Last summer I wrote to the Arts Council, enquiring whether they would sponsor a translation of a couple of long works by Methodius of Olympus from Old Slavonic. I usually pay for translations myself, but in this case the cost was beyond what I can reasonably afford myself. I was willing to pay a significant part of it, however. But it would be a permanent benefit to the world. So I thought I’d try. The response was encouraging, and stated that they do fund translations. So I set things up, and a couple of weeks ago I applied.
Today I received a letter telling me that my application was rejected on the grounds that it was unclear that the objective was an artistic work. The letter made clear that the application had basically gone unread, and not even been subjected to examination or formal decision – i.e. that a box-ticker had rejected it.
This reason contradicts what I was told. Naturally I have written an email of enquiry to the person who invited me to apply. I will make a telephone call next week as well. But I suspect that I will just get fobbed off.
We live in an age where the individual can rarely break through. The internet has given people like myself a way to contribute. But once we enter the world of the official body, the real truth is probably that only corporate bodies and professional fundraisers, paid to do it, can hope to navigate the shoals and extract any money; and that these are the only applicants they really deal with.
I have always felt sympathy for the way that academics are forced to waste their time on these sorts of process; and that sympathy is not abated by this experience. What I regret, really, is the time and energy wasted. It is characteristic of a pointless application that you hear different things from different officials, because – in essence – you don’t matter to any of them.
It has to be said, though, that I don’t find dealing with bureaucracy enjoyable or productive. For this reason I was reluctant to expose myself to that world in the first place. The process of applying to the Arts Council itself pretty much excludes 99% of possible applicants, since it requires them to plough through a 50-page manual. Another requirement, that funding must be found from more than one grant-making body, pretty much excludes everyone other than the organisations with access to databases of such people. (I was going to just pay a proportion myself). I do wish that my application had actually been read tho, rather than rejected by a box-ticker.
It is rather disappointing. But probably people like us simply can’t get any money out of that system. (Which leads one to ask: what is the point of it?) I was willing to take on the burden of driving and editing the Methodius project, which would have been considerable. I was willing to do it, pro bono publico, and because nobody else would. It needs to be done. But … evidently it will not be done by me.
Anyway, unless I can think of anything else, Methodius will have to remain untranslated unless or until some Old Slavonic scholar with an interest in patristics decides to do something on his own initiative. This may be some distance away: for even the text has never been printed.
On the other hand, in all honesty, I wasn’t looking forward to working within an unnecessary straightjacket of timescales and milestones. So there is that consolation, that I won’t have to!
UPDATE: 2 Feb 2016. I sent in my enquiry as to why they solicited an application that they dismissed as ineligible without reading it. As I rather expected, I got an insulting email back, consisting of a single paragraph pasting the same “ineligible” message, followed by many paragraphs, all boilerplate, from the guide. The whole did not actually answer the question, except to say “you aren’t important enough for us to even reply to”. I fear that the Arts Council is just another group of elitists giving public money to their friends. “Not our sort of people, dahlink”, before firing off the form rejection.