Future Direction and Development and Recommendations

As the data in this report affirms, The Dewar Arts Awards have successfully delivered on their mission – to support exceptionally talented young people in financial need, living in Scotland, to fulful their potential and ambitions as artists. 96.5% of those surveyed who had received significant support felt that the awards had been important to the development of their careers 98% felt the Dewar Award intervention was at the right time. Many Dewar Awardees have gone on to become successful artists, fulfilling their own potential, contributing to Scotlands cultural scene and enhancing Scotland’s creative reputation internationally.

2008 awardee Niall Macdonald’s “Die Ammonite” exhibited at 10th anniversary exhibition in Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
2008 awardee Niall Macdonald’s “Die Ammonite” exhibited at 10th anniversary exhibition in Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

The testimony is even more powerful with almost all of those surveyed and interviewed stating that they would simply have been unable to pursue their studies or project and become the artists they are today without the support of the Dewar Arts Awards. The adaptive but rigorous decision making processes of the Trustees have proved effective in selecting and investing in genuine talent in genuine need of support.

The Trustees have also taken a deeply thoughtful approach to the management of the fund in extremely challenging times, that has ensured the ongoing delivery of their core mission and a duty of care towards those they have invested in, while also restricting outgoings to protect the fund.

As the Dewar Arts Awards celebrate their 15th anniversary there is much to be proud of. With a group of voluntary Trustees and a small, dedicated team they have achieved a great deal.

The combination of fluidity and focus that has defined the work of the Dewar Awards to date needs to continue to inform their work going forward, as new challenges surface across culture, education, the economy and society. The Trustees need to secure their values and define how they are going to express them in the face of these emerging issues, in order to fulfil their essential central mission, transforming the lives and prospects of creative young people in Scotland.


In order to ensure the sustainability of the Awards’ values, there should be a planned handover of the Chair role. The Trustees should look at the appointment of a Vice-chair from within the current Trustees, selected by the current Chair, with the agreement of the Board. However, should an external person be recruited, the Vice-Chair should be responsible for working with the Trustees to ensure the values are maintained.

Consideration has to be given to succession planning around other long term trustees whose expertise and/or outlook is essential to a balanced skills portfolio.

The Trustees should consider the appointment of a former awardee as a Trustee, allowing the perspectives of the recipients to be embedded in the decision making process

Two Trustee subgroups should be set up to work in cohesion and respond to the data and analyses in this report.

The first should be on accessibility (led by Jill Miller working with the Administrator Patricia Rossi). It would examine the data in this report, current and past awardee profiles and ongoing decision making. It should also consider the wider educational and social environment to look at the possible routes for those talented young people the Awards may not be reaching.

The second should be on Communications (Led by Lesley Thomson working with Web and Social Media Administrator, Rebecca Goldsmith). It should look at a communications strategy targeting those young people as well as taking the current web and social media activities to the next level. This would include developing effective and timely customer relationships, marketing approaches with key contacts.

The Trustees should consider making regular time at each meeting for discussion, particularly as the Access and Communications subgroups do their work and have an annual session based on updated data and on issues such as eligibility.

Over the next 5 to 10 years, The Trustees should consider shifts in priorities, structural adaptations and new partnership building to address key emerging issues affecting the Trust and its operational environment. These may include:

  • The economy and low interest rates and returns.
  • European relationships.
  • More pressure on resources from applicants faced with funding reductions elsewhere.
  • Reduction in public funding.
  • Increasing gaps between the disenfranchised and the privileged.
  • Increasing restrictions on Higher Education Funding.
  • The provision/priority/impoverishment of culture in schools including tuition.
  • Increasing emphasis on equality, diversity and inclusivity in the wider cultural landscape.
  • The changing nature of creative expression.
2007 awardee Katri Walker on location.
2007 awardee Katri Walker on location.

Access and Communications Strategies

The two connected Subgroups should look at developing Access and Communication Strategies which addresses some crucial questions:

  • Who are we not reaching that we ought to?
  • Where should we be picking up the raw and needy talent when there are even fewer opportunities?’
  • How can we ensure that all exceptionally talented young people in Scotland in financial need are aware of the Awards and the support they can provide?
  • How can we identify and liaise with people and organisations with similar ambitions?

The Access Strategy should look at the data gathered as part of this report process, current and past awardees profiles and the wider educational and social environment This would inform their understanding of broader entry points for awareness-raising and potential interventions and which of these might be particular to an art form.

The associated Communications strategy should define and deliver the means to target young, talented people.

The trust should undertake a specific piece of work looking at how to target young talent in secondary schools and how to identify the teachers likely to find and encourage it. This exercise should take advantage of the considerable experience of the Dewar Administrator, Patricia Rossi.

Since the Dewar Arts Awards are dependent on a voluntary board and a small dedicated, part time team, both Strategies need to be seen as longer term enterprises with more urgent tasks prioritised.

