NCEM receives £28,000 Kickstart grant to boost ambitious digital outreach plans

“Over the past year, our digital outreach has become increasingly significant as part of our offer and we’re thrilled to be able to continue to expand it,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

THE National Centre for Early Music, in York, has been awarded a £28,000 Capital Kickstart grant from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

This will enable the NCEM, in St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, to push forward with its ambitious digital plans, despite the financial challenge caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin said:“We would like to thank the Culture Recovery Fund for their continued support and for this extremely generous grant in recognition of our vital and important work. Over the past year, our digital outreach has become increasingly significant as part of our offer and we’re thrilled to be able to continue to expand it.”

The NCEM is one of 74 organisations receiving grants totalling £58.9 million today. The Capital Kickstart grants programme helps organisations cover costs added to capital projects such as building works, refurbishments, and large-scale equipment purchases by pandemic-related delays or fundraising shortfalls. 

To continue the “outstanding success of its significantly increased digital output”, the NCEM needed additional funds for livestream cameras and filming equipment, plus in the new website in order to reach wider audiences and support the Early Music sector. 

Steven Devine performing the first live-streamed concert at the NCEM on March 21

The first live-streamed concert on Early Music Day on March 21 by harpsichordist Steven Devine attracted a worldwide audience of more than 70,000 and this summer’s online York Early Music Festival continued to engage new audiences from as far afield as the USA and Australia. 

This month, the NCEM is staging the York Early Music Christmas Festival, a festive programme of live concerts running until this weekend. Newly added for 2020 is York Christmas At Home, a digital festival of nine concerts to be streamed from today until Sunday that will then be available on demand.

In November, the NCEM’s Young Composers Award 2020, presented in association with BBC Radio 3 and The Tallis Scholars, took place digitally; again, the behind-closed-doors concert was live-streamed to a wide audience. Plans for next year’s award with BBC Radio 3 and 2021 partners, recorder quartet Palisander, are in progress already.

The NCEM continues to play an important part in the promotion and support of the professional development of Early Music ensembles worldwide with residencies and workshops in the planning stage. As a bonus, the NCEM’s new spring music festival will coincide with celebrations for 2021 Early Music Day on the anniversary of JS Bach’s birthday on March 21.

Alongside a varied programme of music, in 2021 the NCEM will be staging the Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival and the York Early Music Festival.

Ben Pugh, seated, leading the tech team for the online 2020 York Early Music Festival in July

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, the NCEM has continued to keep music alive and was one of the first UK arts organisations to broadcast online concerts worldwide.

Education and engagement with communities has continued too, drawing in socially isolated individuals to a weekly Cuppa And A Chorus, as well as sharing music-making through a series of teaching videos aimed at deaf youngsters, I Can Play. 

Today, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport also announced that £165 million from the Culture Recovery Fund has been offered in repayable loans to help 11 major cultural organisations survive the loss of income caused by the crisis.

This follows previous rounds of the Culture Recovery Fund, including the grants programme that distributed £428 million to more than 2,000 cultural organisations across the country and the £3.36 million Emergency Grassroots Music Venues Fund.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “This Government promised it would be here for culture and today’s announcement is proof we’ve kept our word. 

Matthew Wadsworth and Kate Bennett Wadsworth captured on camera in their live-streamed concert at the NCEM. The concert can be enjoyed again as part of York Christmas At Home on Sunday at 10.30am via

“The £1 billion invested so far through the Culture Recovery Fund has protected tens of thousands of jobs at cultural organisations across the UK, with more support still to come through a second round of applications.

“Today, we’re extending a huge helping hand to the crown jewels of UK culture, so that they can continue to inspire future generations all around the world.” 

Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England, said: “Today’s announcement is another vital step in securing the future of England’s cultural sector. Supporting capital projects will help to ensure that we maintain an innovative, sustainable cultural infrastructure that supports world-class creative work, while the loans announced today will enable some of our largest and most prestigious cultural organisations to weather the effects of Covid-19 and reopen when it is safe to do so.

“The Arts Council is grateful to the Government for their support through the Culture Recovery Fund and we are proud to support all the organisations receiving funding today.”

For more details on the 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival and York Christmas At Home festival, go to: