Value and Impacts

"We saw deep transformations of young people’s lives where past precarious or chaotic ways of being are focused into their talent, the ability to make a living and into becoming leaders and indeed mentors. Some of our awardees fed back into the Awards by becoming assessors."

Rachel Inglis, former Dewar Arts Awards Administrator

Over the 15 years since their creation the Dewar Arts Awards have provided almost £4 million (£3,907,925) in support to 464 young people with exceptional talent but limited financial means across Scotland, aged from 9 years to 29 years, almost exactly 50% of whom have been female and 50% of male. A gender balance is also reflected in levels of financial investment.

The Trustees began by supporting a small number of applicants (7 between the end of 2002 and 2004) and then as the Awards were promoted to schools, institutions, organisations and individuals around Scotland the levels of submission and numbers of successful applicants increased significantly peaking at 111 Awards in 2007 before the financial crash.

2007 awardee Jennifer McHardy’s hand made “tie neck jacket” worn by model. Image: Rowan Yarns.
2007 awardee Jennifer McHardy’s hand made “tie neck jacket” worn by model. Image: Rowan Yarns.

The major focus for the Trustees has been providing investment into the artistic and career development of young Scottish Artists at critical but varying stages in their evolution and supporting them through this essential phase in their development. The investment they received is described as essential and transformative by almost all awardees.

The vast majority of investment, has been into individuals, supporting entry to graduate and postgraduate level to pursue courses at a range of institutions in Scotland, the UK and internationally. Of these awardees 249 have benefitted from extended support for their studies over 2, 3 and in some cases 4 years, a sustained commitment to the development of their talent.

2006 awardee Lauren MacColl curated 10th anniversary Celtic Connections concert. Image: Michelle Fowlis.
2006 awardee Lauren MacColl curated 10th anniversary Celtic Connections concert. Image: Michelle Fowlis.


Through the ‘Daughter of Dewar’ instrumental investment programme (now mainstreamed) which ran from 2004-2009, in response to an identified issue around talent development, significant support was given to 103 young people (11% of total investment), at secondary school level in particular, for the purchase of instruments to allow them to practice and evolve their creative and technical skills on appropriate quality instruments.

36 young people received awards to support projects or exhibitions (5% of total investment). Early career artists (14% of respondents to the survey), especially those in the visual arts and literature, have been more likely to focus on projects or the development of a specific piece of work, allowing them to stretch or in many cases define their practice, or prepare work of previously undeliverable scale or ambition for a major exhibition, festival, publication or other significant platform.

Other support for awardees has included equipment, short courses and internships, materials, travel and mentorship, each package of support responding to the stated needs and designed to support the individual ambitions of the young artist.

The youngest awardee was a ‘Daughter of Dewar’ instrumental awardee at 8 years, the eldest were hitting 30 at the actual time of the award but the peak period of support from the Awards in a young creative life are 17 and 18 years (as they enter formal education) and 22 and 23 years (as they undertake postgraduate studies or require a support to move their practice into the professional domain).

98% of survey respondents said that the time when they received their award was the right one for the development of their careers.

The Dewar Arts Awards are part of a wider talent support and development ecosystem, the permutations of which have been of concern to the Trustees at various stages over the years. The need for talent to be nurtured at home, at school and within youth art organisations until it is at the stage where a Dewar Arts Award can make a difference to the life of a young artist is obvious but not always met and applicants are almost always dependent on a range of support to get them through the early years of their development and career. There is an increasing sense among some Trustees of the need for a greater shared consciousness of the needs of talented young people and better communications and interconnections among those with a shared intent to support them. The Trustees have already worked with the Robertson Trust by referring worthy applicants who did not fully meet the Dewar criteria.

The Awards have covered all art forms from their inception. Music, Visual Art, Film and TV, Dance and Drama are the top five categories in terms of application over the 15 years. However, music completely dominated the applications for a number of years and dance also initially attracted significant numbers of applications, with their more easily definable, formal career pathways. Music continues to be the major focus for application and investment representing 52% of successful applications in 2015.

The Trustees have made efforts to encourage and connect to a wider range of institutions and highlight opportunities through their own networks, profile raising events and a network of institutions, advisors and potential nominators and this resulted in an increased number of applicants for the visual arts in particular. The Trustees need to look at the balance reflected in the data in this report and the data on literature in particular which still attracts the lowest level of applications and needs more active work to increase applications and awards.

"The award gave me confidence that I was on the right path. It helps to know that you are valued as an artist. I think these awards are very important as they give a boost to young up and coming artists who are often struggling with doubt and financial insecurity."

Nuala Kennedy, Dewar Arts Awardee

Over the first few years of the Awards the Trustees gave increasing awards in film and animation and also began to embrace wider disciplines within moving image and creative industries such as textiles and fashion where artistic talent and ambition was identified in an individual. Musical Theatre has become an area of increasing applications over the last five years and, as with other art forms, an area where additional external expertise has been called on to ensure that exceptional talent can be identified. As more young people from a range of art forms have become awardees, they in turn have encouraged others from their fields to apply for support and indeed become advisors to the awards themselves.

Geographically, the Awards have invested in young people from every region of Scotland. The cities and surrounding regions of Glasgow with 153 successful applicants. Edinburgh with 89 and Aberdeenshire with 34, dominate the Awards with the next three most successful areas being the Highlands and Islands, Fife and Lanarkshire. Clackmanannanshire with 1 awardee, Dumbartonshire with 3 and Moray with 4 represent the lowest levels. The presence of arts institutions (and particularly the Conservatoire in Glasgow), and specialist arts schools in urban areas goes some way to explaining this balance but as with other aspects of the talent pipeline, this would merit further examination and potentially some proactive work from the Awards in terms of communications in these less well represented regions.

