Guidelines for Young Ensembles Scheme


The Young Ensembles Scheme is one of a number of funding opportunities offered by the Arts Council to support and develop the arts in Ireland. It is a pilot scheme that derives from the Arts Council’s commitment, as expressed in Partnership for the Arts, to ‘create better opportunities for young people to experience the arts’ and ‘to implement a new programme to support youth ensembles and national youth arts resource organisations’.

Purpose and priorities of award

The primary purpose of this award is to support young ensembles in developing their artistic practice in an out-of-schools context. It prioritises initiatives that demonstrate clear artistic vision in the specific artform(s) represented, coupled with a process that values young people’s participation, creativity and critical engagement with the arts.

In the context of this scheme, a young ensemble refers to a group of young people who work collaboratively, usually over an extended period, to create art. This fund focuses on groups whose general membership is older than 12 and younger than 23, and on the resource organisations that support them. A wide range of artforms will be considered eligible - please see below for a list of potential groups that may apply as ensembles for the purposes of this scheme.

Applications may be made to develop specific strands of an existing ensemble’s work, or to explore new initiatives. In the case of a new ensemble being proposed through this scheme, initiatives must build on existing groundwork and should demonstrate long-term aims. Proposed projects or initiatives must take place wholly or substantially in 2008.

Who can apply?

Examples of ensembles may include the following:

  • a youth orchestra
  • a youth choir
  • a young band
  • a young traditional music group
  • a youth theatre
  • a youth film, animation or digital media group
  • a youth dance group
  • a youth circus, spectacle, or street theatre group

The scheme is further open to a range of collaborative arts groups that may not define themselves as ensembles but take a similar, collective approach to creating art, such as:

  • a group of young visual artists who work collaboratively to create exhibitions of their work (or single, collaborative works of art such as mural or graffiti pieces);
  • a group of young poets or writers who publish or perform work together;
  • a group of young people who combine a number of artforms to create shared performances/events.

Applicants may include young ensembles that are established arts organisations in themselves; as well as less formal ensembles that are hosted by - or ready to develop a partnership with - an arts organisation, arts venue, youth café, local authority, youth arts resource organisation or youth service organisation. Informal groups of young people not already attached to an organisation or agency are required to develop such a partnership for the purposes of this scheme. In such cases, the partner organisation should agree to provide mentorship and support, and in the event of receiving an award, will be responsible for the administration of funds.

Youth arts resource organisations may apply with a view to supporting a range of emerging or existing ensembles under a common initiative. However, if any organisation wishes to apply for more than one distinct project or initiative, a separate application must be submitted for each proposal.

All organisations must have adequate child protection policies in place if their work involves young people under the age of 18.

Organisations must operate on a not-for-profit basis.

What and how much can you apply for?

The scheme will provide grants ranging from €500 to €20,000, depending on the scope and ambition of the proposed initiatives. The total amount available for this fund in 2008 is €170,000.

Examples of potential proposals:

  • A youth orchestra or choir might propose to facilitate a process whereby the young members participate actively in exploring or influencing the creation of new work, or a new interpretation of existing work;
  • A youth resource organisation might apply for funding to facilitate the professional development of leaders (including young leaders) through exchanges or other capacity-building initiatives that challenge groups to critique and stretch their artistic practice, or that enable ensembles to develop their policies and practice in relation to young people’s creative participation in the artistic process;
  • A youth theatre, young band or film group might apply for specific resources, such as artistic mentorship, participation in a festival, or capacity building for leaders (including young leaders), that will enable them to better achieve their artistic aims with regard to ongoing or new initiatives;
  • A group of young actors, musicians, visual or new media artists might apply to create or develop a new ensemble as an off-shoot, extension or ‘next step’ initiative that builds on their experience with a previous or existing youth arts project.

