Reflections from our Artistic Director on 2024 Artist Development Applications

One of my favourite parts of the CRIPtic year is reviewing the applications for our programmes – and one of the hardest parts of the year is selecting people to take up places on these programmes. Inevitably, we’re faced with an enormous range of artists, practices, ideas, and possibilities, and narrowing that down is very challenging.

Between last year and this year, applications to our programmes almost tripled for the same number of places. Going from 65 to 185 applications was a huge success for our team, but also challenged us – because it meant that the decisions we had to make involved far more people than we had expected.

It also meant that there was no way that we would be able to provide feedback to applicants. This was a very difficult decision – as a practising artist myself I know how wearing it is to apply for opportunities and not receive feedback on my application. However, we did decide to write a blog post that explores our observations on the applications and some of the common themes we observed.

Firstly, I want to emphasise that, on every programme, there were far more excellent applications than there were places, which made the decisions we had to make genuinely very difficult. We were overwhelmed by the quality of the work we had under consideration and the people developing it. When we made our decisions, we were balancing a lot of factors – not just the work and its potential or realisation, but also the wider balance of art across the programmes and our work.

Faced with such a wide range of excellent work, we also wanted to consider the diversity and coherence of the work we took. With Incubate and Reach, that required that we take a variety of different organisations and plays, ensuring that each piece of work was its own unique project. With Launchpad, we wanted to create the ideal line-up, given the work available to us, which meant that we weren’t just considering the work on its own, but on the eventual show we would create. With Breakthrough, this was less of a concern, because it was for two very specific and unique projects, but we nonetheless considered and interviewed, applicants from a wide variety of backgrounds, ages, and art forms.

We also wanted to consider people. As a disability arts organisation, we’re open to all disabled people – but when we were allocating limited places, we also wanted to consider the access people and groups might have to other opportunities. We also considered where we were particularly well positioned to make a difference or provide the access support and advice that people or groups needed. With the opportunities and support we can offer, we wanted to make sure that we reached the people that would not be able to take opportunities without this, and we reached people facing a wide range of barriers. We wanted to make sure that as well as being a talented line-up, it was a diverse line-up, ensuring we had geographic and class diversity, that we had people from the global majority well-represented, that we had reached people with a wide range of experiences of impairment and disablism and with other intersecting experiences.  Previously, we were advised to trial free text boxes, giving people the opportunity to disclose the things they felt were important and had affected them most. However some applicants, understandably, preferred not to share certain information. We are looking to explore different ways of inviting people to share information about their backgrounds, experience, and the barriers they’ve faced, so we can take this into consideration in ensuring that our opportunities are given to people who would most benefit from them, and who would struggle to have other opportunities at that level.

There is a separate page addressing each of our programmes, but overall we found that across all of our programmes, many applications faced similar issues. We plan to create guidance based on this for future applications:

  • The application didn’t meet key criteria (e.g. for the number of people involved, the timeline of the project etc)
    We plan to review our guidance to ensure that this is clear
  • It wasn’t clear to us how the background of the applicant(s) connected to their application, or showed how that background made them suitable for what they’re applying for

We plan to create guidance explaining why we ask this question and what a “good” answer would be to this question

  • The scale of the project proposed was far too big for the budget, scale, support, and opportunity
    Across all of our programmes, we found that people had applied with projects that were far too big for the support we could offer them


Incubate is our peer group programme for people building organisations in the arts, and takes 4 people through a structured programme, learning from each other and the mistakes we made at CRIPtic. It’s now run for THREE (CHECK) years, supporting organisations including the theatre company, Flawbored, the neurodivergent-led Scottish arts organisation Neuk, the trauma-conscious survivor-led Response Ability Theatre, and The Shouting Mute, which offers inclusive performance and poetry workshops led by Dave Young, who uses a speech generating device.

During the twelve programme sessions we explore areas like formally registering your organisation, defining your brand and identity, marketing and social media, capacity and managing workload, people and project management, finance and reporting, and more.

We had 26 applications for Incubate this year. We were aiming to create a group of organisations working in different parts of the industry to encourage cross-learning and avoid organisations that might be actively competing in this world of restricted opportunities. 

When we assessed applications, we were looking for:

  • Does the person have the right amount of experience and the necessary skills and expertise to build their organisation?
  • Is the idea unique or does it have a clear niche?
  • Does the idea presented to us seem feasible?

Experience, skills and expertise:

When assessing this, we looked at existing track record, so often people that were successfully leading projects already. We wanted to make sure that people were bringing a wide range of skills to the table, but were also at a point where they could clearly still develop and learn on the programme. 

