Criteria announced for scheme to aid cultural organisations’ recovery from Coronavirus impact

  • 17 Aug 2020

New guidance has been published to help the country’s biggest cultural and heritage institutions apply for a share of £270 million in repayable finance.

Following the launch of grants to help smaller arts venues, heritage sites and independent cinemas earlier this week, the repayable finance package will help stabilise cultural organisations until they can return to sustainable operations.

Applicants will be assessed against rigorous cultural and economic criteria, outlined in guidance published by Arts Council England recently, including efficiencies made to date and ongoing viability for the future. Organisations will also need to demonstrate national or international significance and opportunities to engage their local communities through education and outreach.


Organisations will be able to apply for funding in excess of £3million, the limit of the grants already available, on generous loan terms including a payment term of up to 20 years, an initial repayment holiday of up to four years and a 2% interest rate per annum.

The repayable finance model has been carefully tailored to suit the needs of the cultural sector, especially culturally significant organisations which were financially sustainable before the pandemic.

Arts Council England will review applications, with input from other arm’s length bodies including the British Film Institute, Historic England and National Lottery Heritage Fund. Decisions will be taken by the independent Culture Recovery Board, chaired by Sir Damon Buffini. The independent board members have a broad range of sectoral and commercial expertise which will be applied to decisions on the repayable finance package and the biggest grant awards.

Further detail has also been published on the Culture Recovery Fund’s £120 million capital investment. This will kickstart cultural infrastructure and heritage construction projects.

Historic England will be delivering the £50 million Heritage Stimulus Fund to restart vital construction and maintenance on heritage sites to preserve visitor attractions and provide immediate work for some of the most vulnerable heritage specialists and contractors in the sector.

Applications opened recently for around £34million in Programmes of Major Works grants, as part of the Heritage Stimulus Fund, to allow repair and conservation work to continue. These grants will help stimulate the economy, by upgrading nationally important heritage tourist attractions, boosting the visitor economy and revitalising irreplaceable historic buildings.

As part of the Heritage Stimulus Fund, there will also be around £5 million of top up funding for existing projects which have already been identified as a priority for urgent support, through Historic England. Around £11million will also be added to the Covid-19 Emergency Heritage at Risk Response Fund to expand the scheme and meet the needs of more organisations who applied for funding when the scheme launched in June.


Arts Council England will deliver a £55 million Cultural Capital Kickstart Fund to accelerate projects that have previously secured Arts Council capital funding, whose progress has been impacted by the pandemic.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund will deliver the £15 million Heritage Capital Kickstart Fund to support up to 30 existing heritage capital projects which are now at risk as a result of the pandemic.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland received £33m from the fund for Arts, Culture and Heritage purposes to spend as it sees fit.   

  • In April the NI Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey announced £1.5m support for the arts, creative industries and cultural sector in Northern Ireland. This included funding for artists and performers of up to £5,000. Small and medium sized organisations could claim up to £25,000. The Fund was oversubscribed and subsequently closed.
  • The new NI Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín then announced reopening of the Creative Support Fund with an additional £4m on offer for individuals and organisations between July 31st and August 17th.

£25 million has been also been made available to a mix of Charities, the Voluntary Sector and Social Enterprises – some creative and cultural based organisations will fall within the criteria here too. An example of support is the payment of salaries for six months between October 2020 and financial year end 2021:


The Welsh Government received a consequential for this and is slowly sorting out what’s its doing with it. At the moment, it looks as follows:

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