Process and Promotion
The development of both process and promotion for the Dewar Arts Awards has been organic, and based on accumulated understanding of awardees and their creative pathways, nominators and their relationships to applicants, critical platforms and institutions and communications and promotional vehicles. This report is the next stage of that evolution.
It has also been informed by a clear focus of resources on the awards themselves and an emphasis on the part of the Chair for maximum flexibility and minimal bureaucracy.
For the first 2 years, the awards were administered from within the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) before the first Administrator, Rachel Inglis, who had been working on supporting this process from within the SAC, was recruited to work directly and part time for the Dewar Arts Awards processing the increasing number of applications, corresponding with applicants and awardees and supporting the Chair and Trustees on communications and promotions. She brought considerable experience and commitment to the role.
Originally applications were through a nominator, by letter, making the case for support with supporting referees. This evolved into a simple application form, which formed the basis on which Trustees made decisions, an annual personal progress report, an outline of expenditure and a personal report at the end of the award period. Informal contact with the administrator was encouraged to keep Trustees informed of progress. Applicants may not self refer.
In 2004, the high level of applications for support to purchase an instrument – with many defining this as a critical issue in their creative development – combined with the relatively low cost of investment, persuaded the Trustees to create an instrumental sub-category of the Dewar Arts Awards. This was known as the ‘Daughter of Dewar’ awards and an adjusted version of the application was created.
"I believe the student has benefitted hugely from his time on the BA acting programme. He has grown from a lost, yet humble youth raised in an area of multiple deprivation, into a mature actor who is full of potential, bravery and charm. Winning a Dewar Award helped him so much."
Nominator and Mentor
In 2006, 5 years into the life of the awards, and 3 into a full programme of awards, the Trustees created an Evaluation Sub-Committee led by Trustees Polly Rewt, Brian McMaster and James Boyle, which looked at decision-making and processes to date, through case studies of successful and unsuccessful applicants, and the very few whom, it was felt, had not made best use of the Dewar Arts Awards investment.
As a result there was a series of adaptations to the application forms and reports from students and institutions, with more directed, standardised pro-formas. At this stage, it was also decided to exclude parents or close relations as nominators, to state that no two referees could be from the same institution, to add a personal statement to the application, to ask that the nominator be clearer about their reasons and to request fuller comments from referees. The Trustees also asked for information on the parents/applicants income and circumstances. In addition, the review led to the decision to recruit a number of specialist assessors for art forms that were not felt to be represented effectively among the Trustees. This decision was followed by an event at the then RSAMD to recruit new assessors.
The idea of asking key figures in the arts and previous awardees to act as mentors for awardees was also explored but a sense that this was not the primary remit of the Awards and concern about the administrative resource and expertise required to implement this effectively led to a decision to see them as ‘helpful patrons rather than hands-on mentors’. This is an issue that a number of the Trustees are keen to revisit.
In 2008, after the financial crash which led to a range of Trustee decisions (outlined in Section 5, Governance) the application and selection processes were further refined to support clearer decision making with more limited resources (See section 5, Governance).
The current application form has been adapted only slightly since then, to include a deeper more detailed account of the applicant’s visions and plans and a statement about their commitment to Scotland.
A nominator is required for each applicant. They can be a teacher or tutor or someone who is familiar with the young artist’s work and the referees should have the expertise to verify the talent and potential of the applicant.
As previously, the current form requests a range of information across family background and finances, the details of the project and the applicants ambitions, information on the length and duration of the project or course and the costs and other contributions to those.
Despite evolving over many years to provide the information the Trustees require, the current form is not as awardee friendly as it should be with only 19% finding it very easy to complete. This is a more critical issue with those less accustomed to applying for support or who don’t have support or advice from parents or teachers.
All awardees have to send an end of year personal report on their activities and how they spent the money as well as a report from the institution. At the end of the project or course, they give a personal report, a complete breakdown of the award expenditure and a copy of their academic certificate if appropriate.
There is currently no mechanism for follow-up beyond this although Rebecca Goldsmith, the Website and Social Media Administrator is in regular contact with many previous awardees in order to provide content for the website and to encourage awardees to spread the word. The process of researching this report has re-established contact with over 300 awardees and 98% of those surveyed have said they are willing to act as ambassadors for the Awards, a remarkable scale of commitment, affirmation and generosity. However a system for receiving regular updates on awardees progress after the Award should be explored.
