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Pilot Fund demonstrates the value of social investment for the arts and cultural sector

The Arts Impact Fund today announces its fourth and final round of investments, demonstrating the value of social investment for the arts and cultural sector.

SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities,
 Jul 2018

26 June 2018 

  • Arts Impact Fund has supported 22 arts organisations with £7 million over the past three years, confirming the value of social investment in the arts
  • Launched in 2015, the Fund announces its final round of investment, supporting six arts organisations in England with more than £2 million

The Arts Impact Fund today announces its fourth and final round of investments, demonstrating the value of social investment for the arts and cultural sector. The Fund has provided £7 million across 22 organisations in England, through four rounds of investment in three years. Launched in 2015, it was the first impact investment fund targeting social outcomes in the arts and cultural sector, anywhere in the world.

The £7 million pilot Fund was established in spring 2015 to test the idea that there is demand for social finance in the arts and cultural sector, as well as credible business models that can generate cash to repay the investment. The bespoke finance offer made available by the Arts Impact Fund was designed to be used by organisations to become more financially resilient, in order to protect and develop their social and artistic impact.

The Fund brings together private, public and philanthropic investment from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Nesta, and Arts Council England with additional funding from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Over the last three years, the range of projects financed and the positive social impact generated has largely validated these assumptions. The demand for finance has been echoed by a March 2018 survey of 1,068 arts organisations commissioned by Nesta.

The survey, Repayable finance in the arts and cultural sector, revealed that UK arts and cultural organisations could be set to seek £309 million in repayable finance over the next five years - more than double over the next year than during 2016. Organisations indicated that the sector could seek over £62 million per year, compared to £29 million in 2016.

The final cohort of investees announced today are:

  • Resonance (£300,000) - A music education charity, to support the launch of a new contemporary music institute that provides vocational industry-led higher education, validated by Manchester Metropolitan University, and a community music hub for the Black Country.
  • Central School of Ballet (£600,000) - A London-based ballet school, to provide working capital towards the cost of fitting out and opening their new premises in autumn 2019, increasing the capacity of the school and their work with local communities.
  • Looe Music Festival (£165,000) - A charity running the annual music festival in the town of Looe, Cornwall, which is at the forefront of economic and cultural regeneration in south east Cornwall, with a loan to support the 2018 edition of the festival.
  • National Holocaust Centre and Museum (£200,000) - A centre dedicated to Holocaust remembrance and genocide education, to help cover current development funding shortfall and enable venture revenue streams, supporting the financial resilience and growth of a historic institution.
  • Project INC (£208,000) - Alternative education initiative providing inclusive and creative learning for disengaged 11-19 years olds, to open four new centres in the North West over the next two years.
  • The Old Courts (£590,000)- A fast-growing arts centre in Wigan, to acquire and renovate a nearby derelict former hotel, expanding its work and creating an arts hub in an area in need of cultural engagement.

Examples of organisations from the first cohort of investees, who participated in the Fund from 2015-2018 and significantly benefited from the investment include Titchfield Festival Theatre, a charity-run amateur dramatics theatre based in Hampshire and operated entirely by volunteers. Since drawing down funds in early 2016, the Theatre has nearly completed its refurbishment of a new performance space, renewable energy systems and better audience facilities. The improved facilities have resulted in an uplift in audience numbers, more people volunteering their time to support the theatre and an increased capacity to work with community groups. Altogether this contributes to a greater sense of belonging, community cohesion and individual wellbeing for local residents.

Another beneficiary is South East Dance in Brighton, which plays a national leadership role in the development of dance. The organisation drew down its loan in the spring of 2017 and has since started construction of its new dance studios and headquarters, set to open in early 2020. The new state-of-the-art facility will strengthen the cultural infrastructure for dance in the South East and provide crucial opportunities for local communities of all ages and backgrounds across Brighton to benefit from the health and wellbeing aspects of dance.

In the build up to its opening, on 21 and 22 July 2018 South East Dance will also present the inaugural Our City Dances festival, a two-day celebration of dance across Brighton for people of all ages and abilities, which will grow year on year as the move toward The Dance Space nears.

Both Titchfield Festival Theatre and South East Dance have shown a strong record of meeting and in some respects exceeding the social and artistic impact targets that were agreed with the Fund as part of its investments.

The six organisations announced today will report quarterly to Nesta on their artistic, social and financial impact for the duration of their loans, and the Fund will share findings from its portfolio.

The Fund was convened with the help of the Cabinet Office, to demonstrate the significant social value created by arts organisations and support their work through loan finance. The Fund’s aims were subsequently supported by the government’s Culture White Paper in 2016, which observed that social investment can help grow the sector’s resilience and sustainability.

Fran Sanderson, Director of Arts & Culture Programmes and Investments at Nesta and on behalf of the Arts Impact Fund, said:

“Over the past three years, the Arts Impact Fund has provided crucial, and often otherwise unattainable, financial support for 22 arts and cultural organisations as well as a range of support, advice and signposting to many others. While big swathes of the sector have been hamstrung by funding cuts, particularly from cash-strapped local authorities, we believe this funding has enabled these organisations to plan across a longer time-horizon, invest in their own future sustainability and generate an invaluable social impact. Issues ranging from youth mental health to loneliness and lack of community cohesion, are addressed via the power of arts and culture to encourage empathy and belonging.

“The range of investee organisations demonstrates a diverse and exciting appetite for this kind of repayable finance. The clear benefits the model has for supporting enterprise, ambition and innovation within the, arts and cultural sector will, we think, continue to generate demand. We are also hopeful that the example of the Arts Impact Fund will inspire others to replicate the model to benefit different sectors and geographies.”

About the Arts Impact Fund

The £7 million Arts Impact Fund is a collaboration that brings together private, public and philanthropic investment and provides unsecured loan finance to arts and cultural organisations in England that can demonstrate positive social impact. The contributors to the Fund all share a commitment to supporting the arts and culture and include: Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Nesta, and Arts Council England with additional funding from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch).


Inquiry and contact information

Anna Zabov


‪020 7438 2697‬