Project Overview

We are extending the deadline for the Curatorial Practice Award to Tuesday 14 April 2020 at 12 noon, to give more time and space to potential applicants affected by COVID-19.


FVU CURATORIAL PRACTICE AWARD #2, in partnership with John Hansard Gallery

This opportunity is intended to enable people from low-income backgrounds to pursue curatorial careers in the arts.


What is the opportunity?

- £5,000 fee to act as curatorial lead and develop and deliver a newly commissioned moving image work by an artist of your choosing for exhibition at John Hansard Gallery, part of University of Southampton in 2021
- Basic commissioning budget of £10,000 inclusive of a £4,000 fee to the chosen artist (with potential for this to be expanded through additional fundraising)
- Year-long support from the FVU team, who will act as Producers of the work, as well as the JHG team who will work with you to present and develop audiences for the work.
- Four meetings with an external mentor of your choosing
- Desk space at FVU for a year
- Up to 10 days of research and development at JHG


This is an open call for people looking to develop their practical curatorial and commissioning skills via a year-long placement at Film and Video Umbrella [FVU], delivered in partnership with John Hansard Gallery [JHG]. Through the year you will work with FVU and an artist of your choosing to develop and deliver a new moving image work for exhibition on the Digital Array (see images above) at JHG from where it should have the potential to tour to subsequent venues that you work to secure over the course of the year.

FVU specialises in commissioning, producing and touring of artists moving image, in partnerships with galleries, museums, and other partners across the country and internationally. Working closely with FVU over the year, you will learn what is involved in delivering these activities for yourself.

JHG is an internationally recognised and locally engaged contemporary art gallery in Southampton. Learning and engagement are at the heart of JHG and underpin all its activities. The Digital Array is a rolling series of digital commissions for a large-scale media wall in the JHG atrium, supported by the Barker-Mill Foundation.

Through JHG you will find opportunities to explore how your curatorial interests can develop and engage audiences, groups or communities. For example, there could be opportunities for talks and workshops, connections with Winchester School of Art, or links with partner organisations across the city.

You will be supported to develop, fundraise and realise your project by the FVU and JHG team, who will offer expertise and contacts in the specialist field of artists’ moving image, including advice and assistance with partnership brokering, artist liaison, presentation, fundraising, communications and audience engagement.

FVU will work with you to develop your fundraising skills with the expectation that you raise additional monies to expand the scope of your project. This could add monies to your commissioning budget, or monies could be raised to create a small publication to accompany the work, or to help build audiences through marketing, or to develop an event or series of events to run alongside the exhibition.

You will be provided with a £5,000 fee, and will be expected to be based in the FVU office approximately one day per week over the course of a year, though you are free to use the desk space as much as you want (weekdays 10am - 6pm). A budget for travel will be provided so that you are able to spend up to 10 days of the year with the JHG team in Southampton.

We will arrange for you to have four meetings throughout the year with an external mentor of your choosing. Your mentor can both advise you on your project, as well as on developing your career beyond the opportunity with FVU and JHG.

The opportunity aims to provide you with real-world, practical experience of how to commission moving image work, and deliver a significant exhibition in collaboration with exhibition partners, that will not only help build professional confidence for the future but show evidence of delivery to prospective employers. We will also ask you to have a role in helping us review the scheme for a new participant to undertake in the following year.


Who is eligible?

  • This opportunity is intended for people from low-income backgrounds. More information on what we ask you to provide to support your application is included in the ‘How to apply’ section below.
  • There is no age limit.
  • You can be of any nationality, but you must have the legal right to live and work in the UK for the duration of the year-long placement.
  • We will not accept applications from people who are currently undertaking a full-time educational course. We will accept applications from part-time students.
  • You do not need to have studied the arts to apply but you must be able to demonstrate a knowledge of and a passion for the visual arts, and have a strong curatorial idea or area that you would like to research.


