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What's the plan for London-based arts organisations earmarked for relocation once Arts Council England announces its next National Portfolio later this month?

London-based cultural organisations that applied to the National Portfolio this year were confronted with a tough choice - to stay put in the capital or move elsewhere in England.

In the face of record demand for grants and a demand from DCMS to redistribute arts funding outside of the capital, Arts Council England (ACE) introduced its Transfer Programme, offering the possibility of continued financial support for organisations prepared to leave London. 

ACE has refused to reveal how many have applied to the programme - not to be confused with the similarly named Transition Programme - but all will become clear when details are provided alongside the NPO announcement on Wednesday 26 October.


Although the Transfer Programme funding pot is only worth £8m a year, less than 5% of the £162m value of current annual funding levels for London-based NPOs, there are likely to be numerous potential candidates for a slice of the transfer funding pie. So what's in store for those that are selected?

When will they relocate?

Organisations selected for the Transfer Programme are unlikely to be going anywhere straight away. Indeed, there isn't any firm obligation for them to go through with the relocation process at all if they decide against it. 

Under the terms of the initiative, organisations will receive two-years business funding from ACE from April 2023 through to March 2025.

This is intended to enable them to deliver usual activity, as well as consider options for relocation and, if they choose, to implement their relocation plans.

However, relocation is not a condition of receiving Transfer Programme funding. Organisations accepted onto the Transfer Programme may decide, following further consideration or carrying out feasibility studies, that relocation is not a viable option and won't need to pay any of the money back.

In order to be eligible for further funding for 2025/26, through a ring-fenced Investment Programme specifically for transferring organisations, they will need to have established a main and registered base elsewhere in England by no later than 31 October 2024. Those that decide against a move will need to find other sources of income.

What constitutes relocation? 

Under the terms of the deal, relocating organisations that have a physical office will be required to establish an office outside London, with the majority of staff needing to work from a non-London location. 

This could be any location in England outside of London - not necessarily a Levelling Up for Culture Place or one of ACE's Priority Places.

Organisations will also need to demonstrate a 'tangible commitment' to adding value to the local cultural sector and community.

ACE says this could include renting or buying an office or creation space, employing or contracting local people, delivering creative or cultural activity locally, or participating in local cultural networks such as Local Cultural Education Partnerships. 

But this will not be a requirement for any London-based organisations selected for the Transfer Programme that have a national remit and currently have limited impact in London, other than being based there - such as a touring organisations. 

"We are not expecting these organisations to make major changes to the way they work when relocating to their new home area," ACE says.

Will there be support to relocate?

ACE has said that it will "not be able to play a central role" in supporting organisations to relocate, adding that Transfer Programme organisations will therefore need to ensure adequate organisational capacity to consider their options and implement their relocation plans.  

However, it will aim to provide limited advice and support depending on the number of Transfer organisations selected and its own organisational capacity.

Meanwhile, a separate pot of Feasibility funding will be available to support Transfer Programme recipients in assessing their options for relocation. 

ACE says it intends to publish full supporting guidance on Feasibility funds - which will be subject to additional monitoring and reporting requirements - by March 2023, with organisations able to access funds from April 2023. 

The Feasibility funding can be used on costs like consultancy fees, or travel and accommodation but will not be able to cover capital or direct relocation costs, such as redundancies.

ACE says it will not provide retrospective funding for any costs already incurred prior to Feasibility funding being awarded.

Are relocating organisations guaranteed funding for 2025/26?

ACE says it intends to run a simplified application process to enable organisations that successfully relocate by October 2024 to apply for further funding for 2025/26. 

The 2025/26 programme will be ringfenced for successfully relocated organisations and will be non-competitive with enough budget to fund all Transfer organisations that evidence they meet the criteria for the fund. 

Although the process will be non-competitive, organisations will still be required to make an application based on their plans and budget for 2025/26.

Beyond this, they will then be able to apply to join the 2026+ portfolio, detail for which has yet to be developed, from their new home area.