Youth-Led Creativity funding

How to apply

Illustrations by Malini Chakrabarty

On this page, you'll find information on how to apply for our Youth-Led Creativity funding.

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1. Accessibility

We have an Easy Read version of the guidance and sample application form, which you can download here.

The guidance tells you how to apply. Please tell us if any part of the process that feels like a barrier. We will do our best to accommodate alternative arrangements.

We also have additional accessibility-related support available for applicants where our application process may be a barrier to applying. This can include an Access Payment to pay for support to apply.

2. What is the eligibility criteria

This programme is for organisations and work that:

  • Is driven and shaped by young people so they can build their confidence and skills. Most of the young people supported need to be aged 14 to 30.
  • Understands and can demonstrate a track record of centering the voices of young people from communities underrepresented in arts and culture. This includes: young people who are D/deaf, disabled or neurodivergent, are from communities experiencing racial inequity, are economically disadvantaged, identify as LGBT+, have migration and/or care experience.
  • Prioritises the joy and care of young people.
  • Uses art and creativity as a tool for young people to use their voice and influence change in their own lives and the world around them.
  • Is driving change for the future either by doing something new, or by using tried and tested models to push things forward.

3. What can't be funded

  • Organisations that cannot demonstrate strong youth leadership or have not yet started to become youth-led.
  • Work that is part of the school curriculum.
  • Organisations that do not have at least three trustees or directors (the majority of whom should not be paid executives).
  • Organisations that are not registered charities or do not have an asset lock or other way to make sure that the assets of an organisation, including profits or surpluses generated, can only be used for the benefit of its community or to further its activities and mission.
  • Work that is not legally charitable.
  • Work that does not have a direct benefit in the UK.
  • Grants to individuals.
  • Capital costs including building work, renovations, and equipment.
  • Academic research – unless it can demonstrate real potential for practical outcomes.
  • Healthcare with a clinical basis, including medical research, hospices, counselling and therapy, arts therapy, education about and treatment for drug and alcohol misuse.
  • Independent education.
  • Work that is primarily the responsibility of statutory authorities to provide using public funds (for example: social services for children and older people).
  • The advancement of religion.

4. How will you make decisions

We consider the following when making decisions:

  • Track record: we look at successes, but also what was learned when things didn’t go to plan.
  • Connections: how this could link to and complement other work we support, and increase the combined impact.
  • Broader context: the opportunities and barriers, allies and collaborators, for the work; and what influence or leverage the work aims to have.
  • The difference our support could make: the value our funding and support could add to this work; along with the contribution the work could make to our impact goals.

More information about the application and decision making process is below.

5. How to apply

How to apply (7)

Stage 1: Expression of Interest

When you are ready to tell us about your work, you can submit an Expression of Interest here.

First, you will be asked:
  • About your organisation: charity or company number; total income for the last financial year; number of trustees and non-executive directors; date established; website and social media accounts.
  • What you would like Esmée to support: briefly outline how our funding and support will be used.
Second, we'll ask you three questions:

The questions will be about your work and how it meets our criteria for the programme.

Your answers are meant to be short. You can type your responses into the form, or upload a voice recording or video. Find guides on uploading a recording on our support page.

You’ll have a total of 750 words to answer all 3 questions (if uploading a voice or audio recording, this is usually around 5 minutes of speaking).

  1. How is your work led by and shaped by young people from communities currently under-represented in arts and culture?
  2. In what ways do you prioritise the joy and care of young people?
  3. How is arts and creativity used in your work to influence change?

We’re interested in understanding the need your work will address, and the opportunities your organisation or partnership is uniquely placed to take.

We will also look at your website and social media to learn about your organisation. We suggest you use this space to focus on the change you want to achieve.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

After you submit your Expression of Interest, you will be redirected to a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) monitoring form. You will need to complete this for your organisation. Download a sample DEI monitoring form.

We will use this information to make sure that the reach of our funding and our funding practices are fair and just. We will also use it to help us identify and address structural inequity. Learn more about how we're classifying our data.

Submit your Expression of Interest
Closing date

The closing date for Expressions of Interest is 5pm on 15 March 2024.

