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Emma Rice’s Wise Children publishes full Arts Council application following bid controversy

Emma Rice at Shakespeare's Globe, London Emma Rice will run Wise Children from April 2018, when she leaves Shakespeare's Globe. Photo: Sarah Lee
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Emma Rice’s new company Wise Children has published details of its bid for Arts Council England support, after claims the decision disregarded funding rules.

The Arts Council’s decision to fund the company was criticised by industry website Arts Professional, which questioned the validity of funding an organisation not yet in operation and queried the company’s intention to be based in the South West.

Following a freedom of information request, Wise Children has now published its national portfolio organisation application to Arts Council England, and ACE’s subsequent assessment of its bid.

Some details have been redacted from the application for reasons of commercial confidentiality. However, the documents reveal details of the company’s proposed residency model for its first four years, including its plans to create a permanent home in the South West. They also reveal the Arts Council’s reasons for funding an “untested” company.

Wise Children will be led by Rice from April 2018, the date she leaves Shakespeare’s Globe and the company becomes an NPO.

Over the next four years, Wise Children will receive £475,000 per year from the Arts Council as an NPO.

The documents show that the company’s already-announced residency at the Old Vic is one of several that will take place over the next four years at large and mid-scale venues across the country, with Wise Children undertaking a range of activities at each host venue.

These include creating a new work – the first a production of Angela Carter’s novel Wise Children – as well hosting its education and training arm, Emma Rice’s School for Wise Children, and conducting research into the kind of spaces needed for creativity.

The application said: “The research carried out over these four years will inform the creation of a unique creative home for Wise Children the company and the School for Wise Children in the South West.”

As part of this research, theatre architect Steve Tompkins of Haworth Tompkins will host a series of conversations “in search of the new values of a creative space”.

The application also explains more about Emma Rice’s School for Wise Children, which will deliver training based in modules, ranging from one weekend up to three weeks. Every residency will include the delivery of at least one module.

They will be aimed at people who are 26 or under, with 12 places on each module. Half of these will be free places available on a means-tested basis, with at least four places allocated to black, Asian, minority ethnic and refugee participants.

In addition, the company will develop an apprenticeship programme, with one place per year for the first two years, based in the South West.

Wise Children has also published Arts Council England’s assessment of its application. This said that although the quality of Wise Children’s work was untested, “the new company has evidently exceptional artistic leadership and proposes key titles in a clear four-year programme that appear strongly consistent with Rice’s successful practice to date”.

The assessment praises Wise Children’s training initiative, describing it as a “very strong artist development opportunity”.

While the company was unable to supply financial statements or a 2017/18 budget due to activity not beginning until April 2018, the ACE assessment says that its “clear and informed” projections and strength of artistic plans present a “credible financial model”.

“Ambitious projections appear in line with comparable producing and touring organisations, have been reviewed by the applicant’s experienced advisory panel and found to be achievable,” it added.

Read the full Wise Children application here

Read the full Arts Council England assessment here [174KB download]

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