Roles and responsibilities if you receive the award:

  • To work with FVU and an artist to develop and refine a proposal for a moving image work, that you then oversee the making of, in collaboration with FVU who will act as Producers of the moving image work
  • To work with FVU and JHG to plan the exhibition of the work on the Digital Array in Southampton.
  • To broker a tour of the commissioned work, supported by the FVU team, who will then deliver the onward tour.
  • To work to fundraise for the project, to expand the scope of the production or other aspects of the project such as events, marketing or publishing
  • To author texts about the commissioned work for different outputs, such as websites, wall texts, social media, etc.


How to apply:

You must submit the following five things when you apply:

1. Cover Letter with Project Proposal (no more than two sides of A4)

Included in your Cover Letter should be your Project Proposal. You can make your proposal in one of two ways:

 - Propose a specific UK based artist to commission with a description of the work that they would wish to make. This option will require you to have discussed this opportunity with the artist you are proposing and for them to have consented to participating, and to come up with a film proposal that is realistic to be achieved within the £10K budget (£4K artist’s fee and £6K production budget), and within the one-year production period.


 -  You could propose a small selection of UK based artists’ names who you might be interested in commissioning via this opportunity, providing some information about their work, and why you are interested in working with them. This option does not require you to necessarily have had prior conversations with the artists suggested, but you do need to have considered the type of work they might make, based on your research into their existing work, and how such a work might be manageable within the £10K budget (£4K artist’s fee and £6K production budget), and within the one-year production period. Only one artist would be moved forward to commission but submitting a range of artist names will allow you to carry out conversations with those artists in the first weeks of the opportunity being awarded, so that you could get to know them and their work better and explore what they might want to make, and the practicalities of that with FVU, before you took a decision on which artist to move forward to commission.

We will not hold you to the exact detail of what you propose, but we ask you to include as much information as possible. Other information your proposal could consider are:

 - How your proposal connects with your curatorial interests / research

- The types of audience you would like to engage and how you will reach them

 - If you know the artist you want to commission, a breakdown of the production budget detailing how this might be spent

 - Proposals for where you might seek additional funding and what you would like to direct that additional funding towards

We encourage ambition, but proposals do need to be realistic and realisable.

Your Cover Letter should also tell us:

 - Why you are applying for the opportunity

 - How you will benefit from the opportunity

 - What relevant experiences you have that will help you deliver the proposed commission and exhibition.

This is a practical and hands-on opportunity to develop and deliver a newly commissioned moving image work by an artist of your choosing for exhibition, so you need to be able to demonstrate that you already have the capacity to think like a curator and have the practical capabilities and proactive attitude that must accompany all creative curatorial minds to see a project through to successful fruition. This may or may not mean that you already have some curatorial training or experience.

2. CV (no more than two sides of A4)

This should include details of:

Your education and qualifications from secondary school onwards, including grades achieved
Your employment history
Any curatorial projects previously worked on or delivered
Any other relevant experience

You do not necessarily need to have undertaken a formal education within or worked in the arts before, but we would like to know what your education and work experiences have been, and what aspects of this experience you see as relevant and useful for developing a career in the visual arts moving forward.

3. Documentation that you are from a low-income background.

You can either supply us with:

A short personal statement of 1-2 paragraphs describing a little about what makes you eligible from your circumstances / background.


Some kind of formal evidence, such as documentation that you were eligible for free school meals as a child, or that you live or lived in local authority housing for a period of time. If you attended university to undertake a Bachelors degree you could use scans of your Student Finance Breakdown letters indicating that you received a full maintenance grant. We are open to suggestions for other forms of documentation of this type.

We want to make this element of eligibility as non-arduous as possible.

Please feel free to call us to discuss if you are unsure if you would be eligible, or of how to demonstrate this.

4. Contact details for two referees.

These would most often be past or current tutors or employers. We will not contact your referees unless you are offered an interview, and we will inform you before we contact them so that you have an opportunity to ask them if they are willing to provide you with a reference.

