un-Wellcome, un-Trustworthy

When you apply for a grant you expect that there's a good chance you'll receive a letter telling you that you were unsuccessful. What you don't expect is an email attachment attacking your artwork.

I applied to the Wellcome Trust in the hopes of securing a small grant to help fund a graphic novel based on my Monstrum series. The idea was to work with a science consultant, I'd also hire a professional typographer and pay for a proper print run. The book would have been my main focus for 2011 and would have included a lot of outreach programmes, a residency and public engagement workshops as part of the project.

The feedback I received told me that they had found my idea original, it fit their criteria, they were confident that I had plenty of experience and could demonstrate an ability to deliver on similar projects. They were happy with the public engagement and the science content of the project. They also told me that they were impressed with my budget and project structure.

"There will be tangible, high quality output in a short space of time. It has the capacity to engage a  wide range of audiences."

The reason I didn't get the grant was because one of the assessors decided they did not like my style of artwork. It was clearly a case of personal taste, as there was plenty of evidence that other people, including actual critics, had enjoyed my work. They then used the feedback form to critique my artwork in a nasty way. They also tried to justify this by writing patronising accounts of how they believed comics should be made.
For example:

"...unimaginatively coloured illustrations with a non-compelling narrative....Colouring is a sophisticated art that can add meaning and emotion to a work."

They clearly hadn't even read the supporting proposal properly and they overlooked some of the most important points of the project! I was really surprised and offended by the response, but the Wellcome Trust have not allowed me to lodge a complaint. I can't resubmit the project either. I have spoken informally to other people who have had dealings with the grants procedure and they tell me this is not an uncommon occurrence. Normally I wouldn't mention something like this on my blog, but since they've ignored my requests to complain in an official capacity, I'll just have to air my grievances online. By not allowing feedback from applicants it ensures that assessors will continued to get paid to ignorantly slate projects, and no-one will even check on what they're doing. How can you trust that your application will be dealt with in a professional manner?


  1. I imagine it's nice having a job where you've got some money to give out to people who could really do with it.
    Especially in the arts.
    I'd feel a bit like I was helping shape culture.

    You know me. I'm a deeply floored person. The feeling of power would probably give me a warm feeling. At first at least, then I think I'd get used to it, and maybe try and get that feeling back by pointing out that I had the power.

    But I'm petty and small minded.

    "it's not enough that i succeed others must fail"


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