Unique ideas or those with a clear niche:

In a rapidly changing industry, there are always new organisations, and we wanted to make sure the ones we took had a very clear idea of where they fitted into the market. Many of the ideas were very similar to organisations already out there, or to other applications. Where the application addressed this and highlighted the difference, we were more likely to take them forward, but others we were prioritising finding those that seemed to offer something new for the sector.


One of the vital elements of the assessment was us trying to understand whether the organisation was actually feasible within the market and the expertise of the people delivering the organisation. This meant that we wanted to see a clear and detailed set of organisation goals, and an understanding of where your organisation would get income. Where organisations didn’t seem to be very focused, or alternatively were proposing a project with a scale far bigger than seemed possible at this point, we were again less likely to take those organisations forward.

We also considered that a number of applications were still very focused on solo practice and didn’t have a clear direction for how they expected to become organisations. As Incubate explores team management and leading an organisation bigger than oneself, those applications were less likely to be selected.

The very best applications had a clear through-line, where 

  • We understood what the organisation was and the work that had been done so far. We were concerned where the idea for the organisation felt like it hadn’t yet been properly worked out.
  • The applicant(s) background(s) were clearly connected to the work the organisation would do. Where applicants were trying something in an entirely different field we were aware that they might not have the field-specific experience to drive the organisation forward.
  • The three goals were outlined and achievable, and the application made it clear how the organisation would know it had achieved them. Where these were hard to measure and test for success, far too small to be targets, or alternatively far too big for the current stage of the organisation, we were wary of those applications.
  • The application identified what the organisation would bring to the arts world, showing (if necessary) what made it different from other organisations in a similar field, and we understood how it would transform that area of the sector through its work. Where the organisation was very similar to others in the sector and didn’t address this, or where we couldn’t clearly see what impact it would have, we were less likely to take it forward. The impact didn’t need to be social transformation, it could also be bringing something new to an arts area that didn’t previously have it.
  • There was a plan to sustain it financially which considered the importance of varying income streams which weren’t limited to a single area but combined sales, grants etc, whilst being realistic about how much these would bring in. Organisations that relied on donations, a single funding stream, or sales that seemed excessive given the level of development of the organisation were again more concerning.

With the strongest applications, we felt confident that the organisation could be delivered and would have a real impact. We understood its place in the organisational ecosystem, and the difference supporting it would make.


With Breakthrough, we were supporting two artists who we felt could and should have broken into the mainstream in their field, but for whom the barriers preventing them were primariily disableist barriers, and barriers that intersected with disableist barriers. Here, we were looking to work with artists who had faced a lack of opportunities in the field in which they had applied specifically. We received a wide range of exceptional applications from artists about whom we were very excited. 

The criteria we were applying to applications, and which affected our decision-making included initially considering whether the creative goal would achieve the breakthrough the applicant was seeking, and whether the plan for doing this was feasible. The two key questions on the form were:

  • Tell us what your creative goal is for this award and commission
    Here we asked people to craft something “tiny and high-quality” and said “please don’t aim big”. We gave examples of a single song, or a five minute section of a film or showreel. Many applications proposed something here that was far bigger than the scope of the project, which was designed for people to make something little and well.
  • Tell us your plan for achieving your creative goal
    Here we asked people to give us a brief plan of what they would do and when, and how they would use the money across the time. Many applicants didn’t have a clear outline of what they planned to do with the project budget.

As the purpose was to create something small and well-defined, having a clear knowledge of the output and a plan of how it would be made was absolutely vital, and strongly affected which applications we were able to take forward. 

Alongside that, we were looking for people who were at a point in their career where they were achieving and excelling within their specific area, whether it was in disability arts, or another sub-field, and where they were facing clear barriers preventing them breaking into the mainstream. Many of the applicants we had were clearly already producing exceptional work, but had not progressed as far as we were seeking in their field or technical practice.  We deliberately did not ask for a particular number of years of experience, because we recognised that disabled people often have very different artistic backgrounds and journeys. However, we are going to review how we outline this opportunity, and how we make the level of experience we are looking for clearer throughout the process. One of the reasons for establishing breakthrough was a realisation that while there are often development programs for people in earlier parts of their career, there is less for people who are further through their career. There are often age barriers in the arts restricting opportunities to only be available for younger people, and this practice is usually disabled list and unjustifiable.

