DfC Small Grants Scheme

The Small Grants Scheme has been set up with funds provided by a local business and financial contributions from some events supported by Darlington for Culture. DfC runs the scheme with help from Creative Darlington to administer applications. DfC has long believed that small grants can allow everyone from music groups to art organisations to achieve great things and the scheme will offer grants of up to £500 per applicant each calendar year. A maximum of three awards will be made to any applicant, subject to the DfC committee’s assessment.

We encourage applications from any person or group with proposals that focus on arts activity in Darlington borough. Combined arts, performing arts and visual arts and exhibitions, theatre, dance and music performances, and participatory arts activities are all eligible to apply. The costs involved in developing arts activity in Darlington (artist’s fees, arts equipment, arts materials, technical support, and space to hold activity, marketing and promotion) will be considered

On this page we list successful applications. The grant winners are asked to provide feedback about how the grant helped their activities.

Darlington New Orleans Jazz Club

The application: To support the booking of top bands and musicians at Darlington New Orleans Jazz Club, which has promoted live jazz in Darlington since 1996. Performers range from ragtime to swing, through the hot dance music of the 1920s, to the revivalist years of the 1950s and 1960s, with some be-bop and jive, they provide a programme with something for everyone. Events take place St Augustines Parish Centre in Larchfield Street is the home of Darlington New Orleans Jazz. Lunchtime sessions are held the first Saturday of the month 12:30 till 3pm. Darlington New Orleans Jazz Club was the first receipient of a DfC Small Grants Award.

The award: £500

Feedback after the event: DfC chair at the time (June 2017) John Dean, who presented the cheque to Ray Sams of the Darlington New Orleans Jazz Club, said: “We are delighted to make this first award. Darlington New Orleans Jazz Club is a vibrant organisation and this money will support their excellent programme and give them added confidence when it comes to bringing top quality performers to the town.”


The application: In partnership with The Market Laboratory, Johannesburg, OddManOut proposed producing a new play focused on womanhood in 2017, developing their portfolio and commitment to new work, demonstrating calibre, and having a product to showcase in the UK and internationally.

A DfC small art grant was sought to enable two Darlington-based theatre makers to develop their professional practice. OddManOut raised funds to support a bursary scheme. They have 6 participants (18- to 25-year-olds) in the main project and needed to raise £250 per participant, in order to cover bus travel/food/loss of earnings during the rehearsal period.

The award: £500

Feedback after the event: “Our show and engagement programme went fantastically and had over 200 in the audience, mainly young adults, at the new hippodrome. We ran workshops, tours, and talks with North-East artists, After Care Team, DJW, Northern Stage Young Company, Teesside University, a group from under the council, the youth council for the area. The Hippodrome Youth Theatre, The Hippodrome Contemporary Dance Company,

“We also raised enough funds to support all six artists. Our facebook page charts the journey of the week and also the positive feedback.” OddManOut representative






Neasham Reading Room (village hall)

The application: The Reading Room is in a rural community with a pub, a village hall and no other facilities, and the organisation aims to provide as wide a variety of events and activities that appeal across the generations. They wanted to buy a lightweight portable stage which can be used flexibly for different types of performances. Without it, audiences will be unable to see the performance properly.

The award: £500 (towards total cost)

Feedback after the event: “Courtesy of grants from the Foyle Foundation and Darlington For Culture, Neasham Reading Room has bought portable staging. The modular/foldable stage was delivered at the end of February and its construction means it can be easily erected and stored. Over the past two years the Reading Room has started to host Rural Arts Music and Drama productions as well as local theatre, so the new stage will be a real asset with the professional presentation of these events.

“The stage had its first ‘run out’ on Saturday 12th May when Snake Davis, the highly acclaimed saxophonist, performs at the Reading Room with fellow musicians David Bowie Jnr and singer Helen Watson with the Burden of Paradise Tour.” Lesley Blundell (Reading Room Chair)

Darlington and District National Council of Women

The application: The purpose of this event by Darlington and District National Council of Women was to celebrate the centenary of votes for women but also to empower, enthuse and engage with the next generation in the democratic process.

