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The Conservatoire in Blackheath recently arranged a finance plan with Triodos Bank to fund its future activities. Phillip Bate explains how the bank’s ethos and belief in the cultural sector made it happen.

Photo of a grand piano as a garden feature, covered in plants.

© Rachel Rimell Photography

Throughout the arts sector there are many debates about the ethics of money and where it comes from, including discussions around donations to leading art galleries and protests against exhibition sponsorships.

We're open to ideas, and finding new ways to do things, so the organisation gets the right support and funding it needs

Working for Triodos Bank, one of the world’s leading sustainable banks, I’m often asked what makes an ethical bank different. While avoiding the bad guys (fossil fuels, weapons and tobacco) is an element of what we do, it’s critical for us that we support the good guys too. We believe in using the power of finance to invest in projects that are good for people and the planet.

We use money from personal and business banking customers’ savings accounts to finance projects that make a positive and lasting impact on society, culture or the environment. Last year we helped make it possible for 22.6m visitors to enjoy cultural events, including cinemas, theatres and museums, as a result of our lending and investments activity to cultural institutions (see our annual report).

Recent loan

The Conservatoire in south-east London is one of the latest cultural organisations to receive a loan from us. It’s a leading provider of innovative music, art and drama education that has been running for over 137 years at its Grade II listed buildings in Blackheath.

It is increasingly involved in outreach projects for disadvantaged individuals and communities in Greenwich and Lewisham. Beneficiaries include those with significant musical talent from low-income families or who face other barriers to participation, including special educational needs, refugee status, challenging family circumstances, and those living with Alzheimer’s.

One recent outreach project involved a partnership between the Conservatoire and Age Exchange, designed to enhance wellbeing for residents living in sheltered housing through reminiscence and music. During a number of weekly sessions, musicians and residents worked to create songs based around their memories.

Another event saw the Conservatoire partner with Tate Exchange and Thomas Tallis School to create a showcase with 120 children from local schools at the Tate Modern. The group, which included deaf and autistic children, created work on the themes of navigation and movement.

It’s initiatives like these that the recent loan from Triodos will enable the Conservatoire to continue running.

How it works

Much of our arts and culture lending is to charities, like the Conservatoire, or not-for-profit organisations. We offer loans anywhere between £100,000 and £20m, typically up to 70% loan to security value. So, if an organisation has a property valued at £500,000 as a security, we can usually offer a loan of up to £350,000 over a repayment term of up to 25 years.

Many people may associate business loans with for-profit businesses, rather than charities or not-for-profit organisations, but they’re applicable to the latter too.

We work closely with an organisation to find a lending structure and repayment plan that works for them. We're open to ideas, and finding new ways to do things, so the organisation gets the support and funding it needs. An arts organisation’s income can be reliant on donations, grant funding or legacies, and this is something that we always work together to consider.

We believe that a dynamic arts sector is key to a thriving and resilient society, which is why we try to support and stimulate it. At Triodos, we know arts and culture also play an important role in bringing communities together. In hitting both social and cultural goals, the Conservatoire is a great example of the kind of organisation that we like to support.

Phillip Bate is Senior Relationship Manager at Triodos Bank UK.

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Photo of Phillip Bate