 For the people we interviewed, we had further considerations in these areas:

  • The impact of the Breakthrough award on the person’s artistic practice and a clear throughline that showed how the individual would use the award to acheive the outcomes they wanted to achieve
    This didn’t require a linear career, and we were very keen to explore applications in which the applicant was moving between artforms and sectors, but we wanted to understand the background of the artist, and the link between the application, the output they would produce, and the outcomes that this would achieve
  • The proposal of a project that – within the limted budget, allowed someone to access the resources they would need to create something that was truly exceptional in contents and production quality.
    This required that the project be small-scale enough that the budget could be applied to creating something incredibly high-quality, and where we felt that this was being done in a way that would ensure that the created item really showcased the very best of what the applicant could do

Where we invited people to interview, we also provided feedback on their original application, and were very keen to see how that feedback had been integrated into any revised documents submitted, and we were very impressed by the extent to which this had been done across the applications.

It was very challenging to only be able to offer two opportunities, recognising that the decisions were very finely balanced, and that there were a lot of artists whom we wished we could support, but were unable to.  With the artists we selected, they had extensive experience working at a high level in their fields, they had clearly identified barriers that were preventing them breaking through into the mainstream, and showed how the Breakthrough award, and the output from that, would achieve the impact they were looking for.


 Within reach, we were looking to support five creatives in writing their first full-length play. Here it was important to us to create a group of people who we felt would work well together across the workshops with the writer and director, and who had ideas about which we were genuinely excited. We were very excited by many if not most of the applications, so it was important that we selected people who were clearly already excellent writers, were at a point where they would really benefit from the opportunities in the programme, and who were proposing something that genuinely felt fresh, new, and unique.

A considerable number of the applications were for shows that very much explored an individual’s process of self-discovery as a disabled person. The number of shows we had in that line, and the fact that we have both been to, and programmed, work of this type meant that the bar for people proposing shows similar to this was high simply because we wanted a diversity of topics, styles, and approaches on the programme.  The pieces we took felt like they were offering a new perspective on a theme. 

In the FAQ  we observed that we receive a lot of pictures around narratives about encounters with the medical system, or what it’s like to have a particular experience, and this was true in this round of applications also. Exceptional work nonetheless came through, but we value spaces that both encourage disabled people to explore their own experience, but also encourage and allow people to write beyond that. Sometimes we are limited to telling our own stories, rather than being allowed to be playwrights with broad expansive interests.

The key things we considered were:

  •  Is the person at the right stage of their career for the programme?
  •  Is the idea original, different, and marketable?
  •  Does the writing sample give us confidence in the eventual work proposed?

 At interview, as well as considering the make up of the programme and how the artists would fit together, we wanted to understand not just the creative idea for their work, but why they were interested in the program and what  benefits they saw the programme bringing. There are so many people creating excellent work at the moment that we really wanted to prioritise those people who most needed the support and provisions CRIPtic can offer,  and where they were invested in the idea of the programme specifically and clear about their future direction.


 In some ways, launchpad was the hardest programme for us to reach decisions. The quality of the applicants was equally high across the programs, but with launchpad we needed to design a cohesive show,  where all the work would fit together into something more than the sum of its parts. This meant that the final selection was not about identifying individual specific works but identifying the best grouping of work from the applicants we had.

 We needed to take work that was still at a point where it could grow and change, and creatives with an openness to building that work together into this cohesive show. It also need to be work that was not going to be developed simultaneously in multiple programs, in a way that could undermine the flexibility of the work within this programme.

 The programme is very short, and as a result, we needed artists with a track record that showed they would be able to present their project in November, given the difficulties of the timelines,  Whilst also looking for artists who would clearly grow on the programme, and benefit from the opportunities it would offer.. We also to be able to imagine a future for the work, beyond its existence as a single centre. We looked for a diversity of styles, artists, and art forms. 

As with reach, we warned that we often receive a lot of pitches around encounters with the medical system, and particular impairment or disability experiences, and that we often received a lot of poetry, monologue, and spoken word pitches. We were clear that we would be unlikely to commission all work on a single theme (or in a single artform).  This meant that in the interests of a diverse show, we made very difficult decisions between pieces of work.

We initially considered:

  • Is the artist experienced enough that we are confident they can deliver the work, whilst also being at a point where we can clearly recognise how they would benefit from the opportunity
  • Does the idea proposed feel fresh, original, and marketable into the future?
  • Did the performance videos submitted fit with the level at which we were looking for work?

All of the acts that we interviewed were ones that could clearly deliver high quality work that we would be keen to explore presenting. After that the decision was also very much around selecting works that would fit together and create an excellent show.  This meant that theme, approach, and art form  became increasingly important at that stage it was also important that by interview we really felt that the ideas for work were clearly defined, and that it would  be. There are some excellent projects that we could imagine being exceptional, but where the support and time and engagement that they needed at this point were probably beyond what we felt competent to offer given our capacity and the timelines.  We would have loved to be in a position where we could offer far more support and engagement than we were able to offer. However the quality of the applications left us incredibly excited about all of the amazing work currently being done by disabled people.