Arts Council England

Arts Council England pledges emergency £160m for artists, freelancers and organisations

Article: David Styles | Image: © Arts Council England

A £160m emergency response package has been announced by Arts Council England to support individual artists, freelancers and cultural organisations through the current Covid-19 crisis. 

The intervention, which is designed to complement the financial measures already announced by the government, is accompanied by the postponement of the National Portfolio Organisation investment process – concerning organisations who receive regular core funding from the Arts Council. The 2022-26 process was due to begin this autumn and instead will simply be rolled forward to begin in 2023.

Arts Council has chosen to take these measures in the face of an ‘acute financial crisis’ which has been brought on by mandatory closures and cancelled contracts that are “causing massive and unsustainable loss of revenues”.

It is hoped the intervention will support individuals and organisations alike in helping to develop creative responses to the Covid-19 crisis so as to buoy the public during the period of lockdown.

What will the intervention mean in practice?

  • £160m of emergency funding will be available: £20m will be for creative practitioners and freelancers; £50m for organisations outside ACE’s National Portfolio; and £90m to support National Portfolio Organisations
  • Artists and a wide range of creative practitioners will be eligible for cash grants up to £2,500. From the £20m fund, the Arts Council is also planning to make grants up to £4m to existing Benevolent Funds for cultural workers
  • Organisations outside the National Portfolio will be able to apply for grants up to £35,000, as part of the £50m fund. This is to support them to get back on their feet, or to continue making work in the future that will mean they can contribute to delivering ACE’s new strategy
  • Funding conditions for those already in receipt of National Lottery Project Grants will be relaxed where relevant
  • These new funds for both individuals and organisations will be up and running by 30th March, with first payments made within six weeks
  • Support for National Portfolio Organisations: A £90m programme will launch in April to provide financial support for NPOs. In addition, where needed, Arts Council will advance current grants by up to six months to help with cashflow, and will relax funding conditions. These measures apply straight away

“Right now, our number one priority is to do everything we can to help individual artists and cultural organisations to stay afloat,” Darren Henley, ACE’s chief executive, stated. “It’s going to be tough, but we need them to be in the best possible shape to use their creativity to benefit people’s lives in villages, towns and cities across England once our communities begin the process of recovering from this terrible virus.”

The budget for this bold step comes from Arts Council drawing down the majority of its emergency reserves, along with the re-allocation of National Lottery Project Grants and development funds in 2020-2021. This does, however, mean the suspension of the National Lottery Project Grants funding stream. Resurrecting this will be a priority once more normality emerges.

“Covid-19 is having an impact globally, far beyond the cultural sector – but our responsibility is to sustain our sector as best we can, so that artists and organisations can continue to nourish the imagination of people across the country, both during the crisis and in the period of recovery,” noted Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England.

“None of us can hope to weather this storm alone, but by working together in partnership, I believe we can emerge the stronger, with ideas shared, new ways of working, and new relationships forged at the local, national and even international level.”