The award: £500 (one-third of event’s total cost)

Feedback after the event: “There were in excess of 150 people in attendance which was a diverse and intergenerational audience from across the town. Everyone learnt a great deal with Chris Lloyd concentrating on Darlington women who had been active in Votes for Women, Meridith Towne the Dressmaker and Costume Historian demonstrated what every class of woman would have worn at that time as they went to protest events.

“Julia Breen a Northern Echo journalist ran a fantastic panel discussion with Jenny Raw, Jess Halliday, and Josh Mitchell. Vane Women read a selection of work about empowering women and the year-six children from Corporation Road and Reid Street schools came into the main auditorium at the end of the day to show off their Suffragette-coloured crafts.” Event organiser Heather Carter










Belly Giggles Comedy Workshop for children aged 7+

The application: To help run a new comedy event for children and their families to attend. This would require venue hire, props and costumes. The aim to hold a workshop and open mic event to encourage children to experience stand-up comedy. Children and their grown ups can make up a silly poem, dress up in fancy dress, tell some jokes or write a comedy sketch or even try out an impression or two. Children do not have to get up on stage if they dont want to but they can try out the workshop to gain some confidence first and the aim just to have lots of fun at a comedy event just for them.

The award: £250

Feedback after the event: “The event went very well and gained positive feedback form everyone that attended. There were a dozen people there and five children were involved with the workshop and brave enough to stand up to the mic. Volunteers and grandparents became involved too and seemed at times to be sillier than the children! We had everything from a superhero gran to a fantastic Donald Trump Impressionist, a pirate and a DfC arts festival organiser telling lettuce jokes. The event ended with cream pies flying around the place so apologies to The Forum for this but we soon cleaned up and were left with nothing but pie on our face!

“Overall, it was a good event with lots of giggles and my thanks to everyone at DfC for the small grant award and to all the volunteers and families who made this event possible.” Event organiser Jan Connor






The Forum Music Centre

The application: Open day at the Forum Music Centre Sunday 4th February. Humantics CIC were awarded funding from the National Lottery to upgrade and redecorate their band rehearsal rooms/meeting and training rooms and recording studio. They intended to celebrate the refurbishment alongside Independent Venues week by organising an open day for all members of the community. Their small arts grant application is focused on securing funding to assist in the cost of the well-known bands and entertainment they are scheduling for the open day/launch.

The award: £500

Feedback after the event: “The open day went extremely well with around 100 people attending on the day to look around our refurbished facilities and enjoy live music from local artists.  The Recording Studio Workshops and Song Club Session Tasters proved very popular and we are looking forward to encouraging more young people to engage in live music.

“Thanks to our DFC grant, we were able to continue into the evening with live performances from Max Bianco from the Jar Family and James Leonard Hewitson and his band The Relevant People to coincide with Independent Venue Week.” Spokesperson from The Forum

Vane Women – Film Poem Event

The application: This project was an important development for Vane Women as it moved away from the traditional type of literary event. The aim was to create a multimedia performance to enhance the readings and attract a wider audience throughout Darlington and the Tees Valley.

The group wanted to include a film based on their work for the ‘Tell Her Story’ exhibition in 2017, particularly in this important anniversary year for Women’s Suffrage. The 12 members of Vane Women worked with film-maker Jason Berge on the project. He created 12 short films, each inspired by one of the paintings in the 2017 exhibition.

The award: £500

Feedback after the event: “The event was a great success and took place during Darlington Arts Festival on 30th May at Crown Street Gallery. It was an informal promenade performance with a glass of wine provided. The films and projected images were shown in one area, readings and live music took place in another. We performed to a capacity audience of 30 people, and the feedback has been positive and encouraging.

“Working with other artists has been a very happy collaboration and opened new avenues of creative endeavour for us. We achieved our aims creatively and artistically and it also enabled us to attract a wider audience. We very much appreciate the support we received from Darlington for Culture and assistance provided by Stephen Wiper at DBC and Michaela Wetherill, who curated the ‘Tell Her Story’ exhibition.” Chris Powell, for Vane Women






Adam Plumb – art course and exhibition

The application: Adam planned to attend a thangka art course at Jamyang Buddhist Centre, London, from 1st to 5th December 2017, with the world-renowned thangka teacher Andy Weber, to improve his skills in this art and further his understanding of Tibetan culture. Then the aim was to organise an exhibition to bring a taste of Tibet to Darlington, revealing the skill and intricacy that goes into making a painting and the significance of the symbolism found within the art.

