise for something non-commercial and just plain fun.
If you are thinking of applying for this funding, the best advice we could give is to simply answer the brief, and respond to the guidelines. Be succinct and don't veer off into writing something lovely but irrelevant. Really think about how the project involves others and what it can do for the town and its community. How you can work with other creatives and how accessible is it? How will you reach out to new people?
As organiser Karen Simporis intended, Creative Commissions is perfect for those who haven't received any funding before. Plus it really helps for your applications elsewhere in future.
I hope this will be of some use to somebody! Best of luck and I can't wait to see the submissions!
To apply, see the information on the Colonnade House website, watch the video and get your submission in by 28th February.
Thanks to our friends and collaborators who gave us a chance to get it all started: Matt Simkins, Persistent Peril, hello DODO, Laurie Rowan, John Bond, Alex Bamford Photography, Colonnade House and of course Creative Commissions.