Arts, culture and young people

Today we’re delighted to announce our latest investment cohort - three creative arts organisations benefiting from £650,000 of social investment. They are:

  • The Colchester Mercury Theatre, which has borrowed £400,000 to provide cashflow support for a £10million capital renovation project that will transform its existing building
  • Effervescent, which has taken on a £100,000 loan and £50,000 through a revenue participation agreement, for the purposes of scaling up its youth-driven campaigns work
  • IRIE! Dance Theatre, which has borrowed £100,000 from the Cultural Impact Development Fund to renovate and upgrade its existing building to provide a modern and well-resourced centre for students and the local community.

The Arts Impact Fund finishes its investment phase

The investments into the Mercury Theatre and Effervescent represent the last two deals made by the pioneering Arts Impact Fund, which launched in 2015 seeking to test the idea that there is both the demand to take on social investment in the arts and culture sector, as well as an ability to repay it. In total, we’ve signed 27 funding agreements through the Arts Impact Fund, committing £8.7million. This is £2million more than the £6.7million we had to invest initially and has been made possible because of early repayments and the recycling of undrawn capital. Nearly £7million has been drawn down to date by our borrowers and about £1.8m has been repaid. Most importantly, thousands of people’s lives have been positively affected by our investees up and down the country - from Brighton to Wigan.

We’ll need to wait until 2023 to see whether our financial and social returns targets have been met, but early signs are encouraging. We’re now excited to be building on this success, launching a successor project soon - watch this space! In the meantime, we’re intending to share our in-depth insights into the investment phase of the Arts Impact Fund in the next couple of months.

Arts, culture and younger people

This particular investment announcement highlights the impact that arts & culture organisations have on younger people. Over 70% of our portfolio companies across both our funds work with children and young people and the three we’re celebrating today are great examples:

  • The Mercury Theatre provides a range of activities that can broadly be termed ‘youth theatre’ for young people aged 5-25 - from training teachers around effective ways to teach Shakespeare to running a children’s playwriting group, from providing work experience placements to delivering Arts Award qualifications.
  • Effervescent works with children that have experienced traumatic starts to life. In a highly skilled and sensitive environment, Effervescent supports these children and young people to find moving ways of articulating their own lived experiences in order to help others and create powerful campaigns for pressing social issues.
  • IRIE Dance Theatre delivers African & Carribean dance programmes for the local community through all stages of life - with a number of programmes focused on vulnerable children and young people at risk of offending and/or at risk of exclusion from school. The dance programmes focus on weekly workshops and self-development and include residencies in schools to support improved behaviour, the development of self esteem and increased academic motivation.

The creative process is fundamental to human experience because we create all of the time: sometimes in expected ways such as through painting or music making but, more often than not, in unexpected and less obvious ways, for example, through problem solving and our communication with other people. Arts and culture organisations are critical to developing creative skills and experiences and a vocabulary with which to engage the world around us. In the context of shrinking opportunities for arts and culture education in our schools, this role has never been more important. We need to deeply reflect on this. Many of the organisations we support within the arts and culture sector are schools for creativity.


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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