The Arts Council of Northern Ireland report on “A summary of key findings from the General Population Survey examining the characteristics and behaviour of adults attending and participating in the arts in Northern Ireland” compares the information from the General Population Survey regarding participation and engagement with the Arts over the last decade.
On a positive note the initial findings suggest that there are encouraging signs regarding participation and attendance generally, with over 79% of people surveyed having attended or participated in the Arts (the survey suggests that for the first time people living in rural communities are more likely to engage with the Arts than people in urban areas – another positive development) and support for the capacity of the arts to improve people’s lives remains high and it appears as if nearly three quarters of respondents think that artists and arts organisations contribute substantially to our society and so support for public funding for the arts also remains high. This is indeed good news to our much beleaguered sector and gives us all encouragement.
There are, however, some less positive signs. It appears that people experiencing poverty and living in areas of highest deprivation (top 20%) are now less likely to attend and participate in the Arts, a reduction from 75.9% to 69.9% from the 2011 figures and equally worrying, only just over 50 per cent of respondents with disabilities are likely to attend and participate in artistic activities a reduction of over 10 per cent from 2011.
The Community Arts Partnership has raised concerns regarding the impact of the UK Government’s cuts to public spending and subsequent cuts to Arts funding. Is it possible that financial pressures brought about by successive years of austerity cuts have made it more difficult for the most vulnerable sections of our community to access, engage and participate in artistic activity?
Whilst arts organisations may have been providing more opportunity, it seems that there are additional pressures that must be factored in. Or are there other challenges faced by the arts in terms of accessibility and presentation?
CAP recognises the capacity of the Arts, particularly for those in areas of deprivation, to enhance and transform lives, and will therefore be campaigning alongside many other arts organisations to stem the cuts proposed by both the UK and local executives. In so doing, CAP will continue to champion its support of the most vulnerable section of our community and offer real creative opportunity.