The award: £500

Feedback after the event: “I found the course extremely beneficial, insightful and interesting. I gained knowledge and skills that I was able to use to create a body of work to present to the town during the Darlington Arts Festival 2018 in an exhibition at the Town Hall, which ran from 21st May to 13th July.

“Although I have not sold any prints I did have an enquiry as to how to get started with this art, so I was able to direct someone about how to begin learning this art, which was great.” Adam Plumb






Humantics CIC Song Club

The application: Humantics CIC aimed to promote a weekly after-school club called “The Song Club Sessions” to be held one weekday between 4.30pm and 6.30pm during term time. Humantics wanted like to deliver a series of ‘’Song Club’’ sessions for 14- to 17-year-olds. The idea is to give young musicians and aspiring writers an opportunity to develop skills in a variety of areas. The grant was to help support the cost of Live Performance Nights.

The award: £500

Feedback after the event: “Thanks to a £500 grant from Darlington For Culture, we were able to fund a performance evening for the young people who attended our first term of weekly Wednesday Song Club Sessions at the Forum.

“The evening was a huge success with and was well attended by the families and friends of the students. It was wonderful to see them working so well together to showcase their many musical talents. Thanks to everyone involved in this amazing experience.” Spokesperson from The Forum






Darlington Piano Society – Steinway model B

The application: Darlington Piano Society applied for an award to go towards maintenance and servicing work required on the Steinway model B piano, based at Central Hall. The piano is used for all Darlington Piano Society recitals by professional musicians – ranging from those beginning their careers through to pianists of national and international standing – and it is used by the Darlington Music Society for a number of its chamber music recitals. The piano needed an overhaul to return it to concert standard.

The award: £467

Feedback after the event: “Extensive work was carried out on 2nd August 2018 by a piano technician who was trained by Steinway in Hamburg and who looks after all Steinways at the Royal Northern Music College in Manchester. Piano components have been cleaned extensively, hammers ‘reshaped’ and adjusted, the action regulated to remove unevenness, and the ‘voicing’ of the piano improved.

“The technician sent a report to the society and it reflected that the performers will find an enormous improvement in the piano. The support from the DfC Small Grants award is much appreciated by both societies, and I’m sure all our listeners will notice too.” Greg Johnson, Chairman, Darlington Piano Society






Acting-for-film workshop

The application: To deliver an acting-for-film five-day workshop during autumn half-term Oct/Nov 2018, for children and young people aged 11 to 18 years, designed to develop understanding of writing and acting for film. Funding was required to support room hire and marketing costs.

The applicant Susie Potter has six years of experience teaching drama to children and young adults while employed by Stage Coach, Little Voices and teaching privately for LAMDA.

The award: £250

Feedback after the event: “This week-long workshop had four attending, so it was smaller than I had hoped. However, through this I’ve had lots of interest about running another course in the February half-term so I’m going to look into that.

“We had a fab week, the students all filmed monologues to camera and we made a short horror film on the Wednesday as it was Halloween. And I’ve had great feedback from the parents.

“One photo is of students practising their monologues to the mirror as it’s always good to know what your own face is doing. One is a fun shot from Halloween, one is of Frazer who was my youngest student and very good actor; the other is his sister Kalila, another good actor and Harry Potter fan.” Susie Potter






Undivided Pictures

The application: The applicant from Univided Pictures is developing two short films, which are based in Darlington and will be used to pitch a TV series and feature film. They wanted to hold a one-day workshop with actors from the region to develop the scripts for both further. The applicant is in talks with Film Hub North and this has been suggested as the next step before they apply for funding for the short films.

