Key Fund, the north’s leading investor in social and community enterprise, has launched a new £3 million Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund at Wakefield Theatre (Thurs 21 March). Enterprises across the Northern Powerhouse areas will be eligible for blended investments (loan and grant) of up to £150,000. The fund is open to creative and cultural organisations that provide a meaningful social impact in their local communities.

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, Michael Ellis, who attended the event said: “Creativity is one of the North’s greatest calling cards. This funding will strengthen arts and cultural organisations across the Northern Powerhouse and boost the important and impactful work they do in their local communities.”

The North’s leading cultural organisations came together to celebrate the launch. Representatives from local councils, the Arts Council and Creative United also attended.

Matt Smith, Chief Executive of Key Fund, said: “We are incredibly excited about the potential of the fund to support creative and cultural activity, whilst also helping to increase social impact in disadvantaged communities across the North.”

Northern Powerhouse Minister, Jake Berry MP, said: “The Northern Powerhouse has a rich cultural history and this is an investment in its creative future. Support from this new £3 million share of the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund will enable more people in communities across the North to benefit from the life-changing impact of the arts and boost investment in this important sector of our economy. The Fund is already having a real impact in places like Bradford where building work will start this summer to transform the city’s former Odeon cinema into a live entertainment and events venue due to open next year after the project received £4 million and recently secured planning permission.”

The social investment fund will run for two years from April 2019 and is open to a wide range of creative and cultural community/social enterprise organisations. Small or medium commercial businesses from industries such as crafts, design, fashion and art that can demonstrate positive social outcomes can also apply.

Hosting the event, Wakefield Theatre itself has benefited from Key Fund investment. The launch also featured case studies of creative enterprises Key Fund investment has supported, including Leeds-based East Street Arts and Doncaster’s Higher Rhythm.
East Street Arts supports grassroots artists to thrive, delivering professional support programmes. It launched a bespoke Arts Hostel in Leeds with Key Fund investment.

Higher Rhythm offers professional development, training and volunteering opportunities around the music and media industries for people from across the Yorkshire region. It runs recording studios, its own radio station, Sine FM, a digital music distribution service, and courses ranging from short tasters through to Higher National Diplomas, providing support to hundreds of aspiring professionals each year. They bought their own building in 2015 with support from Key Fund and Power to Change.

Steven Mundin, co-founder of Higher Rhythm, said: “In this current climate there’s no chance of accessing money from mainstream banks, so the Key Fund has been vital to our survival and growth. It has been instrumental at strategic points in our development, providing vital investment at every stage.”

Key Fund will partner fellow social investor, Social Investment Business, for its work in the North East, and Creative United, a community interest company that works to help arts and creative businesses grow. Also speaking at the launch was Sheffield songwriter, Eliot Kennedy. Alongside producing and writing global hits and Grammy-winning songs with global artists such as Bryan Adams, Aretha Franklin and Celine Dion, Eliot has worked with the Key Fund to support his work with new artists and talent development schemes at his Sheffield studio, Steelworks.

Eliot Kennedy said: “I’m living proof to young artists that you can achieve great things, living and working in the north. If you’re a northerner you never lose touch with that identity, it’s soulful. People treat you as you treat them. I’m able to function here. But it’s not easy to break into the industry; the young artists I meet often don’t have access to finance or opportunities, so this fund is an initiative I wholeheartedly champion.”

The Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund has been funded by the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), as part of the legacy of the Great Exhibition in the North.