5. Completed Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form and Feedback Survey

This will be processed separately from your application and will not affect your eligibility for the opportunity. You can download this here.


Please note, we will not be able to process applications if one or more of these five items is missing.

Please submit these five items via email to:

We are open for applications between: 10 February – 14 April 2020


Selection Process

Applications will be assessed by an expert panel comprised of:

Larry Achiampong, artist

Gareth Bell-Jones, Curator / Director, Flat Time House

Steven Bode, Director, FVU

Ros Carter, Head of Programmes (Senior Curator), JHG

Susanna Chisholm, Programme Development Director, FVU

A shortlist of applicants will be selected for interview. Interviews will take place on 21 May 2020. We then aim for the placement to start in June 2020, but can be flexible to applicants’ schedules.


Why has this opportunity been developed?

The artists and workforce within the visual arts is wildly unrepresentative of the wider demographic makeup of the United Kingdom. This situation needs to change if arts organisations are to adequately reflect and engage the diversity of artists and audiences that is such a strong distinguishing feature of contemporary Britain.

Before this can happen, there needs to be a proper acknowledgement of the challenges and impediments that prevent many people pursuing a career in the arts. High among these determining factors are economic considerations. While educational opportunities (in the form of curating courses or other professional degrees) are more widely available than ever, they are also more expensive than ever. For many people from low-income backgrounds, or experiencing other forms of economic disadvantage, the cost of obtaining specialist qualifications (and the subsequent need to take unpaid or extremely low-paid work to gain valuable professional experience) is a formidable, often insurmountable obstacle that only reinforces a perception that the arts are somehow ‘not for them’.  

Economic disadvantage intersects with and exacerbates the barriers experienced by people from all backgrounds and demographics. Money does not discriminate. A lack of it universally strips people of opportunity. The popular language of meritocracy would have us believe that whatever situation we were born into, if we simply work hard and apply ourselves, then everyone has the opportunity to succeed in whatever career they might choose. This superficial notion of ‘equality’ seeks to mask the vast array of different and additional opportunities and experiences that money can buy or allow privileged access to, while simultaneously and detrimentally misrepresenting those born into economically poorer circumstances as somehow lacking in motivation and/or skill.

At a time when the lack of diversity among decision-makers at arts organisations continues to make headlines, but when actual social mobility has diminished, it feels more important than ever to create opportunities for new and different voices that might otherwise be excluded or unrepresented.

FVU and JHG believe that for the arts sector to flourish it needs to be made up of people with the widest range of different talents and experiences and reach beyond the narrow (or narrowing) grouping of people who have the opportunity to access careers in the arts. This will deter creative stagnation, create better, more varied and more innovative work, and work that speaks to wider audiences.

Curatorial Practice is FVU’s initiative, in partnership with JHG, to welcome and foster new voices into the art world, and give them a structured opportunity that allows them to flourish. This opportunity is an attempt to level the playing field to allow potential to be realised. It is a small step towards having an arts industry filled with the highest skilled that the UK has to offer, rather than only those whose backgrounds have afforded them to take unpaid work in order to gain the experience required in order to progress into an artistic career.

Curators are bellwethers for the expression of creative talent. By offering opportunities to people from low-income backgrounds who are in the early stages of developing their curatorial careers, we will widen the pool of experienced curatorial practitioners, facilitating new perspectives, and stimulating a broader range of artists to showcase and draw from.



With the exception of your Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form and Feedback Survey (which will be processed separately and anonymously), the personal data you give us in submitting your application will be used to process your application for the Curatorial Practice Award 2019, by Film and Video Umbrella and will be shared with members of the selection panel. We will only contact you in connection to this application. Your personal data will be kept by Film and Video Umbrella for up to 1 year and will only be used by each organisation for research, evaluation, reporting and marketing analysis for artist opportunities. It will not be passed on to anyone else. If you want to be removed from our database you can email You have the right to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office should you wish to complain about how your information has been handled.



