Arts Council England has made an investment of over £33 million in 196 of its National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs), via a short-term emergency fund that was specifically designed to help those organisations that needed financial support to stay afloat until the end of September, because of the impact of COVID-19.
The awards offered to NPOs are part of the Arts Council’s overall £160 million Emergency Response Package, through which it has already awarded £69 million to nearly 10,000 individuals and independent organisations. This Emergency Response Package, which was launched in March, was made available thanks to National Lottery players and Government. To further support the independent sector, the Arts Council announced on 1 July that National Lottery Project Grants would resume from 22 July, with a budget of £59.8 million.
NPOs are a key part of England’s cultural ecology, producing work for the public to enjoy, employing and commissioning thousands of people and supporting many small companies through supply chains.
£90 million was made available in March for NPOs that required additional funding to sustain operations and meet basic costs over the summer. Since launching the Emergency Response Package, the Government announced further support – including the Job Retention Scheme – which helped lift some of the pressure and delayed the cliff edge of financial collapse for most organisations to the autumn, reducing the immediate demand on Arts Council funds.
A number of organisations were not offered funding through this programme, not because they are not facing significant long-term financial challenges, but because they were not able to demonstrate they needed urgent funding before the end of September. External financial consultants were brought in to scrutinise applications for larger amounts of funding, and decisions on any funding request for over £1 million were proposed to and signed off by its National Council.
Alongside this emergency fund, support for NPOs and Creative People and Places projects included enabling them to continue to receive funding with funding conditions relaxed and, where possible, providing advance grant payments to relieve financial pressure. The next National Portfolio investment process is also being postponed, which means the current National Portfolio will roll over for one year, to 31 March 2023.
The Arts Council will use the remaining budget from this emergency programme to complement the Government’s recently announced £1.57 billion rescue package and help ensure as much of our vital cultural sector survives as possible.
Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, said: “Since the outbreak of Covid-19, our main priority has been to ensure that as much of our country’s cultural ecology as possible survives the summer – from individual artists and freelancers, to museums, libraries and arts organisations, both large and small, located in every corner of the country.
“This investment, made possible thanks to National Lottery players, provides critical relief to valued cultural organisations that faced immediate financial disaster before September. We know that massive challenges remain in the Autumn, and we’ll use the rest of our available funds, alongside the Government funding just announced, to support our sector in the coming months.”
Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said: “Culture, creativity and the arts are a fundamental part of our country’s identity – they bring joy, fulfilment and shared experience and help boost people’s health and wellbeing. Our National Portfolio Organisations play a crucial role in providing opportunities for people across England to enjoy culture, and this funding will ensure that they are able to continue their work through the summer.
“We’re grateful for the support of our colleagues at DCMS and HM Treasury as we’ve worked together to help our sector – and look forward to continuing this collaboration as we establish the next steps in making the best possible use of the Government’s very significant rescue package to secure the future of arts, culture and heritage in this country.”
Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage said: “I have been hugely impressed by how well the arts and cultural sector have come up with innovative ways to keep audiences entertained and engaged from the comfort and safety of their front rooms over the last few months.
“The Emergency Response Fund has helped to support thousands of artists and organisations through the immediate impact of the coronavirus pandemic and our new £1.57 billion support package will help safeguard the future of this important sector.”