*Updated 31 March: Full response package

A message from Arts Council England:

Like the rest of the country – and the rest of the world – the cultural sector is starting to come to terms with the impact of Covid-19 on all of our lives. We’ve been working over the last 10 days to understand how best we can support you to get through this, and to continue to deliver brilliant work, both now and in the future.

Last week, as the scale of the crisis became clearer, we announced our plan to relax funding conditions and our intention to advance grant payments to help with cashflow challenges where possible.

We can confirm today that National Portfolio Organisations will be able to request an advance of up to six months of their 2020-21 funding in April.

We’re now looking ahead to what comes next. We’ve welcomed the Chancellor’s announcements of measures to support the economy across the board, and these will help towards easing the financial impact on our sector. But at the same time, we know, from having spoken to you, that everyone in the publicly-supported cultural sector – from individual artists and freelancers, to the staff of large cultural institutions – need an emergency response from us. We’ve spent the last ten days making plans to provide that support.

Today, therefore, we’re announcing two new measures.

  • A £160m emergency response package to support individual artists, freelancers and cultural organisations. This will help individuals and organisations focus on two things: sustaining their livelihoods and businesses, and developing creative responses to the Covid-19 crisis, to help buoy the public for its duration.
  • The postponement of our next National Portfolio Organisation investment process, due to begin this autumn, and the rolling over of our current National Portfolio for one year, to 2023.

The emergency response package will comprise of £20m for creative practitioners and freelancers, £50m for organisations who aren’t in our National Portfolio and £90m for National Portfolio Organisations.

Artists and a wide range of creative practitioners will be eligible for grants up to £2,500. We will administer £16m of this fund, and we are planning to make additional grants of up to £4m to external benevolent funds, for other cultural workers.

Organisations outside the National Portfolio will be able to apply for grants of up to £35,000, and conditions for those already receiving funding from us through National Lottery Project Grants will be relaxed where relevant.

We will publish the guidance and a detailed timeline for the funds for individuals and for organisations who aren’t in our Portfolio, on 30 March 2020. We aim to clarify further details of the £90m fund for NPOs just after Easter. The NPO fund comes alongside measures we’ve already taken around advancing current grants to help with cashflow and relaxing funding conditions.

Our resources are limited, which means we have difficult choices in front of us. But in all of these choices, we’ll be guided by the principle of doing what’s best to support the cultural ecology of this country as a whole. Within this, we’ll ensure that certain groups, such as disabled artists, are not unfairly disadvantaged. We’re working on the criteria for our decision-making, and we’ll publish them so that everyone can be confident we’re investing these emergency funds transparently. More information on all of this is now live on our website, and more will follow in the next week, as we continue to work on the details.

Finally, I want to stress that this emergency response package is only intended to deal with the immediate crisis. To secure the long-term recovery of the cultural sector, we will continue to work closely with government and other partners on further actions. Now, and for the foreseeable future, our one and only priority is to support cultural organisations and individuals using every means at our disposal.

This is a frightening time for all of us, and a moment of great strain for the cultural sector. But, already, I’ve seen artists and organisations begin to draw on their bottomless ingenuity and creativity to dream up ways to connect, comfort and uplift us in the face of uniquely challenging circumstances. As we physically distance ourselves from one another in our daily lives, I believe the role of arts and culture in helping to bring us all together will become ever more critical.

Thank you for all your work, your generosity, your resolve and above all your creativity over the last week. Please continue to talk to us over the coming weeks; we’re here to listen and help wherever we can. Our nine offices across England may be closed, but our team continues to work from their homes around the country. We promise to continue to communicate regularly with you, as more details of today’s announcement are ready to share. In the meantime, please do take good care of yourselves and your loved ones.

Darren Henley OBE

Chief Executive, Arts Council England

ACE's Covid-19 support in full