An essential and sometimes unsung role of the Administrator, Rachel Inglis and now Patricia Rossi is to keep a watchful eye on the emotional and psychological wellbeing of Award recipients, some of whom come from complex family backgrounds or have to take time develop the resilience required to train and operate as an artist.
The current Administrator, who has extensive senior experience within the schools education system, has noted an increase in recent years both of the number of applicants from single parent families and of mental health issues among applicants. However, it is a huge compliment to both the selection processes and light touch pastoral care of the awards that out over 461 Dewar Awardees over 15 years, only 12 ever withdrew or failed their course, creating a drop-out rate of 2.6%.
The promotion of the Dewar Arts Awards began with an extensive advertising campaign across Scottish national and regional media. This area of work also developed in phases, with key anniversaries providing platforms for ‘relaunches’ of the awards to new constituents whilst showcasing awardees’ work. The increasing group of Dewar Alumni and the body of their work provide compelling voices and enrich the messages to potential applicants, nominators and host institutions.
"The 10th anniversary celebrations were brilliant events that drew on the talents and spirits of the awardees, each of whom were stars in their fields. The events acted as an affirmation of the awards."
Polly Rewt, Dewar Arts Awards Trustee
These promotional platforms and showcases began in 2005 with a Roadshow that went to Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Peebles and Glasgow which used some of the first successful applicants to talk about their experience and led to an upsurge in applications.
In 2007, the Awards celebrated their 5th anniversary with a showcase at the Scottish Parliament where awardees across art forms performed to an audience of MSPs, existing and potential awardees, nominators, advisors, host institutions and supporting cultural organisations.
However the single largest and most pervasive anniversary platform was in 2012 when The Dewar Arts Awards celebrated their 10th anniversary, initiated and coordinated by a small group of Trustees in partnership with key institutions – the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh, Perth Concert Hall, Glasgow Film Festival and Celtic Connections. This was the single most significant showcase of Dewar Awardees and a substantial manifestation of the accumulated creative worth of The Trustees investment into young talent in Scotland. Over 50 previous awardees were involved in 4 central events and a range of talks and recordings that continue to act as a showcase for ‘Dewar talent’ on the website.
Essential to the power and spirit of these events, Dewar Awardees were involved not only in performing or exhibiting but also in curating, editing and musically directing them, expressing that essential contribution to Scotland’s cultural landscape that sits alongside exceptional talent and financial need in the purposes of the Awards.
The programme was spread across four events:
- A special concert at St Andrews in the Square in Glasgow as part of Celtic Connections in January 2012 when Sheena Wellington, who had recently retired as a Dewar Arts Awards Trustee, was the mistress of ceremonies for a Tenth Year Ceilidh. The event was curated by awardee Lauren MacColl, with Angus Nicolson and Calum MacCrimmon on pipes, Fraya Thomsen on the clarsach, fiddlers Graham MacKenzie and Sarah Naylor, Nuala Kennedy on flute and whistles, and Mhairi Baird on banjo and flute.
- The Ten Year Cut at Glasgow Film Festival on 24 February 2012 when the festival played host to a special screening of work by Dewar Awardees. Edited by David Liddell, a previous awardee, the showcase features work by Lynsey Murdoch, Jen Randall, Andrea Harkin, Paul Wright, David Liddell, Ruth Paxton, Luke Fowler, Alex Boyd, Katri Walker, James Wood, Oliver Smith and Sophie Neil.
- Roots and Shoots: Celebrating ten years Dewar Arts Awards in the visual and applied arts which was at the Royal Botanic Gardens from 13 December 2012 to 10 March 2013, and showcased 14 visual and applied artists supported early in their careers by a Dewar Arts Award. The exhibition included a rich mix of exhibits across jewellery, textile and fashion design, painting, sculpture and moving image work and was accompanied by a series of events which allowed visitors to meet the artists, learn more about how they worked and participate in a workshop. The featured artists were Lee Borthwick (sculpture), Jonathan Boyd and Andrew Lamb (jewellery), Katherine Brown (textiles), Malcolm Cruickshank (textile wall art), Malcy Duff (cartoon), Alana Florence (kinetic sculpture), Lynne MacLachlan (jewellery), Jennifer McHardy (textiles), Emma Pratt (sculpture), Caroline Walker (painting), Katri Walker (film) and Elaine McGregor (painting). The exhibition was curated by fellow Awardee Eve Smith.