Examples of eligible costs/expenses:

  • Artistic personnel (fees for professional artists collaborating in the initiative as mentors or leaders);
  • Additional project personnel (e.g. administrative, technical and youth development/welfare support directly related to the initiative);
  • Evaluation costs (e.g. meeting and documentation costs that guide or support the evaluation and reflection/reporting process);
  • Equipment or materials essential to the artistic process;
  • Expenses such as travel, food, etc. for young people involved;
  • Venue rental (unless venue is already in receipt of Arts Council funding);
  • Marketing/publicity costs.

Your application will be strengthened by evidence of shared or in-kind support through existing partnerships in some of the above areas.

What is not eligible?

The following will be considered ineligible:

  • Applications that duplicate the effect of Arts Council or other funding awarded;*
  • Applications from organisations or individual artists creating work for children and young people but in which children and young people are primarily consumers of the artistic process/product as audience members, rather than active participants at the developmental stages and throughout the artistic work;
  • Competitive events (i.e. where the competition is the dominant element of the proposal);
  • Activities taking place in a formal education context (i.e. school or college);
  • Applications from commercially driven schools, institutions or companies;
  • Applications from individuals or groups not affiliated or partnered with an organisation;
  • Stand-alone projects that do not fit within a broader context - i.e. that neither build on earlier/existing work nor support an ensemble or organisation’s longer-term plans;
  • Initiatives that have taken place before the closing date for applications.

* Organisations in receipt of Arts Council funding may be eligible to apply if they wish to develop a specific aspect of their work in line with this scheme. They must explicitly state the elements for which the application is being made under this scheme, and the expected added value of undertaking these activities.

Further, the following specific costs will be considered ineligible:

  • Course fees or expenses to support full-time training programmes for individuals;
  • Artistic fees for young people involved.

Assessment criteria

As with all Arts Council awards, applications are assessed in the context of:

  • Track record of the group applying, or potential demonstrated by applicants without an established track record;
  • Provision of equitable conditions and remuneration for professional artists engaged as mentors or leaders;
  • Feasibility of the entire proposal, including financial feasibility;
  • Purpose and priorities of the award;
  • Level of demand for funding and available resources.

Specific arts practice criteria

We are interested in:

  • Proposals that support or enable work of a high artistic quality - by which we are generally referring to artistic processes and outputs that are ambitious and original; technically competent; connect to people; and leave people challenged or rewarded in some lasting way;
  • Proposals that have young people’s creativity and participation at their core;
  • Proposals that demonstrate best practice, or will enable groups to develop their capacity to achieve best practice, in terms of young people’s artistic and related social and personal development;
  • Proposals that enable young people to draw on their personal experience and world view in engaging with the arts; and initiatives that seek, where possible, to connect young people of diverse social or cultural backgrounds through shared artistic endeavours;
  • Proposals that support or enable artistic work that is driven by enquiry and critical reflection;
  • Proposals that demonstrate a commitment to reflective practice and evaluation;
  • Proposals that build on existing groundwork and have long-term aims.

What conditions apply?

Successful applicants will receive full details of the conditions for an award with the letter of offer. However, applicants should note the following:

  • Successful applicants must acknowledge the support of the Arts Council in all promotional material associated with their work.
  • Successful applicants must draw down any funding received within 2008.
  • Organisations delivering programmes for children and young people under the age of 18 are required to have adequate child protection and welfare policies and procedures in place. You are required to submit a copy of your child protection policy and procedures with your application. For further information see Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children and Young People in the Arts Sector available on request from the Arts Council or on

Documentation, evaluation and reporting

Successful applicants must document, evaluate and report on the utilisation of their award. Full details of the reporting process will be sent to you with your letter of offer. Funded organisations will be expected to engage in the following activities:

  • Submission of receipts where appropriate;
  • Maintenance of a visual (and/or audio) record of key elements throughout the life of the initiative;
  • Completion of a written report that measures outcomes against stated aims and objectives, and reflects on achievements and challenges experienced. The report should include feedback or input from the young people involved, as well as other key participants;
  • Participation in an evaluation/reflection meeting organised by the Arts Council;
  • Participation, where possible, in a site visit to or from another ensemble within the context of this scheme, to share practices and experiences.

