How to get funding for a theatre show

Getting funding for a show is always the trouble for most new companies as a lot of places ask for evidence of previous work, and sometimes you don’t really want to show this as it didn’t have funding so the quality might not look great from the photos or videos so how do you do it?

Get to know who you want to fund you. The only ways at the moment in the current theatrical climate of getting money are the following;

Arts Council
Business sponsorship

For the purposes of this article I will assume the show is fringe style theatre production.

Arts Council

The Arts Council have been given a lot of bad press recently regarding all the cuts they have given. These cuts are however mainly to the companies/organisations that were receiving a set amount every year. A one off project will still get funding. The easiest way to look at it is to think of it as The Arts Council have £12 every year to spend on funding there 'Grants for the arts' section (This is more than likely the category you will go through) Then what they do is they split up the £12 into the months so every month they have £1 to spend. Now If I come along and say here I have a show that is going to help deaf children communicate through theatre and I ask for 90p to fund the project they will then look at the other projects in that round/month (even week sometimes) and decide if anything else is going to be money better spent, so if you had a show that was just a Shakespeare piece that you wanted to do because you wanted to do a show and you were asking for 90p they will more than likely say no to that and take the first option.

The Arts Council has to give their money to what they think is a good investment. You make think the production you have is a good show but what you have to do is prove it too them how good and why it is good. That doesn’t mean just talent but it means how will you get an audience? Why should the show be put on? Are you going to employ people that need to be employed? (Remember at the moment the country focuses a lot on employment if you can give a few struggling actors a job with your production then you look a lot better than saying it’s a one man show for you).

ACE recently changed their system it used to be you made an application of 2000 words for under £10,000 now the limit is £15,000. They are trying to be more relaxed on what they give money too under £15,000, which is a great approach for them!

Finally regarding the Arts Council they are not just investing in a production they are investing in you as a person as well. So if you have a show ring up there offices and ask if they know who might be able to come along. 95% of the time your first application will be rejected so leave plenty of time around it to work on it. I recently made an application and it was a case of 3rd time lucky.


It is a great source of getting money for new companies and has proven to work for a lot of people; I have used it twice and each time gone over my target. The good thing about Crowdfunding is that it is actually a chance for you to market your production at the same time as trying to get money for it. You can also meet regular funders for your shows which is always a brilliant thing.

There are loads of sites to use at the moment, too many to list the best thing to do is search CROWDFUNDING on a search engine and look at all of them, look at all the videos, look at ones that are making money and ones that are not.

"Talent borrows, genius steals" - Oscar Wilde

A great quote, now use it! If someone is making money by being really funny on their video think about how you can take that idea and make it even better! Some videos are really boring but who wants to see that?!

Personally I received celebrity endorsement so that helped a lot, if your show is about something look for a celeb that has the same interest, write and email or a tweet and see if they will film a short clip for it, or even just mention it on their social media pages.

Try and give good rewards. Don’t ask for £100 for your fringe show and then the reward is a signed poster... What good is that? If you want £500 for a show, make £500 your top amount maybe and that means they get a drink with the full cast and photo, 4 free tickets to the show. A mention on the website/programme maybe even in the programme they get ad space because it might be a company that give it.

Remember that it is people’s hard earned money! There are people out there that like just give money to hard working dedicated companies.

Business sponsorship

In this section I will confess I have not had as much success. It is really hard to get money from big companies as when you write to them they assume because you are asking for money you are a charity. Big companies set aside Millions a year to give to charities therefore they are not going to care too much about your show unless it is going to be massive!

Contact the write companies for your show. If your show is set in space, there really is no point contacting a 1920's women’s clothing store. Think who your audience will be and where they might shop. Try a small bookstore, and offer the owner two free tickets and ad space if they can maybe give some money to the show.

What Can You Get For Free?

The more free things you get the less you have to ask for + people are more impressed if you are asking for money if you say you have got most of the stuff yourself otherwise they may as well do the show themselves.

Go to DIY places, B&Q + Wickes and others likes these throw away lots of stock every week because it’s a bit damaged. You can quite easily go in explain what you are doing say you will thank them in the programme if you can have the next door that they are going to throw away because it has a scratch. They also throw away a lot of paint which trust me can cost over £100 to do a full set so try and get this early on.

Also try Free Cycle, say what you need and see if anyone can help out.

Places like The Arts Council, like if you can get things like this for free. It goes in the Support in Kind section. You calculate its worth and type it in as it classes as money that you have sourced for the production. So if you can get free rehearsal space write it down as that can cost thousands!

I think this covers all of the basics really. I hope it is of some help and I wish you all the best with your show!