2005 awardee Benjamin Kracun on location.
2005 awardee Benjamin Kracun on location.

Communications Platforms and Channels

The vastly improved existing web and social media activities should be taken to the next level developing a key contacts database of critical influencers and decision makers at educational institutions, cultural organisations plus individual talent spotters.

This database should embrace organisations such as the national youth arts hubs, the community and education departments in key creative institutions, including the national companies, other key initiatives and platforms supporting young talent (e.g. Live music Now, Scottish film talent Network, CreativeFutureshq.com, Emergents.co.uk) and festivals who commission young artists. Teaching artists and Dewar alumni should also be included. Ensuring the Awards have the right contacts is essential, as is annual updating.

In addition to responding to Access subgroup recommendations, there should be a focus on targeting young artists from those art forms and areas currently under-represented.

Effective and timely customer relationship management (CRM) communications should be initiated with these contacts e.g. a bi-annual newsletter highlighting the awards as part of a wider communications schedule tuning in with the peak annual application cycle of the Awards.

The web content should be rewritten in response to the Access and Communications strategies, using more accessible language and formats e.g. FAQs, Eligibility Quiz format, and taking SEO (search engine optimisation) on board. It should include more advice on the content and preparation of the application, instructions for referees with prompts on what to include and a form to which applicants can return and save.

There should also be greater clarity in all communications about the necessary combination of talent and financial need to ensure only appropriate candidates apply.

Voices of previous applicants, almost all of whom are happy to act as ambassadors, should be used to illuminate the process. This would showcase their positive experiences and the benefits of successful applications. It might involve a quarterly blog with active awardees, and an annual online live Q&A with a previous applicant at a point in the year where new applicants are likely to be thinking about applying and in live events where appropriate.

The Awards have a committed but small team and so all means of automating the processes should be explored e.g. CRM communications as these develop. The idea of content aggregation where automatic searches draw in material on awardees should also be explored to ease the process of gathering material for the news and profile sections of the website.

Dewar Arts Awards website users should be used to spread the word and improve the site. Share buttons should be added to allow content and application details to be forwarded to others who may be interested. Arts institutions and organisations should be encouraged to carry backlinks to the Dewar site.

More feedback loops should be developed for users and awardees to allow for ongoing adaptation and improvement in the online processes and communication including the application form.

Targets for web and social media based on the overall Access and Communications strategy should be set e.g. increasing new users, database development, proportion of visits that go on to application, referrals from educational institutions etc.

Live platforms such as Education Fairs, Educational Institutions’ Open days etc. should also be explored.

Annual meetings with/for a small gathering of the leadership and contacts at major education and cultural institutions should also be organised.

It should be noted that the Dewar Arts Awards already receive significant levels of applicants, the majority whom are not successful. This process is not about increasing numbers but about reaching out to those the Trustees feel are a priority with the limited financial and human resouces available.

2016 awardee David Tinto recipient of RSA medal for architecture.
2016 awardee David Tinto recipient of RSA medal for architecture.

Ways of working

The idea of supporting and developing aspiration came through in all conversations. In the light of any new Access Strategy, the Trustees need to look at selection, monitoring and available pastoral care in terms of encouraging and looking after potentially more vulnerable individuals in what can be pressurised learning environments.

The issue of mentoring has been under consideration and the desire of previous awardees to act as ambassadors for the awards may offer a light touch, initial approach to this. The evolution of an Access Strategy may require a more formal approach to the support of some awardees and indeed some highly talented potential awardees may require intervention and confidence building to get them to the point of application.

Articulacy, the lack or excess of it, was also seen as an issue by Trustees and the need to continue to be aware where it might favour or undermine the strength of an application.

It is important to apply continuing rigour in the face of challenges concerning the definition, perception, and proof of financial need.

Responding to complex emerging issues which will affect the Dewar Awards, it is essential to have a conversation with or gathering of other agents in the talent development pathways, perhaps co-ordinated by Creative Scotland. This should look at ensuring mutual awareness, better shared understanding of key access routes, barriers to and models of support and the development of shared platforms where appropriate. Working with and understanding the implications of Creative Scotland’s Art Form Reviews and Time to Shine will be important to identifying pipelines for talent and where the Dewar Awards sit within them.

2005 awardee Benjamin Kracun on location.
2005 awardee Benjamin Kracun on location.

Systems and Processes

Get the systems networked for staff and board leads.

A triannual update form with some key simple survey questions should be sent out to applicants to provide content for the website and understanding to the Trustees.

The data sets from this report can now be regularly updated and ongoing approaches such as registering income levels and success rates per art form can help to inform decision making.

The Trustees knowledge about institutions has been essential in decision-making and in some cases advice to applicants. A formalisation of that with added input from advisors and awardees into a table of top institutions would be useful.