This analysis of data from the Taking Part Survey explores how people attend the arts and the socio-demographic factors that have an impact on that attendance.
Summary of report
Arts Council England is committed to ensuring that as many people as possible have access to exciting, challenging and enriching arts experiences. To help understand how this ambition can be achieved, the research department has collaborated with two sociologists from Oxford University to analyse data from Taking Part, an annual survey of cultural participation. This report explores how people attend the arts today, and the sociodemographic factors that have an impact on that attendance.
There are four main types of arts attender across the adult population in England:
84 per cent of the population fall into either the ‘Little if anything’ or the ‘Now and then’ groups, attending arts activities occasionally at most, and primarily attending the most popular, rather than niche, activities.
Two of the most important factors in determining whether somebody attends arts activities are education and social status – the higher an individual’s level of education and social status, the more likely they are to have high levels of arts attendance.
Gender, ethnicity, age, region, having young children and health are also important factors. When all other factors are held constant women are more likely to attend the arts than men, older people more likely than younger people, white people more likely than Black or Asian people, Londoners more likely than those who live in other regions, people without children more likely than parents of young children, and people in good health more likely than those who define their health as moderate or poor.
When other factors – including social status – are held constant, income, social class (as measured by NS-SEC), and disability status have little or no significant effect on arts attendance.
Some of the barriers to arts attendance are practical, for instance having young children. However, many of the barriers appear to be psychological. The importance of social status in particular suggests that arts attendance is driven by some concept of identity – who we think we are, the type of people we perceive as our social status equals and the kind of lifestyle we deem appropriate – and that many people believe that the arts are ‘not for people like me’.
Arts Council England must tackle both practical and psychological barriers if we are to achieve our mission of enabling as many people as possible to have exciting, challenging and enriching arts experiences. However, our analysis also indicates that even if we successfully reduce or remove these barriers, there will still be some people who choose not to engage in the types of arts activities that typically receive public funding. The Arts Council must therefore also consider whether there are opportunities to support arts activities of a different nature, that are relevant to the lives of more people.
What we found – patterns of arts attendance in England
Our analysis shows that there are four main types of arts attender within the English population:
Members of the ‘Little if anything’ group attend the arts and cultural events examined in this publication rarely, if at all. The small number of this group that do attend are unlikely to do so more than once or twice a year, and generally attend the more popular venues or events, such as cinema.