There was a keen interest from the group to learn about EU funding opportunities, to hear case studies from UK museums and galleries leading or participating in EU funded projects, and to network and share experiences.

Margherita Sani from Istituto Beni Culturali Regione Emilia Romagna, and board member of NEMO (Network of European Museum Organisations) travelled from Italy to share the European perspective with us.  Her presentation was full of useful references and links, and helped us understand EU priorities on culture:

  • Accessible and inclusive culture.
  • Cultural heritage.
  • Cultural and creative sectors: creative economy and innovation.
  • Promotion of cultural diversity, culture in EU external relations and mobility.

When so many people ask me how to get started with developing contacts and finding potential project partners, Margherita helpfully highlighted some useful EU networks for UK museums to tap into.  These include NEMO, European Museum Forum, European Museum Academy, and the Asia-Europe Museum Network.

Creative Europe is the only EU programme dedicated to funding EU cultural co-operation projects.  As well as an overview of the programme opportunities from the Creative Europe team, Robina Deakin from Tate Liverpool gave a case study on their An Imagined Museum project.  Tate Liverpool, MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt Am Main and Centre Pompidou-Metz (all regional branches of national museums) will create a new approach to sharing works from three iconic national collections with a transnational European audience.  We learnt that being a big organisation like Tate can sometimes be a disadvantage for co-operation projects because centralised administrative departments (such as finance) can make it difficult to collate the necessary documentation lead partners have to provide in the reporting process.

The recent WIRP workshop at the Museum of Liverpool where delegates found it hard to image the UK leaving the EU

Laurie Barriol, EU Funding Consultant at Inspire EU gave a presentation on How to find the right EU funding for your project idea?  This included a wealth of practical advice, including the following mistakes to avoid:

  • Not reading the application guidance notes.
  • Using jargon in your application.
  • Using EU project funding to make a profit.
  • Developing a project without input from partners.
  • Not sending all of the required information in the application.
  • Not having a project plan in place.
  • Changing the aims and objectives of your project too much just to fit an EU funding programme.
  • Submitting a late application.

The case study presentation by Lesley Taker, Curatorial Co-ordinator at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) confirmed my research that found a high repeat participation rate amongst organisations who have taken the step to participate in their first EU funded project.  Once organisations have set up the internal administration procedures and processes for managing an EU funded project, these can be used again and again for future projects with little adjustments here and there.  Learning from being a participating partner is also hugely helpful for building the knowledge and confidence to become the lead partner on a project.

Lesley was also clear that EU funded projects are completely integrated into FACT’s programme, and not an add-on requiring additional resources.  In response to the question Why take part in EU projects? Lesley said:

  • Increased budget allowing for better projects.
  • Increased visibility and diversity for your programme, encouraging international visits.
  • Building the international profile of your organisation and city.
  • Increased networking opportunities for your organisation, affiliated artists etc. and establishing international partners.
  • Opportunity to develop staff knowledge and confidence, as well as taking part in skills exchanges to learn from partners.

The UK has a fantastic track record when it comes to successfully applying for EU funding.  For Creative Europe’s Culture Co-operation Projects, UK-based organisations are involved in just over 50 per cent of successful applications, accounting for some €6.5 million of funding for projects with UK-based lead partners.  With 48 organisations from across the UK benefitting from funding, this makes the UK the best networked and most involved of all EU countries.

Whilst museums are still a growing percentage of UK-based organisations benefitting from funding, the enthusiasm for working with and learning from partners in the EU, and having access to one of the only dedicated sources of funding for museums working internationally, would be a great loss if the UK left the EU.

The programme, speakers’ biographies and abstracts, and presentations from the WIRP Workshop: Working in Europe are available to download from the ICOM UK website.

WIRP will hold its 2016 Working Internationally Conference at the Whitworth, Manchester on 4 March 2016, click here for tickets.

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