Making the most of residencies and commissions
Victoria Adukwei Bulley offers five tops tips for thinking about and applying for opportunities

Creative residencies and commissions can offer you innovative ways of developing your practice as a writer. Working in partnership with organisations such as libraries, schools, museums and galleries can be a way of bringing your work into contact with communities and art forms that it hasn’t encountered before.

They are also a great way to deepen your knowledge of what you are capable of as a writer, and to gain a sense of how, where, and why you want your writing to exist in the world.

Below are five tips for thinking about and applying for opportunities.

1. Be clear

If you’re applying for a project or commission that’s already outlined by an organisation, be clear about what makes you well-placed for it. You don’t have to have extensive experience. Your edge can be as simple as your interest in it – what draws you to it in the first place, and what is your angle? How can you sum this up succinctly.

If you are proposing a project yourself, be even more sharp about your aims and reasoning, and show your attentiveness to what your project might mean to a total stranger.

2. Know who you’re working with

So you’re familiar with the brief, but what do you know about the organisation as a whole? Have you considered the community/audiences it has most contact with? How does this align with your work and your interests?

3. Be realistic

There is usually a budget. There is also the question of time. Try to be realistic about the extent of what is possible – for you and for the organisation – within these limits. The meaningfulness of your impact isn’t in its size, but it’s quality and intention. What would you like audiences to say about your work?

4. …but also think big

Think about how the work you produce through a temporary opportunity could sit within a longstanding body of work that you’re creating. There is always the potential for your thinking and creativity to continue long after your contract has been fulfilled.

5. Collaborate and blend

Who could you co-create with? Is there an illustrator, visual artist, musician or even academic that you know or would like to reach out to? Even if you don’t have anyone in mind, what deeply fascinates you that is beyond your interest in writing? Just thinking in this way will help you to think broadly across art forms and disciplines about what your work could do, and who you could bring along for the ride.


Eager for more?

Join us for a day packed full of inspiration, practical advice and insider knowledge to help you set your goals and fulfil your writing ambitions. Victoria will be joined by poet and theatre-maker Molly Naylor and prize-winning author Edward Parnell for sessions on how: to pursue publication; make a living from writing; create opportunities through residencies and commissions, and plot your exciting and fulfilling journey as a writer.

Find out more


Victoria Adukwei Bulley is a poet, writer and filmmaker. A former Barbican Young Poet, her work has appeared variously in publications including The Poetry Review, in addition to featuring on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. She won a Society of Authors Eric Gregory Award in 2018, and has held residencies internationally in the US, Brazil, and the V&A Museum in London. Victoria is the director of MOTHER TONGUES, an intergenerational poetry, film and translation project supported by Arts Council England and Autograph. She is a Complete Works Poetry and Instituto Sacatar fellow, and sits on the advisory board of the Poetry Translation Centre. Her debut pamphlet is Girl B. Website

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