Applicants are invited to make provision for documentation, evaluation and reporting within their proposed budgets in order to assist them in fulfilling these criteria.

Supporting material

Along with your completed application form, you must include appropriate supporting material. Well-presented and relevant supporting material will help assessors to understand your proposal. You are encouraged to be creative in submitting supporting material, especially if you feel the application form does not adequately allow you to do full justice to your proposal.

Supporting material must reach the Arts Council on or before the closing date and before the closing time. No exceptions will be made. All documents, CDs, DVDs, etc. must be sent by post or delivered to the Arts Council. Faxed or emailed supporting documentation will not be accepted. Standard formats must be used.

Do not, under any circumstances, send unique or irreplaceable material. The Arts Council will not be responsible for any such material. Please include a stamped addressed envelope if you wish any supporting materials to be returned to you.

Supporting material may include:

  • Documentation of the practice of the ensemble and/or organisation involved;
  • Written or recorded testimonies or interviews with young people about their experiences with and ambitions for the ensemble, or the specific initiative to which the application relates;
  • CVs of key personnel involved;
  • References to similar initiatives or projects that might give a context to your proposal;
  • Invitations or letters supporting any claims of collaboration, offers of funding, etc;
  • Evaluation plans, or feedback from earlier initiatives on which your proposal builds.

Common mistakes to avoid when submitting supporting material:

  • Inadequately labelled material;
  • No list of contents for items submitted;
  • No indication of the relevance of material to your application;
  • Submitting CDs, DVDs, etc. without identifying what is on the CD or DVD;
  • No examples of your own work (e.g. CDs, DVDs, slides);
  • Too much irrelevant information (e.g. too many reviews). Be selective with what you submit. It is better to submit one high-quality example than a large amount of lesser-quality, irrelevant material;
  • Not enough information. Assessors will have no basis on which to make a recommendation;
  • Examples of old work. Assessors are interested in your recent or current work.


Applications and supporting material must be received by the Arts Council no later than 5.30pm on Friday 23 May 2008.

Emailed or faxed applications will not be accepted.

Assessment process

The Council considers all applications for funding, makes decisions and communicates these to applicants in accordance with set procedures. The procedure adopted for the Young Ensembles Scheme is referred to as Peer Panel Assessment. The membership of the panel, agreed by the Arts Council in advance, normally consists of at least three external panellists and a Council member who acts as non-voting chair.

Under the Young Ensembles Scheme for 2008, the assessment process will include the following steps:

  1. Upon receipt, applications will be entered onto the Council’s IT-based grant management system and all relevant supporting material collated.
  2. An acknowledgement letter will be sent out within 10 working days of the closing date confirming receipt of your application.
  3. Arts Council staff will make an initial assessment of applications, in discussion with the Council’s artform advisers where relevant. Resulting from this, a shortlist of applications, with suggested funding allocations, will be prepared to assist the deliberations of the peer panel.
  4. The complete list of all applications, regardless of eligibility or shortlisting, will be brought before the peer panel. At this point, the panel may choose to add to the shortlist of applications from among the complete list.
  5. Once the final shortlist is agreed in this way, the panel will then consider the shortlisted applications and make recommendations on the allocation of funding.
  6. The plenary of the Arts Council will take decisions based on the recommendations of the panel. In some instances, the Council may delegate this authority.
  7. The Council’s decisions will then be implemented by Council staff and communicated by the end of July 2008. (Please note that the Arts Council does not release details about grant decisions over the telephone.)

It is important that you provide full information on your proposal by completing the application form in full and by providing appropriate supporting documentation. Do not omit information that you believe the Arts Council may or should already know. As the composition of peer panels varies from occasion to occasion, it is unwise to assume that everyone involved in assessing your application will have prior knowledge of your ensemble or organisation’s track record or reputation.

For further information

The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon
Young People, Children and Education
Tel: +353 1 618 02 50
Email: 7

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