Uplifting: ‘World’s biggest impact investment fund for creative arts’

Ballet dancers, architects, comedians, curators and actors will benefit from loans of up to £1m following the launch of what claims to be the "world’s biggest investment fund for the creative arts".

The £20m Arts & Culture Impact Fund, launched by innovation foundation Nesta in the UK, brings together public, private and philanthropic investors to support arts organisations that “have a positive social impact on people and the communities they live in”.

Nesta itself has committed £6m, with additional support from the Arts Council England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Bank of America, Big Society Capital, and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

The new fund will offer loans, both secured and unsecured, of up to £1m, giving organisations access to affordable and flexible finance that may not be readily accessible through traditional routes such as high street banks.

Recipients of the loans will also be offered benefit additional support including advice on generating sustainable income, engaging with their communities, and how to understand and communicate their impact.

The fund follows on from Nesta’s Arts Impact Fund and Cultural Impact Development Fund, which together have made 30 loans totalling £9.1m since 2015, to help build resilient, innovative and independent arts, culture and heritage organisations. Organisations that benefited included the National Holocaust Centre and Museum in Newark, Birmingham Royal Ballet and London venue Village Underground.

Nesta’s Director of Arts & Culture Programmes and Investments, Francesca Sanderson, said: “Impact loans are an under-explored way of supporting the arts and cultural sectors. I can’t wait to see what exciting, ambitious long-term arts and culture projects we’ll support with our new fund. We’ve learned so much running the pilot and are looking forward to helping many more organisations reap the benefits of our loans from the new fund over the next few years.”

Impact loans are an under-explored way of supporting the arts and cultural sectors. – Francesca Sanderson, Nesta

Titchfield Festival Theatre was the first organisation to receive investment from the Arts Impact Fund in November 2015. The volunteer-run theatre used its £150,000 investment to completely renovate its building and make it much more energy efficient. During the investment period the theatre succeeded in generating more revenue than expected and managed to repay the money borrowed earlier than planned.

Kevin Fraser, Artistic Director at Titchfield Festival Theatre, said: “In 2015, Titchfield Festival Theatre embarked on an ambitious programme of refurbishment and additional finance from the Arts Impact Fund has enabled it to become the first and so far only fully green sustainable theatre on the European continent.

“The finance saved via the theatre's energy saving programme allowed the company to expand its operations considerably and has made it the largest community and amateur theatre in Europe, producing 30 shows in-house a year and providing free facilities and services to members.

"The Arts Impact Fund is much more than just a loan facility, as the theatre's trustees received support from Nesta to expand its educational and community offer and now there is a vibrant youth theatre and various free training opportunities using professional's from within The Arts Industry."

The arts enrich so many aspects of our lives – and they can also play an important role in building stronger and more inclusive communities. – Anna Shiel, Big Society Capital

Project INC is an arts education social enterprise that promotes and provides inclusive, creative learning for 11-19 year olds. The organisation borrowed £208,000 from the Arts Impact Fund, for the start-up costs of four learning bases in galleries or museums over a two year period. The loan gave Project INC the opportunity to boost its financial resilience and sustainability in an innovative and productive way, whilst retaining alignment with its core mission.

Lisa Alberti, College Lead at Project INC, said: "Nesta AIF supported us in scaling and reaching a larger number and range of young people with our creative education programmes. Together we have developed a Theory of Change that positively impacts and supports our social purpose."

Caroline Mason, Chief Executive of Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, one of the new fund’s investors, said: “As a long-term funder of the arts and a pioneer of social investment in the UK, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation was an investor in the Arts Impact Fund, and we are delighted to be part of this new fund, which takes learning from the Arts Impact Fund and uses it to evolve its offer, increasing its scope and potential to help the arts and cultural organisations in the UK to thrive.”

Anna Shiel, Head of Origination at Big Society Capital, said: “The arts enrich so many aspects of our lives – and they can also play an important role in building stronger and more inclusive communities… By enabling arts organisations to develop and expand enterprising activities, we hope this investment will help to foster vibrant communities and local economies.”

The Arts & Impact Culture Fund was officially launched at the Central School of Ballet in Southwark, London, on 4 March. The Central School of Ballet received a £600,000 loan from the Arts Impact Fund to open its new London premises in Paris Gardens.

Pictured (top) are Olivia Trevelyan-Richards and Jake Milston, two dancers from the Central School of Ballet, who performed at the launch event. Photo credit: Anthony Upton/PA Newswire

Thanks for reading our stories. As somebody working in the impact economy, you'll know that producing quality work doesn't come free. We rely on paid subscriptions and partnerships to sustain our purpose-led journalism – so if you think it's worth having an independent, specialist media platform to share your news, insight and debate across the globe, please consider subscribing. You'll also be buying social: Pioneers Post is a social enterprise itself, reinvesting all profits to help you do good business, better.