The award: £500

Feedback after the event: “This workshop was the last stage in development of a new comedy/drama set in Darlington. It enabled us to visit the potential location, and have professional actors explore themes and aspects surrounding the script. Having fresh eyes helped us take the script to a new level and we look forward to raising the funds to begin filming in the town.” Dalton Deverell






Broken Scar Productions

The application: Broken Scar Productions has developed a variety of films, working with or involving Darlington-based talent. This project ‘Sparrowhawk’ used Darlington interior and exterior locations, although the plot is not set in the town; and the funding was to assist with production costs and distribution.

The award: £500

Feedback after the event: “Both the launch at Durham Gala [pictured] and the screening at The Forum in Darlington, which took place on Monday 3rd December 2018, were packed. The film has now been entered into various film festivals (nationally and internationally) and will be shown in York in February and the Keswick Film Festival in March.” Mike Tweddle, director of Broken Scar Productions.

Darlington Film Club

The application: Darlington Film Club proposed screening a film featuring Robin Askwith, followed by his one-man show on 1st April 2019.  Darlington Film Club have organised many special events of this type (screenings including visits from those involved in the film) at The Forum Music Centre. And funding was sought as part of the overall project budget, to cover fees for the guest appearance  by Robin Askwith, plus train travel and hotels for Robin and his agent.

The award: £500

Feedback after the event: “This was Robin Askwith’s fourth visit to Film Club, and as always he put on a great show. More than 60 people attended, and it was a fantastic evening with Robin telling us all sorts of stories from his amazing 50-year career in film, theatre and show business.

“Not only were the stories entertaining but there were also some true tales about Robin’s close friend Sir Ian Botham who just so happened to be in the audience to laugh along with the crowd.

“Thank you so much to Darlington for Culture for the small grant to help this event. It’s been a pleasure to work with DfC and we look forward to screening a film for the Darlington Arts Festival in May.” James Watson of Darlington Film Club





Darlington New Orleans Jazz

The application: Darlington New Orleans Jazz (DNOJ) has been supporting live New Orleans-influenced jazz in Darlington for over 20 years.  The aim is to bring the highest-quality New Orleans jazz to the town with bands and musicians from around the UK, from the USA and Europe, and even from Australia.

A small grant award was sought to help secure the financial future for the coming year as the club has programmed the highest number of bands in one year to date, including bands and musicians from New Orleans itself.

The award: £500

Feedback from the club: Saturday 6th April saw the first event since the small grant award with the “Savannah Jazz Band”, a firm favourite of DNOJ, playing to a capacity audience.

On Saturday 13th April, “Shades of Jazz” gave an outstanding performance. This is a group of first-class musicians, again highlighting the quality of bands and musicians attracted to Darlington New Orleans Jazz.

The New Century Ragtime Orchestra will appear on Saturday 4th May with special guests Enrico Tomasso on trumpet and Nick Ward on drums. This promises to be another outstanding day of classic jazz from the 1920s.

Saturday 18th May, in association with Darlington Arts Festival, sees the return of popular American pianist Jeff Barnhart with his “Hot and Sweet” quartet with Jeff on Piano, his wife Ann on Flute and vocals, Tom (Spats) Langham on banjo and guitar and Graham Smith on Drums. This really is a world-class quartet.

Manic Mum Days Events – family ceilidh

The application: Cassie Cooper of Manic Mum Days Events (Facebook page) wanted to organise a family-friendly ceilidh event in May 2019. It’s a ceilidh with a mixture of all types of music and dance styles for all ages to join in. The proposal identifies budget will be allocated to the costs of live music, a band or musician to lead the ceilidh and the hire of the venue – Bondgate Church Hall.

The award: £500

Feedback: “We had around 15 families engage in our family ceilidh and lots of them had never been to one before. The whole room was alive with the amazing sounds of ‘Blind Panic’ ceilidh music and the steps were easy to follow and guided brilliantly by the lovely caller.

“To see lots of children and families smiling and laughing was brilliant and the church hall at Bondgate made the perfect location with lots of space to move. I am incredibly grateful for the support from DfC, a huge thank you on behalf of all the people who got to come and enjoy a fun family occasion and try something different!” Cassie Cooper, event organiser