A record label working in prisons. A festival of late night culture. A state-of-the-art music venue. A community cafe putting creativity at the centre of the high-street. A one-of-a-kind storytelling museum.
These are the latest creative enterprises to have taken advantage of social investment from Nesta’s Arts & Culture Finance team to expand their activities and become more resilient. More specifically, they are:
- InHouse Records, which has borrowed £90,000 to provide through-the-gate support to people taking part in its music-based training programme
- Culture24, which will use its £150,000 investment to run the inaugural Emerge Festival of museums lates on 27th & 28th of September 2019
- Saffron Hall, a music venue based at Saffron Walden County High School (Essex), which has borrowed £150,000 to grow its fundraising capacity and income streams
- ArtFix, which will use its £200,000 investment to launch two new creative community cafe sites in south east London
- The Story Museum in Oxford, which will use a £400,000 facility as underwriting to begin renovation works on its unique museum of storytelling, making it more functional and accessible to users.
That’s just £10,000 short of a £1 million total – and it brings our total lending to £8.5 million since early 2016.
That’s great, but what does it tell us?
Two things jump out at me from this investment announcement. Firstly, the boundary-pushing nature of these organisations. Whilst not a prerequisite of our lending, it is interesting that they’re all doing something new. There hasn’t been anything quite like InHouse Records working directly with prisons to bring a different kind of rehabilitation offer to individuals wanting to turn their lives around. Culture24’s Emerge Festival builds on a recently established idea – museum lates – and turns this into a weekend festival fused with more contemporary culture. And ArtFix is disrupting the homogeneous high-street by letting up-and-coming local artists work live in its coffee shops and allowing community groups to take centre stage.
The second thing is the variety of business models being used within this small sample to repay the loan. These organisations generate their income from government agencies (i.e. prisons, for InHouse Records), box-office sales, established philanthropic funders and the coffee-loving, connection-craving suburban public. From this observation, two insights come to mind:
- We tend to think of arts & culture in, well, arts & culture terms. We seldom stop to think about the economics of it and its place in the market economy. But actually, this is a sector that’s interwoven into so many other markets – retail, hospitality, public commissioning – and I suspect that it makes those markets more dynamic and creative (in a business sense) too.
- This stuff should be taught in business classes. Arts managers would learn valuable lessons about the plethora of ways in which organisations operate and sustain themselves. Mainstream business & finance students would realise that there’s more to making money than selling widgets, buying low and selling high – and that there’s synergy in creativity and business.