If I am successful with my application, when would the exhibition take place?

The exhibition at JFG is scheduled for 2021 so the commission would need to be completed in advance of that. Exact dates for the exhibition will be decided in consultation with JHG, as depending on what the proposed commission is, it may fit better with particular elements of their planned 2021 programme. Over the course of the year we will be supporting you to seek out touring opportunities for the work, so would expect it to tour subsequently.

If I applied to the last edition, can I reapply?

Yes. We would welcome applications from all who are eligible.

Do I need to have achieved good grades to have a chance of success with my application?

No. We understand that not everyone does well in school or university, for a wide array of reasons. This does not mean that you do not have the skills to be a curator. The ideas outlined in your cover letter with project proposal will therefore be more significant than your CV in deciding whether or not to offer you the opportunity.

Will you accept my application if I have already completed an MA?

Yes. We will consider applications from people with a range of educational qualifications and experiences.

Is there a fee for applying?


What will you be considering when selecting the awardee?

Primarily we are looking for three main things, which will receive equal weight in our decision making. Firstly your proposal needs to be strong - presenting ideas and artists that we are interested in seeing developed, demonstrating your potential as a curator. Secondly we are looking to award someone for whom this opportunity stands to be transformative for their future careers, so be sure to demonstrate this in your application. In assessing this we will consider your background, but also your aptitude and potential to make the most of the opportunity. We will finally consider the achievability of your ideas when we assess applications, ie how realistic is it that you will be able to deliver what you propose within timeframe and available budget.

Who is in the team at FVU who I would be working with to develop my project?

The FVU team are:

Steven Bode, Director, with 30 years of experience as a curator and writer, and broker of significant partnerships to make major artistic projects happen.

Susanna Chisholm, Programme Development Director, works on developing the programme, as well as working closely on and overseeing all of the productions that FVU undertakes.

Mike Jones, Technical Manager, guides all of our audiovisual presentations to ensure that every exhibition that FVU undertakes has the highest standards, whatever the capacity of the venue or location that we are exhibiting in. He is also a project manager and oversees FVU’s touring exhibitions.

Ellen O’Donohue-Oddy, Communications Manager, undertakes an extremely wide range of activities including writing and editing interpretation materials for exhibitions, producing online videos and other content to educate and promote our work, gathering and interpreting audience feedback, and authoring and delivering Audience Development Plans.

Leah McGurk, Team Assistant and Production Officer, supports FVU’s productions to be realised as well as working closely with all members of the team. Leah would likely be acting as lead Producer of the moving image work that you commission.

The JHG team are:

Woodrow Kernohan, Director, strategically leads the development of JHG since 2017. He was previously Director of EVA International, Ireland’s biennial of contemporary art and Curator of the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015.

Ros Carter, Head of Programme (Senior Curator), with 25 years of curatorial experience at JHG, develops and oversees JHG’s programme of exhibitions and artist commissions, initiating and developing projects with artists, curators, partner organisations, groups and communities.

Lynne Dick, Head of Programme (Engagement and Learning), develops key partnerships and resources to enhance understanding of contemporary art and foster meaningful community engaged/co-creative arts practice, diversity and social inclusion. 

Nadia Throndrayen, Exhibitions Curator, works closely as part of the Programme team to manage and coordinate the exhibition programme and offsite projects, working directly with the artists, managing projects, and organising talks, tours and events.

Dianna Djokey, Communities Curator, works closely as part of the Programme team to deliver learning and engagement programmes within community, schools, families adults and older people, with key responsibility for developing the Ambassador scheme.

Vanessa Rolf and Elspeth Williams, Engagement Curators both work closely as part of the Programme team to deliver learning and engagement programmes within community, schools, families, adults and older people, with key responsibility for supporting interns and delivering the young curators project, JHG Collective.


Images: Haroon Mirza, Skip_loop (2005), video still, John Hansard Gallery 2019-20. Courtesy hrm199: Photo: Thierry Bal

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