More than 5,000 applications have been made in the first two strands of an emergency funding package offered by Arts Council England, as its chief executive warned it will have to make “extraordinarily tough decisions” in weeks to come.
Darren Henley’s warning comes as ACE launches the third strand of its £160 million emergency package: a £90 million fund to support its national portfolio organisations, which Henley said would face “mounting problems and potential crunch points as the weeks pass”.
Writing in a blog to expand on details of the funding, he said the first two strands of its emergency package – £20 million for creative practitioners and freelancers, and £50 million for organisations outside its national portfolio - had already had more than 5,000 applications in the first round.
“The significant demand that we’ve seen for those funds is a signal of the specific and acute impact Covid-19 has had on our sector, and particularly on its most vulnerable members.
“As a result, over the next few weeks we’ll need to make extraordinarily tough decisions, and ultimately deliver very difficult news to people whose applications were good and worthwhile,” he said, adding: “I’m desperately sorry for this, and I wish there were more we could do.”
Henley said the challenges for NPOs are different from those for individuals.
“While most are not at imminent risk of closure this month, the situation now will see them facing mounting problems and potential crunch points as the weeks pass. So the NPO and Creative People and Places consortia fund we’re announcing has one job, and one job only: to help ensure that organisations have the cash to survive the summer,” he said.
He described the £90 million as an “intervention fund – a pot of last resort, designed only to buy time”.
“In applying to it, therefore, you, as an NPO or CPP consortium, must ask yourself one question. Having taken full advantage of other government and Arts Council help, having identified all usable reserves, and having drawn on any other income you can – will there still be a shortfall in your finances before the end of September? This question is a challenging one, and answering it honestly will involve facing up to losses: of precious reserves, and of long-cherished plans,” he said.
He urged companies only to apply for money they really need, so that the fund “can help save as many organisations as possible”.
“Ideally, we would not have to use all of the allocated £90 million for this emergency period, because we anticipate that bigger investments will be necessary later to help the sector reopen,” he said.
He claimed the portfolio contains a collection of “savvy, well-run businesses”, but added that a “particular irony of the current crisis is that organisations with a high proportion of earned income, in normal times a mark of resilience, are more vulnerable now”.
“We suspect that such organisations will be among those most likely to need our help,” he said, but added that ACE had made no advance judgments on individual organisations.
Henley said “there will be loss, and there will be change – much of it painful”.
“But I promise that all of us here at the Arts Council will be with you every step of the way, doing our very best to shelter the inspiring organisations and brilliant people who make up the sector we’re so proud to serve,” he added.
The fund opens for applications on May 12, with a deadline of May 19, and there will only be one round.
More information is available here.