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In March 2020, the lights were dimmed on Manchester’s Arts and Culture sector, with theatres, libraries, museums and arts centres being amongst the first to close their doors to the public at the start of the pandemic.

With the nation in another lockdown, the future is uncertain for many cultural organisations and the freelancers who work with them. The Savannah Wisdom Foundation has created a discretionary fund to support freelancers working in the creative and cultural sectors who are facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. The charity is making up to £500,000 available in grants of £1,500 to individual freelancers.

The fund is designed to assist those whose freelance work has been lost or disrupted because of COVID-19 and who are experiencing hardship because of:

  • reduced demand for, or capacity to deliver, their services
  • the part of the sector they work in is temporarily unable to trade (due to local/national lockdown measures, social distancing requirements or loss of trade)


Who can apply?

The fund is available to freelancers within the arts, cultural and creative industries in Manchester. This  includes music, theatre, dance, combined arts, visual arts, museums, literature, creative industries, heritage culture and heritage, and whose work has direct creative/cultural outcomes. Freelancers should be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Freelance work has been lost or disrupted because of COVID-19
  • Current monthly income (before tax) of less than £1,400, or £1,900 for those with dependants
  • At least 50% working time was spent, or 50% income was derived, from freelance employment in the arts, cultural and creative industries sector in the period April 2019 to March 2020*
  • Resident of, or business based in, Manchester**

* New entrants to freelance work in the sector are also eligible if you can provide details of 8 weeks (5 weeks for disabled applicants) of relevant freelance work during the period January 2019 to March 2020.

**You may still be eligible if you live in Greater Manchester but can evidence your freelance work is primarily in Manchester.

By freelancer we mean:

  • Individual freelance sole trader, or
  • Company director of a limited company or partner within legally constituted partnership, whose earnings are predominantly derived from their company’s dividends and who does not receive a salary from the company.

How to apply

  • To qualify for the Culture Sector Hardship Fund for Freelancers you will be required to provide evidence of your professional work in the sector to support your application, including details of referees that can be contacted.
  • Manchester City Council and HOME are working with the Savannah Wisdom Foundation to assist the application and decision-making process and the review panel is made up of council officers and staff at HOME.
  • All applications will be considered on an individual basis and payment of the grant is at the discretion of the review panel.
  • The grant scheme will be live and open to applications from 1 February 2021.
  • A data sharing agreement is in place between all the parties to ensure that your personal information is managed safely and confidentially.

How do the grants work?

A fixed single grant amount of £1,500 is available per individual.

Grants will be awarded up to the point when the total amount available for scheme has been allocated.

Applications will be processed on a first come first served basis. They are processed in order of receipt from the date of launch up to the point that the fund amount is fully allocated.

What do I need to apply?

You will need to provide the following evidence to support your application:

  • Proof of address, for example a council tax or utilities bill.
  • Bank statement for the account you wish to receive the grant into.
  • Bank statement showing personal savings.
  • Evidence of cancelled contracts for freelance work in the creative and cultural sector due to COVID-19
  • A complete CV. Download the our CV template (link) – showing previous 15 months of jobs as a freelancer in the creative and cultural sector, or at least 8 weeks (5 weeks for disabled applicants) if new to the sector, from 1 January 2019 to 31 March 2020.
  • Two professional references in the creative and cultural sector.
  • If you have been declined for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme you will need to attach evidence of this.

Can I get help to apply?

If you need support completing the application form you can contact the dedicated helpline 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday on 0161 523 0444 or email

Where do I apply, and where can I find more information?

To find out more, please head to the Cultural Hardship Fund for Freelancers on the council website.