- A major concert at Perth Concert Hall bringing together Dewar Award recipients to showcase the best musical talents among previous Dewar Awardees. The concert on Friday 25 November 2012 gathered a range of brilliant instrumentalists from both classical and jazz backgrounds and linked them with Dewar Award-winning composers. Compered by well-known Scottish musician and broadcaster Jamie MacDougall, performers included 2008 Dewar Award recipient, guitarist Sean Shibe who played Rosewood by fellow awardee, composer David Fennessy, young jazz awardee Alan Benzie and Berklee College contemporary, singer and pianist Maureen McMullan. Gordon Bragg, currently assistant conductor in residence at BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll. Other Dewar Award winning participants included mezzo-soprano Jemma Brown, viola player Alexa Beattie and pianist Maryam Sherhan. Conductor Bede Williams conducted the ensemble in La Revue de Cuisine by Marinu, a piano trio was formed to play Mind Restless by Alasdair Spratt and composer and pianist Liam Paterson performed songs of his composition with soprano Louise Alder.
Despite the undoubted success and ongoing value of these anniversary celebrations/showcases, they cannot happen regularly enough to provide consistent communications platforms, given their nature, timing and the amount of voluntary resource and commitment from the Trustees. As with the web content and communications, they need to be embedded in wider activity and act as key profile building anchor points in a broader communications strategy driven by a focus on access.
In 2012 the original Dewar Arts Awards Administrator retired after 8 years and during the recruitment process the Trustees decided to create two roles. One core administrative role, performed by Patricia Rossi, a highly experienced educationalist with strong administration and management skills, was designed to focus on the application and reporting processes, finance and archiving, and supporting the Chair and Trustees on meetings and decision making. The other role was to focus on Website and Social Media development and Rebecca Goldsmith, who has strong web and social media skills and a background in community arts, was recruited to perform this role.
The once rather simple, and increasingly “primitive’ web presence which had not been radically restructured since its creation has been significantly enhanced by the work of Rebecca Goldsmith, the Dewar Arts Awards Web and Social Media Administrator working with Metazoa web design. The Trustees, led in this area by Lesley Thomson, felt this was an area that needed increased focus and a clear Web and Social Media strategy. That focus would have three purposes – showcasing achievements, profile raising and networking, and was evolved with Rebecca. The four strands of the strategy designed to meet those purposes have driven the development of the site, more ongoing communication with awardees and increased usage as well as increasing engagement on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram:
- Celebrate the value of the awards and their contribution to the achievement of young artists
- Enhance the visibility of the Awards via website and social media
- Target relevant organisations and individuals on social media
- Create links with relevant individuals and organisations via social media
Survey responses showed a high level of social media usage and these channels will continue to be essential.
The web and social media strategy has undoubtedly developed richer content and better readability and ensured that the profile of the awards has a significantly stronger online presence. There are over 3000 visits per quarter to the website, 76% of whom are new visitors. 73% of these come via organic search, 16% direct and 8% via referral. However, to increase new visitors and to be fully effective, the strategy (which is content and relationship driven rather than acquisition and target driven), needs to sit within a wider, more comprehensive communications strategy with clear targets and objectives. The website also needs to develop its language and some content structure and presentation to support wider access.
Communication with a range of individuals, organisations and institutions who represent essential sources and access points to potential awardees, nominators, advisors and training institutions has been an ongoing challenge for the Trustees and team, as has been getting backlinks from Institutions to the Dewar Arts Awards website. This shows clearly in the low referral rate from institutions to the website.
"The Dewar Awards can be an invaluable life raft against the overwhelming difficulty of gaining some kind of supported position in this oft-indifferent-to-hostile landscape from which to more fully develop as a youthful, focused and committed artist."
Alan McKendrick, Dewar Arts Awardee
This enduring issue has been addressed primarily through the anniversary events outlined above and the revamped website. Contact lists have been researched and used for specific initiatives. However, this work needs to be more regularly undertaken and a more consistent communication strategy developed to reach the key cultural/institutional conduits and applicants more powerfully and consistently. There is a need to target those most likely to spot and encourage talent, and to identify media and communications platforms that can raise aspiration as well as awareness among talented young people.
The lack of effective communication within the education system should be a priority and the current Administrator, Patricia Rossi, is a key asset to the Trust in this area.
The launch of this report and the 15th anniversary provides an opportunity to look at a comprehensive access and communications strategy, using the expertise of the Trustees and staff to develop and connect these mutually supportive agendas and a consistent implementation plan with clear targets (See 6. Future Direction and Development – Recommendations).