UK support for artists differs markedly from, for example, the social welfare approach of Nordic countries. Artists have to rely on different sources of funding such as the Arts Council system, trusts and foundations and prizes. There is not currently a central database listing all the sources of funds for culture. Certain sources of funding are difficult to find because they are not widely promoted and smaller trusts and foundations in particular do not have the necessary staff to deal with a wide pool of applications. In order for applications to be successful they often need considerable preparatory work, which can act as a further deterrent.
Support primarily comes through the Arts Council system or agencies such as the Crafts Council in the form of grants, bursaries and commissions. An example of this kind of support is the Developing Your Creative Practice fund by Arts Council England, which provides support for independent creative practitioners with the aim of creating more pathways for artists of different creative practices. Support for artistic projects is provided through Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants. The grants range from GB£ 1,000 to GB£ 100,000 and are open to individuals as well as organisations.
Foundations are another important source of money for many artists. The Directory of Grant–Making Trusts, published by the Directory of Social Change lists some 2,000 trusts and foundations that fund a wide range of causes, including cultural ones. Again, due to the great number of foundations and their very different focuses, it can be difficult for artists to find a foundation that is right for them. Many foundations, such as the Paul Hamlyn Foundation or the Rothschild Foundation, are not exclusively dedicated to the arts, but aim to foster them as a means to effect social change. Therefore, artistic projects have to have a specific focus in order to stand a chance of getting funding. However, some foundations try to make their grants as accessible as possible by relying on a very simple application process (few application documents, applications accepted on a rolling basis, decisions given within a few weeks). They are also more likely to give out small grants (a few hundred pounds) to fund smaller projects with a limited reach.
A third funding option are sponsored prizes, such as the Man Booker Prize for literature (which was seeking a new sponsor as this text was being prepared) or the Turner Prize for visual art. Prizes can be relatively high (the winner of the Man Booker Prize received GB£ 50,000 while all shortlisted candidates receive GB£ 12,500, and the winner of the Turner Prize receives GB£ 25,000 while each shortlisted candidate receives GB£ 5,000). In addition to the money, winning a Prize also gives artists much-needed exposure and can thus open further doors for them. However, younger artists without a track record of successful applications, exhibitions or performances, are often deterred from entering the competition for fear of not standing a chance against their more experienced colleagues.
What is important to note is that in many cases, support does not necessarily have to come in the form of money. The Loan Fund for Musical Instruments is a charitable organisation that assists young musicians at the beginning of their career to purchase high-quality instruments. Another option is to borrow a professional instrument, which is made possible by organisations such as the Benslow Instrument Loan Scheme. Furthermore, there are a number of charities that offer affordable studio space to artists, which is especially important in London, where the cost of studio space is often out of reach for many artists in the early stages of their careers.