When it sought a grant, the charity was surprised to find the Arts Council urging it to work up a proposal for more cash.
"We're always looking for 'magnet' activities that engage disaffected homeless young people," says John Raynham, trusts and statutory fundraising manager at Centrepoint. The charity has just been awarded £34,250 by Arts Council England to fund four eight-week creative writing courses for about 40 young people living in Centrepoint's projects (which range from emergency shelters to supported flats). They will be run by writer AJ Ola Dimeji, who specialises in getting young men from black and minority ethnic communities involved in creative writing. More than three-quarters of the young people using Centrepoint services have a BME background.
This is Centrepoint's first grant from the Arts Council, which was an obvious funder to approach. In fact, the council actually suggested that Centrepoint withdraw its initial application for a small grant (less than £5,000) to fund a three-month pilot, and instead work up a larger proposal.
"That's very unusual," Raynham admits. "I was thrilled."
Extending the proposal involved bringing in the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance and literature development agency Subtext. This will "further contribute to the quality of the work and its educational outcomes", according to Sarah Sanders, literature officer at the Arts Council.
From Raynham's point of view, working in partnership to develop the idea was enormously helpful in several ways. "A lot of statutory funders keep you at arm's length and keep referring you back to the guidelines," he says. "It was good to get the confirmation that what we were doing was a good idea, and that even if we didn't get the funding from the Arts Council we had something we could take elsewhere."
The eventual proposal, submitted in April, was for £44,543; the award, which came through in July, was for about 23 per cent less. "I appreciate that this is still very much a pilot project from a new organisation," says Raynham. "The value for me is that, if we deliver, we may be able to go back and extend the project to work with a lot more young people in different creative arts. Many of the young people we work with have shown raw talent and ability, often focusing on their experience of homelessness. This is a really good way to encourage them into learning and education."