Earlier this month, Creative United celebrated 10 years since it was established as an independent CIC having been ‘spun out’ by Arts Council England. Chief Executive, Mary-Alice Stack, reflects on the journey so far and the company’s plans for the decade ahead.

Creative United Chief Executive Mary-Alice Stack
Photo credit: Katja Ogrin

Ten years ago, on 1st May 2013, I officially started my new role as Chief Executive of Creative United. This date not only marked the start of our journey as an independent business, but also the end of the time that I’d spent at Arts Council England in what turned out to be a sort of 9-year gestation period during which we laid the foundations for Creative United.

On that day, the existing consumer credit programmes (Own Art and Take it away), staff and other assets of ArtCo Trading Ltd (a wholly owned subsidiary of Arts Council England) were officially transferred to our new Community Interest Company, along with a mandate to develop and grow the business activities in a more flexible and entrepreneurial way than would ever have been possible from within Arts Council England itself.

Arts Council England’s leap of faith in approving the proposals for the establishment of our new business, along with the continued investment that we have received from them every year since, has given us a unique opportunity to develop and grow into the company we are today.

Although, like all businesses, we’ve had our fair share of false starts and missteps along the way, the thing that stands out to me most is how long lasting the relationships that we’ve forged have been, and how important collaboration has been to the way in which we’ve developed and grown.

One example of this longevity is our relationship with Novuna Consumer Finance (formerly known as Hitachi Consumer Finance), who have now been the credit providers for our Own Art scheme for nearly 17 years. In that time, they have provided £70m in interest free loans to more than 78,000 customers across the UK, thanks to the support of our funding partners ACE, ACNI and Creative Scotland.


Years in partnership with Novuna Consumer Finance


in interest free Own Art loans


customers across the UK

We have also enjoyed long-standing relationships with Omni Capital Consumer Finance, and prior to that V12/Secure Trust Bank who between them have provided continuity of support as our credit provider for the Take it away scheme which has enabled 96,000 customers to buy £72m of musical instruments and associated equipment since 2007.


customers accessed loans through Take it away


worth of musical instruments purchased through the scheme

Without their commitment to our publicly funded programmes we would not have been able to establish such a strong and diverse network of member galleries and retailers through which we now operate the schemes across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Thank you!

Partygoers at Creative United’s anniversary party
Photo credit: Katja Ogrin

Alongside Own Art and Take it away, the third significant string to our bow has been the evolution of our business support programmes which have grown from an initial pilot programme in 2012 to encompass national, regional and local initiatives delivered in partnership with our network of expert advisers, firmly establishing us as one of the leading providers of business advice and access to finance for creative and cultural enterprises across England.

Added to this as been our pioneering work together with other members of the Inclusive Music Consortium which has led us to invest in the exploration of the many barriers to participation in music experienced by disabled people, including visually impaired and blind musicians and music producers. This continues to be a priority area of interest for Creative United and one that we hope to integrate more fully into our development plans over the next few years.

Thank you to all our partners and collaborators for being so generous with your knowledge, insights and networks, helping us to navigate the future by re-imagining ways in which to make our arts and creative industries more equitable and accessible for all.

We look forward to finding ways to take these conversations forward with you and others in the years ahead.

Mary-Alice Stack
Chief Executive

Nathan Dawkins – Double bass and Joseph Etim-Gates – Flute
Photo credit: Katja Ogrin