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Announcing Arts Impact Fund's final investments in the arts and culture

Across these six enterprising organisations, over £2m will go towards developing new arts spaces, scaling up promising business models and strengthening place-based cultural identities. It is of note that four out of five of these investments were made to organisations outside of London and the South East – a welcome change in trend. In-depth case-studies of each investment can be found on the Arts Impact Fund website, but for now, a short summary of each:

  • National Holocaust Centre and Museum: £200k loan to develop new programmes, including The Forever Project, which will preserve the voice of Holocaust survivors for generations to come through a 3D laser projection;
  • The Old Courts Arts Centre: £590k loan for a fast-growing and dynamic arts centre in Wigan to purchase the town’s former Grand Hotel and redevelop it, which will expand its provision of artist studio space, add a new performance venue and create a hub for entrepreneurs in the digital creative industries;
  • Looe Music Festival: £165k loan to provide working capital for the 2018 edition of this festival in east Cornwall - a celebration of Cornish identity and culture in an artistically underserved region;
  • Project INC: £208k loan to scale-up a new business providing alternative education to young people at risk of exclusion within arts and heritage venues in the North West;
  • Central School of Ballet: £600k loan bridging to confirmed fundraising, enabling the charity to open their new premises on London’s South Bank, which will increase the capacity of the school and its ability to work with local communities;
  • Resonance: £300k loan to create a music institute at the heart of the Black Country in Brierley Hill that is embedded in the local community and which will offer first-class, industry-led higher education courses in contemporary music.

Demand for finance

The Arts Impact Fund was designed to test the idea that there is demand for repayable finance in the arts & culture sector in England - as well as the ability to repay it. In terms of demand, both our personal experience and market research suggest that there is a significant and growing appetite for finance: without any extensive marketing efforts, the Arts Impact Fund has attracted over 200 enquiries for finance since opening, which has translated into 22 investments. At the same time, a survey of over 1,000 arts organisations conservatively estimates that £309m of finance will be sought over the next five years. And whilst it is still too early to comment on the overall repayment performance of the portfolio, with the exception of one written-off loan, capital repayments across all of our investments are slightly ahead of schedule.

Social impact

Along the way we’ve also learned that the value of arts organisations goes way beyond their artistic output. On the one hand, this was to be expected as the ability to demonstrate social outcomes formed a key part of the Arts Impact Fund’s eligibility criteria. And yet the breadth and depth of that socially focused work is staggering. To use but one example from the above cohort, not only is the Old Courts the sole arts centre in Wigan, but it also leases out space to two specialist schools and is a major civic venue, hosting weddings and public debates in spaces where criminals were once sent down.

If you’d like to find out more about the ways in which arts organisations contribute to social good, take a look at our evidence submission to the House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which investigated the positive impacts of arts and culture on health, community and education outcomes.

Looking ahead

Now that the Arts Impact Fund has made its investments - over £7m of them - we will be monitoring the financial and social impact performance of our portfolio and be a critical friend to the management teams of our investees. Our last loans are due to be repaid in 2023 so in many ways the real work starts here.

We’re keen to build on the momentum generated by the Arts Impact Fund so we’re also in the process of putting together new social investment funds for the sector. In the coming months we hope to be able to provide a range of flexible repayable finance products, enabling many more arts organisations to thrive.

Author

Seva Phillips

Seva Phillips

Seva Phillips

Head of Arts & Culture Finance

Seva is responsible for Nesta's social impact investment work in the arts, culture and creative industries

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