As a writer or freelance creative practitioner, you may be interested in developing your own creative projects.
Using Young Writers’ City as an example, Anna Disley, New Writing North’s Executive Director, Programme Impact, takes us through the steps of the way we manage creative projects at New Writing North.
There are no hard and fast rules and this is by no means the only way, but this will give you a few things to think about.
Aspects of your project
We think about our projects using the following categories:
- Aims and objectives
- Audience or readership
Aims and objectives
The aim of your project is its overall intention. What do you hope your project will achieve? The objectives (and there are usually a few) are the steps you will take to get there.
For example the aim of our Young Writers’ City project is:
- For young people in Newcastle to reach their potential through engagement in literature, arts and culture
The objectives are:
- To introduce the idea of creative writing to large numbers of pupils through inspirational and ambitious writer-led projects in school
- For professional writers to work with the same young people over a long period to develop pupils’ confidence and ideas
- To have high expectations of young people and to have an outcome and audience in mind for the final work (performance, film, publication)
- To support pupils who show a particular interest or talent for the work and to identify or set up provisions for those pupils to continue their interest
It is rare that NWN undertakes a project that doesn’t have partners. Working in partnership enables us, and the partner organisation(s) to get more done and have a greater impact than any of us could have alone.
The key to effective partnerships is to have a shared vision and a mutually beneficial relationship. For example in the school we are working with on the Young Writers’ City project described above we would be:
- Providing an experience for the pupils that the school is unable or doesn’t have the capacity to provide
- We would be providing them with another way of engaging pupils
- We would be developing pupil’s confidence and ability to express original ideas
- We would find ways for our project to feed into their curriculum
- The project would provide them with PR and profile
When thinking about your project try to identify which other organisations might also benefit from your work, and approach them.
Audience or Readership
For any arts or literature project you need to identify who you are creating the work for. Who is the audience? Who are the readers? And where will you find them?
In the project described above, we defined our audience as the young people involved in the workshops, other pupils in the school, family and friends of participants, teachers in the school and arts audiences.
Your marketing plan identifies how you will engage those audiences. The plan would how you will use the following PR and marketing tools:
- Marketing copy. This is how you will talk about your project and you will need various lengths of copy to use in different forms, ie on websites, on social media, in listings, in print
- Design and images
- Press releases and a target list of media that might be interested in your project
- Social media images and copy, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Direct mail
- Leaflets and posters, including where these will be displayed
- Adverts (social media, online, print)
- Public events including launches, roadshows, workshops
How you define quality is obviously subjective, but ‘what quality looks like’ to you is something worth considering when putting your project together.
For us in the project example, the features of the project that we felt would help make sure it was a high quality project included:
- Employing writers and artists who are experienced at working with young people, have high expectations, share the values of the project and are committed to the work
- Ensuring that the work is co-produced with the participants
- Ensuring that there is provision for legacy and progression routes once the project is over
- Ensuring that there is a commitment to high production values whatever the end product is
- Ensuring that the young people know they are creating work for an audience
You will need to have a plan for fundraising for your project, especially if you don’t think you are going to meet the costs from book sales or ticket income.
Arts Council England run Grants for the Arts which is a programme that support arts and cultural projects in England. Individuals are eligible to apply. You can apply for up to £15,000 and this is recommended if you are just starting out on your career, or over £15,000 if you are experienced.
Other sources include:
- Crowdfunding using websites such as Kickstarter.
- Trusts and Foundations. Examples include Paul Hamlyn, Garfield Weston, Esmee Fairbairn and the Foyle Foundation.
- Business sponsorship
- Partner support (eg. box office guarantees)
Of course budgets will vary depending on the project, but a few things to consider are:
- Writers’ and artists’ fees
- Travel costs
- Marketing costs
- Production costs
- Access costs
- Evaluation costs
- Contingency (a small reserve of funds to cover unexpected costs – usually between 5-10% of the total budget)
- Management fees
In all the projects we produce we want to know what the impact of the work has been so that we can learn from the challenges or build on the successes.
At the beginning of the project it’s a good idea to identify what success will look like. To do this we recommend revisiting your aims and objectives and identifying ‘measures of success’.
- Objective 1: To introduce the idea of creative writing to large numbers of pupils through inspirational and ambitious writer-led projects in school
- Measure of success: that at least 300 pupils took part in the project
- Objective 2: For professional writers to work with the same young people over a long period to develop pupils’ confidence and ideas
- Measure of success: that 50% of participants said their confidence had improved as a result of the project
- Objective 3: To have high expectations of young people and to have an outcome and audience in mind for the final work (performance, film, publication)
- Measure of success: that feedback on social media was generally positive
- Objective 4: To support pupils who show a particular interest or talent for the work and to identify or set up provisions for those pupils to continue their interest
- Measure of success: that 10% of participants continue to be involved in arts activity