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West of England Visual Arts Alliance: Critical Friends Callout

West of England Visual Arts Alliance: Critical Friends Callout

Lucy Stein and Maria Christoforidou, Performing the Question (2022) Installation view, Lucy Stein: Wet Room at Spike Island, Bristol. Works courtesy the artist and Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zurich. Photograph by Lisa Whiting



Over the next three years, the West of England Visual Arts Alliance (WEVAA) aims to transform Bristol and the West of England into a place where the visual arts can thrive, providing critical opportunities and support to enable diverse local artists, curators and young people to develop their careers and achieve their potential. 

WEVAA is invested in supporting exceptional visual arts projects to grow, across the West of England region. All partners are committed to inclusivity and developing more equitable practices. We consider diversity a strength and are keen to ensure more representation of the different backgrounds and experiences that make up our communities.  

What is a Critical Friend?

In order for WEVAA to succeed in its mission it is core to the programme that all voices are heard and the quality and ambition of our activity is relevant to those we wish to benefit. WEVAA therefore would like to work with ‘critical friends’ who will help ensure a range of voices are taken into account, and help us fill the gaps we cannot fill ourselves. We have a variety of lived experiences within the consortium but want to expand them so we can bring more perspectives into the development of the programme.

We envisage our ‘critical friends’ providing fair and robust, transparent feedback on WEVAA’s activities and programme in a safe space. This will allow us to enhance the programme and its already established evaluation mechanisms, in order to account for a broad range of insights from artists, creative practitioners and young people, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of this fund. We imagine our ‘critical friends’ might also benefit by participating in the WEVAA programme and this role will contribute to their own professional development.

We would like 2 critical friends to join the WEVAA consortium each year, with the potential of being reappointed for a further year. The selected friends are each awarded a fee of £1,000 for one year, and up to £250 to cover any expenses. Within the year they will be expected to attend two Partnership Steering Group meetings (which take place quarterly), review WEVAA programme activity or events and provide feedback, totalling approximately 5 working days over a year. Any access expenses required will be covered separately by advanced agreement.

How does it work?

A critical friend will be asked to participate in some of the programme’s activities, review the activities offered and attend two steering group meetings to provide their feedback, if they feel comfortable to do so. Otherwise feedback can be provided directly to WEVAA’s Project Manager. The feedback can be provided in either written or verbal form, depending on the individual’s preference.

Critical friends will be provided with a common template with uniform prompts to ensure this feedback is consistent and as simple as possible to complete.

How to apply

We have designed the application process to be as simple as possible. Applications will be submitted by filling out the google form linked here. This google form asks you for:

  • Your Name
  • Your contact information
  • Your postcode and geographic location – we only accept postcodes in the areas of Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset, and North Somerset
  • If submitting as audio or video, a link to where this can be found
  • A CV (2 pages maximum)
  • Why are you interested in becoming a Critical Friend for West of England Visual Arts Alliance? (up to 150 words)
  • What would you like to see WEVAA achieve for the region’s visual arts sector in its 3 years of funded activity? (up to 200 words)
  • Do you have experience of providing feedback on other projects or programmes? (up to 150 words)
  • What expertise would you bring to the Critical Friend role? (up to 200 words if applicable)
  • Your access document (if applicable)


DEADLINE TO APPLY: Tuesday 3 May 2022 at 23:59 GMT

Download a Word version of this open call brief or watch a captioned video version here 

We realise that text-based applications do not suit everyone, so if you would like to apply in a different way, for example via video or audio, require this information in a different format, or require support in writing the application, please get in touch with us by writing to Patrizia Ribul, Project Manager, West of England Visual Arts Alliance at or by calling Spike Island Reception at 0117 929 2266. We want to remove as many barriers to applying as we can.

All applicants will receive an automated email to confirm that their application has been received successfully.


In the first stage, applications will be reviewed by a panel of four people from the West of England Visual Arts Alliance including representatives from Visual Arts South West, Spike Island, Creative Youth Network, and the programme’s independent evaluator.

Shortlisting will be made based on the affinity of the applicants with the programme and how they articulate their ability to provide feedback, their interest in the visual arts and if the opportunity will contribute to their own development. If applicable applicants should also state any specialisms.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to a short conversation online via ZOOM week commencing 9 May 2022 and will be asked a few informal questions, which will be sent in advance.

A per diem of £125 will be available to shortlisted applicants in preparing for these conversations.

FAQs for applicants

  • Is there any support available to help with submitting an application?

    We are happy to receive applications in alternative formats (video, audio file). We may also be able to find other ways to make the application process more accessible to you.


    If you require access support with your application please contact or by calling Spike Island Reception at 0117 929 2266

  • Will my access costs be covered?

    Any access costs you incur as an artist or practitioner should be covered by Access to Work* if you have self-employed artist status or work as part of an organisation or company. If you do not draw an income from your work, we will work with you to meet your access costs if you are selected – please include these figures in addition to your production budget. 

    *Access to Work is a government scheme that is designed to meet the additional costs of employing a disabled person where they are directly a result of that person’s impairments. For more information go to:

  • How do I let you know what my access needs are?

    We welcome all artists and practitioners we work with to share their access documents with us. This can assist us with accurately forecasting timescales for the production and delivery of projects, as well as with budgeting accurately. We recommend using a template from if you would like to prepare and submit your own access document along with your application.

About Spike Island

Spike Island supports, produces and presents contemporary art across an 80,000 square foot former industrial building near Bristol harbourside. Our diverse artistic programme includes free major exhibitions, events and engagement activities taking place on-site and online. The programme champions outstanding work by emerging and underrepresented local, national and international artists, and enhances access to contemporary art and culture for audiences from all backgrounds.

Spike Island directly supports artists through ambitious new commissions, subsidised studios and critically-engaged artist development opportunities that widen access to our programme and facilities. Our Exhibition Services business supports the bespoke production and installation of artists’ film and video throughout the UK and internationally. Spike Island is home to a dynamic community of hundreds of artists and creative businesses, working in flexible, affordable workspaces, alongside UWE Bristol’s Fine Art programmes and café bar Emmeline.

About Visual Arts South West

Visual Arts South West (VASW) is a sector support organisation. Its mission is to advocate for visual arts and enable the sector to thrive in South West England. Its core aims are to: raise the visibility of the South West’s visual arts sector, both in the region and nationally; advocate for diverse perspectives in our region; address significant structural and systemic issues facing the sector; develop a more resilient visual arts sector. VASW is part of the national Contemporary Visual Art Network and is based at Spike Island, Bristol.

Partners and supporters