Interview with Ginger Bennett
EmpFest21 This is Creative Kent
Ginger Bennett has been performing as a singer in and around the Kent Coast since 2003.
She has performed at the Margate Jazz and Soul Festivals and is a regular performer at the Canterbury Festival, but until recently, her music career was entirely self-funded, with profits from ticket sales paying for the next gig.
Her latest project, Songs from my Soul is a powerful exploration of a mother daughter relationship performed through song and spoken word and will debut at Folkestone Tower Theatre, on 29 October and 30 October 2021.
These performances will kick off a year-long project recording discussions of Becoming, Belonging and Being with UK immigrants and their children.
Ginger spoke to the Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries about the project and how successfully applying for Arts Council funding has made a huge difference.
We spend so much time talking ourselves out of things. Make yourself do it! Apply, fail, apply again, and again... Oh, and then tell yourself you are going to do it anyway.
Tell us about the funding that your project has been awarded?
I have been awarded just over £9K to bring this year-long project to life.
The Money has come from the Arts Council’s National Lottery Project Grants fund, which is an open access programme for arts, museums and libraries projects. The fund supports thousands of individual artists, community and cultural organisations.
I am so grateful. I wouldn't have been able to do it properly without this funding.
What is the application process like? Was it very daunting?
So daunting! I have been lucky enough to have the support
of some very talented and established performers, Frances
Knight and Martin
Elliot, who encouraged me, told me my ideas (that formed over casual
conversations over lockdown), were of interest and value. The application form
nearly broke me to be honest. I applied three times! But the biggest
challenge was drilling down to the detail of what the Arts Council
needed to see to fund the project and not just conjuring an image of
what I wanted to produce as a creative. The Arts Council
want to see a full description of your vision too, but they also need to
know you are going to engage an audience, manage a realistic budget and of
What kind of budget detail were you
required to provide?
A lot - I had quite
a good idea about what was needed to produce the project musically but the
show also has spoken word and can be staged as a full theatrical performance, so
I had to do quite a bit of research.
There was lots of detail
to be entered line by line but there is useful information on the Arts Council
website to help you. I approached it as you would any new event; start
with an idea - What do you really want to do or Create? Make a list and then
cost it out. Check your costings with the professionals then decide if
you can really afford it…then cut your cloth!
What would you do differently in a future application?
I still feel as though I've made some mistakes. As a first-time
applicant I felt that my first application needed to come in below the 15K small
project ceiling - perhaps this was wrong and only time will tell.
Although I added a good budget for contingency, I hadn’t realised the extent of
additional items that needed to be taken into account, such as lighting design
and a proper budget for stage management, and also that the number of
rehearsals that are needed probably needs to double for a creative idea.
All in all, I may need to subsidise further personally but hey, it’s a passion
project too so any shortfall will need to be found to bring this through to
Did you need to find referees familiar
with your work to support your application?
No, well not
directly but I did have support from proven artists. I think this was part of
confidence building - demonstrating to the Arts Council that although I had no
previous relationship with them, I had the personnel in place to deliver
the project and that I also had transferrable skills that would be put to good
use. After my application was turned down the second time the Arts Council
contacted me and, following their advice, I sought a partner. After Folkestone
Theatre agreed to partner me in the project I think the Arts Council were
assured that this would happen.
Was your application officially supported in other ways?
I can't praise the
Arts Council enough. They were professional and impartial but so supportive. I was invited to online seminars and given
the opportunity to have a chat with an advisor, these helped to reinforce and
clarify what the Arts Council application process was about.
How many drafts were submitted and rejected?
Two but when I look at the difference between the First and Third submissions I do understand why. I explained the vision in iterations, but the final version really explains the aims and the delivery and the need to create this in a way that anyone could understand it. All of the flowery language was paired down to What, Who, When, Where, Why and How much?
What did you learn about redrafting your application in order to make it successful?
The final redraft has really given me the roadmap to deliver the project. I am using the application to plot and meet milestones and yes, keep on financial track.
What difference has the funding made in bringing your project to life?
funding. I think I would have still produced something, but it would have
taken longer and the cost cutting would have been extensive, brutal. It
would have been many steps away from the original idea. I would have done
it but would the Canterbury Festival have picked it up? I don't know. Would I
have been able to stage a full theatrical version without the Tower Theatre on
board? Probably not.
Are you committed to any specific outcomes or criteria as a condition of the funding?
Yes but luckily the outcomes which have been agreed with the Arts Council are very closely aligned to my goals for the project too!. The stories of Arriving, Being, and Belonging for 1st and 2nd Generation immigrants to the UK are part of our social history and should be told recorded and immortalised. The voices of older women are not heard enough and should be. Oh and I am funny! (that's not an Arts Council outcome but I have added it to my list).
What advice do you have for anybody who is thinking of applying for funding to build their Creative idea?
Be your own cheer squad. Tell yourself to "Shut up and do it!" We spend so much time talking ourselves out of things. Make yourself do it! Apply, fail, apply again, and again... Oh, and then tell yourself you are going to do it anyway.
Ginger’s project has already been noticed, and has been reviewed for Black History Month 2021 official online magazine.
Tickets for Songs From My Soul are on sale now via the Tower Theatre website and the show will be performed at next year’s Canterbury Festival, in October 2022.
Contact Ginger Ginger@SongsFromMySoul.com for further information and to discuss bookings.
Follow Ginger Bennett on Twitter @GingerZedhead
Find Songs From My Soul on Facebook, and follow on Instagram @sfmysoul