Decision on your Expression of Interest

We will get back to you in early May about your Expression of Interest.

How will Expressions of Interest be assessed

Your Expression of Interest will be assessed using criteria based on the aims of the Youth-led Creativity Programme.

This process will be led by the Involving Young People Collective. A panel including members of the Collective and Esmée staff will select a longlist of applications to invite to the next stage.

If we cannot invite you to the next stage, we will offer feedback. We hope the feedback will be helpful.

Stage 2: Proposal

If we think that your work potentially matches our aims, we'll invite you to submit a proposal.

This has two parts.

  • Written information
  • Second part: a conversation. This usually involves a call with us. If you prefer, you can ask to do this part by sending us written information.

Please tell us if any part of the process that feels like a barrier. We will do our best to accommodate alternative arrangements. You can also ask for an Access Payment to pay for accessibility-related support to help with the proposal stage.

Written part

We’ll ask you to submit some information about your work:

  • Financial information about your organisation: financial details of the previous financial year, the current financial year, and the next financial year. The current year and next year should be based on your organisational income & expenditure budget.
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Your organisation’s approach within your organisation and through your work.
  • Outcomes: Up to three outcomes you expect from the work, and what your indicators of progress might be. These should contribute to Esmée’s aims for the programme. See our guidance on outcomes for more information.
  • Supporting documents:
    • A copy of your latest approved annual report and accounts
    • An income and expenditure budget for the organisation for the current financial year
    • A copy of your safeguarding policy (see our approach to safeguarding)
    • A set of draft or management accounts covering the last financial year if you do not yet have an audited version (if applicable)
    • If you are applying for a project, a budget identifying what you would like us to fund and any other funding approached/secured
    • A copy of your Constitution, Memorandum and Articles of Association or other rules (if you are not a registered charity)
Second part

We want to have a conversation with you to learn more about your plans. You can see the points the conversation will cover below. This could be a phone or video call with a member of Esmée staff and a member of our Involving Young People Collective. You can have more than one person on the call but to make the most of the time, we suggest you have no more than three people. We expect the call to take approximately 60 minutes.

If you would prefer, you can ask to do this part by sending us written information. This could be a document you already have like a strategic plan or business plan; or an email with your responses to the points. The information you send us will be looked at by a member of Esmée staff and a member of our Involving Young People Collective.

The conversation will cover:

  • Fit to our aims for youth-led creativity: Your work, the change you hope to achieve and how you plan to achieve it. As part of this, we want to understand:
    • What will be delivered.
    • More about the expected outcomes for your work.
    • Your approach to the care and wellbeing of young people.
    • What potential pathways there are for young people to progress their practice.
    • How you compensate young people contributing to and leading the work.
    • How you celebrate and bring joy into the process of creativity.
    • The role of adults and the intergenerational dynamics in your work.
    • Any risks you have identified: for instance, is the work new and untested? And how does the potential impact balance any risks?
  • Track record: Your organisation, influence, and impact to date.
    • Talk through examples of your creative projects and impact to date.
    • How do you evaluate your work to understand the impact it is having.
  • Your approach and how you work:
    • Who you work with, your appetite for collaboration, and how you share your work with others.
    • Your approach to learning and how you act on it.
    • More about your approach to diversity, equity and inclusion. We are interested in hearing about current challenges and any changes you are looking to make.
Deadline for all proposals to be submitted
  • The Written part should be sent off to us by 31 May.
  • The Second part will take place in June.
Due Diligence

After the second part, we’ll complete the assessment. This may include follow-up questions. Then a panel of Esmée staff and members of our Involving Young People Collective will prepare a recommendation for discussion and decision.


Our Trustees work with our Executive team to make decisions on how to use our resources and make funding decisions.

Decisions are made depending on the size of the funding request:

  • Grants up to £90k - Executive Team
  • Grants up to £250k - Executive/Trustee committee

We expect to make all decisions by the end of September 2024.


We will give feedback to every organisation we invite to proposal.

6. FAQs

If you have a question about the programme, see our FAQs.