Thematic funding spotlight:

Arts & Culture


It has been widely reported that those involved in the arts and culture sector have been severely hit by financial hardship and the uncertainty of when they can resume work. Although some galleries and cinemas are set to reopen from this weekend, theatres and performing arts venues are still closed and have not been told when they will be allowed to reopen and under what safety protocols. This has left the UK theatre industry in particular crying out for help.

New Philanthropy for Arts and Culture (NPAC), a cause related network of philanthropists supporting the arts, has been developing a road map for philanthropists to support arts and culture organisations post-Covid. The roadmap identifies the urgency of the need and that by identifying organisations that have impact in the local community philanthropists can ensure sector and community resilience in the future.

A word from Sir Vernon Ellis and Anna Rowe – New Philanthropy for the Arts & Culture

The arts sector has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Most arts organisations have historically relied on a blend of earned and donated income so while traditional activities such as exhibitions, concerts, theatrical productions and other live performances are halted, so also is access to those income streams. Those who have successfully diversified their income away from reliance on public funding (through increased contributions from box office and other commercial income streams) have been hit particularly hard. Many major arts institutions are charities and cannot trade their way out of the current crisis. Even the best-run institutions are struggling with cashflow; those with significant overheads, such as the ongoing management of a building, have been hardest hit.

The arts have a powerful role to play in society, and have additional impacts well beyond the performance platform or gallery. This is demonstrated clearly in our research into 20 case studies of arts organisations across the country, which can be reviewed here: They demonstrate through their results one way in which the sector is deserving of support – arts, culture and creativity change lives. The COVID crisis brings a need for arts organisations to present a more holistic model of their activities and value, while appealing to a broader, more diverse, audience of stakeholders.

ACE and other funders have provided welcome emergency funding in the short term, but significantly more is needed to keep the organisations afloat. Emergency funding, government employment schemes and foundation grants will dry up, and ‘massed gatherings’, the cornerstone on which the sector is built, are likely to be prohibited long after other areas of life return to quasi normal. It is against this background that New Philanthropy for Arts and Culture, working with Beacon Collaborative, is focusing on initiatives to support the sector both to provide impetus for realising the potential of philanthropy to support the sector, and through contributing to thinking around different funding models.

Timing is critical. Earlier speculation that ‘normality’ would return in the Autumn now seems optimistic, and there will be insufficient public funding to cover accumulating deficits; the latest roadmap omits a timetable, which makes it difficult for organisations to plan. ‘Normality’ must be redefined. Without significant intervention and a repositioning of the arts and cultural activities of which we are proud, the vibrancy of towns and cities across the country and the arts organisations that support it are in jeopardy.

We believe that philanthropy will have a key role to play in rebuilding a sustainable arts and cultural sector, and we’d be delighted to hear from those interested in joining our initiative. For more information please contact

The efforts of ACE and others, including NPAC, to support the arts and culture sector highlight the importance of this sector not just to communities, but to the economy as a whole.

A report by Oxford Economics’ report warns of a “cultural catastrophe”, with 400,000 job losses and £74bn of lost earnings across the arts sector. The creative industries, including studio production and video gaming, contributed £111.7bn to the economy in 2018.

The research suggests a drop in revenues equating to £1.4bn a week over a year and the loss of about one in five creative jobs. The sector is expected to be hit twice as hard as the wider UK economy.

Before the lockdown, the UK’s creative sector was growing at five times the rate of the wider economy and employed more than 2 million people. In 2018, it contributed £111.7bn to the economy – more than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas industries combined, according to the federation.

The Oxford Economics report predicts that:

  • The creative industries GVA (gross value added) will fall by £29bn, down 25%, and revenues will drop by £74bn, or 30%.
  • Despite the job retention scheme, 119,000 permanent workers will be made redundant by the end of the year. An estimated 287,000 freelance roles will also be terminated.
  • The music industry, hit hard by the collapse in live music and performing, could lose at least £3bn in GVA, or 50% of the total, and 114,000 jobs, or 60% of the total.
  • Theatres face a £3bn revenue loss (61%) and the loss of 12,000 jobs (26%). The figures do not take into account the reluctance of audiences to return to venues.
  • The film, TV, radio and photography sectors face a loss of £36bn in revenue (57%), with 102,000 jobs at risk (42%).
  • Museums and galleries could lose £743m in revenue (9%) and 4,000 jobs (5%). The report says the impact would be mitigated by venues being able to open in July with physical distancing measures in place.
  • London is projected to experience the biggest drop in creative industries GVA with a £14.6bn (25%) fall. In relative terms, Scotland and north-east England will be hit hardest, with GVA decreases of 39% (£1.7bn) and 37% (£400m) respectively.

In total, 98 creatives who were this year nominated for the nation’s most prestigious stage awards – the Olivier awards and Theatre awards – have called for action to help save a sector they say is needed more than ever.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, James McAvoy, Sharon D Clarke, Tom Stoppard, Wendell Pierce, Emma Rice and Andrew Scott are among the names backing a letter warning of the threat facing theatre, opera and dance amid the coronavirus crisis.

That are calling for the government to:

  • Sustain the workforce, through the continuation and development of the Job Retention Scheme and a new package to support the army of freelancers and self-employed artists who create the work.
  • Support theatre recovery, through adaptations to the existing theatre production tax relief scheme, support for businesses that supply theatres, and aid with making venues Covid-19secure.
  • Safeguard the future of the theatre industry, through an Emergency Relief Fund and the creation of a new Cultural Investment Participation Scheme for the sector from government: a national pledge for culture.

There are few people in parliament, or even the UK, who know more about regional theatre than the Conservative MP Giles Watling. That is why the actor turned politician is leading a push for the government to save the sector, which he said was weeks from oblivion.

Watling, who has also worked as a director and theatre manager before becoming the MP for Clacton in 2017, has met Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, to make his case for an emergency rescue package.

The government have presented a roadmap for the theatre industry, but this has been widely criticised as lacking investment in the arts, detailed timeframes and a reimagining of business models in light of how theatres can operate in the near future. Christine Payne, general secretary of Equity, said the union had given comprehensive feedback to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on its draft guidance for how live performance can begin again.

“We have made it crystal clear,” she said, “that without an investment plan to protect jobs and workplaces, these efforts to develop return-to-work guidance will be meaningless.”