The impact on the professional development of the young artists supported by the Awards has been significant with 96.5% of our survey respondents who received support for study or projects/exhibitions stating that the Awards had been very important or important to the development of their Careers and 83% saying the awards were very important. According to the awardees surveyed, this manifests itself through a range of benefits from the development of essential artistic and technical skills, building contacts, networks and defining their practice as artists. For many, it also brought a sense of affirmation that built confidence and acted as source of recognition that enhanced their opportunities in a competitive environment.

The subsequent achievements of Dewar Awardees are too extensive and varied to outline in detail though many of the organisations they have gone on to work for and enrich and the awards and nominations they have received can be seen at the end of this publication and is there in the rich first hand testimony you can read in the interviews and throughout this report.

The percentage of those who have gone on to become professional artists is high. Analysis of the activities of awardees who responded to the survey (77% of contactable awardees) indicates that 97% are professional artists. This is a remarkable achievement for the Dewar Awards in terms of developing the careers of artists, supporting young people to be in a position to contribute to the creative life and economy of Scotland and, in the case of many, taking the image of a confident creative nation out into the wider world.

"Since my Dewar Arts Award, I have received performances of my work from Ensemble Modern, London Sinfonietta, Munich Chamber Orchestra, BBC SO, BBC SSO, among others. I received a Paul Hamlyn award, a fellowship at Schloss Solitude and was invited to take part in residencies in Tokyo and Hong Kong."

David Fennessy, Dewar Arts Awardee

It should be emphasised that survey responses and interviews clearly indicate that even though many former awardees are in the top ranks of their fields already, almost all are obliged to operate a mixed economy in order to survive financially, combining their practice and performing, presenting, exhibiting and publishing in Scotland, the UK and internationally with working in academia, teaching or working in the more commercially viable, less artistic ends of their fields.

Almost half of the young artists (49%) who responded to the survey, who have received support from the Dewar Arts Awards, have remained in or returned to Scotland. A huge number are based in London (31%), a magnet for artists and a marketplace for the arts globally. 12% live abroad.

More also continue to do much of their work in Scotland and in London but Dewar Awardees also work extensively internationally.

Interestingly, 81% of those surveyed said they saw themselves as part of the Scottish cultural scene, wherever they lived or worked.

Although they only invest in highly talented young people, there is an acknowledgement among Trustees that not all of those who receive awards will become successful artists. With Daughter of Dewar in particular, there was an acceptance on the part of the Trustees that this was more unpredictable. However, the wider benefits of the investment from Dewar are also seen as important by the Trustees with many (70%+) of Daughter of Dewar survey respondents who did not go on to pursue a career in the arts stating that they gained skills and experience, professional and personal creative development.

Importantly, the Dewar Award Trustees support exceptionally talented young people who fit the criteria if they are living in Scotland at the time of application. Although they are small in number, those international applicants who have received funding have done so because they are seen as having the clear potential to put something back into Scotland and as ambassadors for what can be gained from living and training in this country. Those who go on to work elsewhere are regarded as a creative diaspora for Scotland and for the Dewar Arts Awards.

2012 awardee Ella Victoria Robb performing live.
2012 awardee Ella Victoria Robb performing live.

In the dual values that sit at the heart of the purpose of the Dewar Arts Awards – to support talented young artists in Scotland who do not have the financial means to pursue their ambitions – the issue of financial need is of equal concern to talent in the decision making process. The Trustees took a deliberate decision from the outset that this aspect of the Awards should focus on those in most pressing financial need. However, it should also address the inability of an exceptionally talented individual to afford the education, training or support required to allow them to fulfill their potential. Assessing and evolving balanced decision making in this context has been an ongoing process (see under 5. Governance).

Based on a partial sample of 230 awardees, the combined family income band of 48% of applicants/their families has been below £20,000 (with 15% below £10,000), a further 21% between £20,000 and £30,000 and 31% over £30,000. Family circumstance including single parenthood (an increasing phenomenon in applications) and the number of children, are taken into account in decision making, as is the cost of a course that is regarded as essential to the full development of a particularly talented individual. This may be as unaffordable to a large family on a combined income of £40,000 as to one on £15,000.

The Dewar Trustees also feel they have a duty of care towards awardees, some of whom have trouble adjusting to formal learning environments or the intense demands of training. Through regular updates and encouraging two way communication with awardees during their studies and projects, the Administrator keeps an eye on their progress. When alerted to issues concerning their wellbeing and mental health, she will inform the Trustees to aid flexibility and understanding. The Trustees are keen to ensure that systems are in place to ensure appropriate pastoral care in the institutions in which they are effectively investing.

Over the fifteen years of the Dewar Arts Awards, the Trustees have not only supported young artists but also a range of educational institutions in Scotland, the UK and internationally. The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has been the host institution for more Dewar Awardees than any other body with 38 awards and £225,250 of investment. The next most significant Scottish institution is Edinburgh College of Art at £25,887 into students studying there. Berklee College of Music at £327,973 in fees and living expenses and the Royal College of Music at £238,805 are in the top three, along with the Royal Conservatoire in terms of financial investment into students studying there.