How many people were awarded micro-bursaries by the North East Artists’ Fund? What’s the biggest barrier that artists face in the region; what do they think should be done about it — and where is the North East of England, exactly? Find answers to these questions and more here.

Our region

Where is the North East of England?
Our region stretches from Berwick-upon-Tweed in the far north, on the border with Scotland; through Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and County Durham; and down to the Tees Valley, including Middlesbrough. It includes the conurbations of Tyneside (comprising Newcastle and Gateshead), Sunderland and Teesside.

The total population of the North East is 2.17m, of which 823,000 is the metro area population of Newcastle upon Tyne and 345,000 Sunderland (both 2023). Northumberland, by contrast, has the lowest population density in England.

The North East comprises County Durham, Northumberland, Teesside and Tyne & Wear.

Areas covered: Addresses in postcodes DH, DL1 – 6 and DL12 – 17, NE, SR, TD15 (England) and TS.


North East Artists’ Fund: history

The first year of the North East Artists’ Fund ran as a pilot project, to test whether a micro-bursaries scheme would be useful. It ran between September 2022 and March 2023.

The fund was possible thanks to partners Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead Council, MIMA, The NewBridge Project and Sunderland Culture. The fund started off with a total pot of £8,800, but thanks to Gateshead Council’s intervention in its last round was raised to £10,800.

North East Artists’ Fund: application data

Total fund: £8,800 (original fund) rising to £10,800
Available for bursaries >£100: £1,400
Available for bursaries <£100: £9,400
Total eligible applications: 311 (from a total 361)
Total amount requested: £74,319
Awards made: 60
Amount awarded: £10,800

Total fund: £18,800
Available for bursaries >£100: £3,800
Available for bursaries <£100: £15,000
Applications to date: 216
Awards made to date: 46
Amount awarded to date: £7,744

North East Artists’ Fund 2022-23

We asked recipients upon award how they felt about their practice, what their needs were and what challenges they faced. We went back to ask similar questions a few months later, after they had completed the activity they’d applied to fund.

97% of respondents found the application process easy or very easy.

Before receiving their micro-busary…

26% of respondents felt that they have been able or very able to progress their practice over the last six months.

57% of respondents were confident or very confident about the direction in which their practice is headed.

52% of respondents were sure or very sure that they’d eventually get to where they wanted to be.

…and after

81% of respondents felt that they have been able or very able to progress their practice over the last six months.

89% of respondents were confident or very confident about the direction in which their practice is headed.

85% of respondents were sure or very sure that they’d eventually get to where they wanted to be.

Ignoring the North East Artists’ Fund and their particular application, what do applicants consider the biggest barriers to their practice right now?

65% Financial — having to work other job(s)
62% Financial — not having the means to sustain my practice
26% Financial — travel
29% Caring responsibilities
2% Lack of education
45% Lack of time to spend on my practice
22% Disability / other access barriers
14% Other personal reasons
17% Other:
New to area
Lack of studio space
Access to equipment


How many of the following do applicants feel they currently enjoy access to… 

66% Peer support
27% Practice / professional development
50% Opportunities to make new work
26% Opportunities to exhibit
12% Production support
24% Sufficient access to materials
19% Sufficient access to workshops / facilities
12% Opportunities to travel
45% Relevant information, reference, resources, etc.
7% None of the above
7% Other:
The NewBridge Project Collective Studio
Studio space
Online peer support
Support from non-art organisations
Access to the above, but outside NE

and for those they didn’t select, which would they most benefit from access to?

19% Peer support
41% Practice / professional development
40% Opportunities to make new work
62% Opportunities to exhibit
48% Production support
45% Sufficient access to materials
47% Sufficient access to workshops / facilities
48% Opportunities to travel
12% Relevant information, reference, resources, etc.
0% None of the above
15% Other:
Support/access for bipolar — writing grant applications, etc.
Being paid for the time it takes to develop and produce new work
Support balancing salaried and self-employed work
In-person peer support
Affordable studio spaces in the NE
Tailored professional development opportunities

77% of respondents told us the way they feel about their practice has changed as a result of their North East Artists’ Fund award — in the following ways…

86% I’ve been able to make work / do something which I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to
68% The funding has made my work / project / practice easier
73% The funding has removed an obstacle
55% I feel more confident about my practice
46% I have a clearer idea about what’s next
55% Being successful with the application has validated my practice
59% I feel more confident about applying for funding
36% The funding has made other things possible
59% I’m more able to make more work as a result
It gave me the opportunity to interact with the broader artistic community
It enabled me to do a course


What do applicants feel about the fund?

“This is a hugely important fund to us as a collective. Alongside disability and other access barriers we have been struggling to make work together due to lack of child care and funding for travel between us. The fund will allow us to spend time making work together without the pressure of financial barriers. This relatively small amount of money means an awful lot to us — thank you!”

“As a result of this opportunity I have a fire in my belly.”

“This award will allow me to receive constructive feedback and guidance for the direction of my practice, build confidence in presenting myself and my work, and allow me to overcome some communication difficulties I experience due to being autistic.”

“Without this I don’t feel so confident that I would have had the motivation to continue with some of my projects.”

“This bursary will allow me immediate access to specialist equipment that I need to complete a commission. It will enable me to focus on making without the worry of the financial implications of hiring equipment.”

“For me, it was about being recognised. This will help me and the opportunity given to me… the support is a moral boost too — that what I’m trying to achieve has been seen.”

“A fantastically simple process, which is a major boon when working in the arts where time-making-art-and-not-filling-out-endless-applications is so valuable. Thank you!”

“Thank you!!!! The funding opened up a whole new way of making in my practice, and thinking of my work. And the outcomes were well-received.”

What did the funds fund in 2023?

Research & Development 24%
Library access
Research time

Tools & equipment 23%
3D printer
Pottery wheel
Printing press
Woodworking tools
Glass grinder
Phone lens
Paper cutter
Four-channel audio interface

Production 17%
Production costs
Tests, experiments & prototypes

Materials 16%
Camera film
Glaze & clay
Ornate tabletop
132 plastic footballs

Training & Tuition 10%
Risograph printing
Screen printing
Knitting machine

Workspaces 10%
Access to workshops
Studio relocation costs
Studio security gate
Studio rent

11% of the total was spent on addressing access-related issues

Previous research

We conducted an artists’ survey in 2021. Individuals from across the region told us what current provision looked like for them, and what their practice would benefit from in future. We asked them about the barriers they face and their hopes for the future. The results contributed to our redevelopment of the organisation and the way we structured the North East Artists’ Fund. A summary of the results will be available here shortly.