Engagement with the arts in Northern Ireland on the increase

Arts Council of Northern Ireland,
31 October 2012, Northern Ireland

Key findings from the 2012 General Population Survey have highlighted an increase in adult engagement with the arts in Northern Ireland.  There has been an 8 percentage point increase in adults attending an arts event (82 per cent) and a 4 percentage point increase in adults participating in an arts event (30 per cent) when compared to the same survey in 2009.  

This boost in attendance can be attributed in part to an increase in the number of people going to see films (11 per cent), while attendance figures for museums (6 per cent), community festivals (5 per cent) and live music events (4 per cent) were also on the up.

Attendance remains greatest amongst young people aged 16-24 years, with 88 per cent of males and 93 per cent of females attending an arts event in the previous 12 months. However, attendance declines with age and the gap between male and female attendees widens considerably after the age of 50.  

Female participation in the arts has increased significantly in 2012 when compared with 2009 (8 per cent) while there has been little difference in male participation in the same timeframe.  Crafts have proved to be a popular choice for those participating in the arts with an increase of 4 per cent.  While participation in the arts also generally declined with age, craft was the exception with a 12 per cent increase for those aged 65 and over. 

Arts attendance remains highest among the wealthier socio-economic groups and amongst those who do not consider themselves to be disabled.  Professionals and Full-time Students were most likely to attend the arts (93 per cent) and, while Unskilled Manual Workers were still the least likely socio-economic group to attend, a significant 60 per cent of them did. This marks a considerable 18 per cent increase in attendance by this group when compared to the previous survey in 2009 – a trend mirrored by the Partly Skilled demographic whose attendance increased by 16 per cent to 82 per cent in 2012.

Disability continues to exert a key influence on both arts attendance and participation.  Only 59 per cent of disabled people attended one or more event compared to 87 per cent of people without a disability.  The gap narrows when it comes to participation in the arts with 25 per cent of disabled people getting involved compared to 31 per cent without a disability.

Overall ‘difficulty in finding the time’ was cited as the single largest reason for non engagement in the arts and this was particularly the case amongst those aged 35 to 49 years old (49 per cent). As with the three previous surveys, the key barriers remain largely unchanged - namely time, cost and lack of interest.  That said, 58 per cent of people recognize that ‘creativity’ is a key benefit of arts participation with 50 per cent of those surveyed agreeing that ‘the level of funding should be maintained, even in times of an economic downturn.’

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, where the Arts Council is the official provider of statistics for the arts in Northern Ireland, commented: “This latest General Population Survey has produced some very positive findings. I’m particularly pleased to see that adult engagement in the arts, which includes both event attendance and personal participation, has increased since 2009.  The findings also show that, as an industry, we’re successfully reaching out and attracting new audiences including young adults in the 16-24 age group and those consumers who fall within the lower socio-economic groups that have traditionally been the hardest to attract to arts events.”

The General Population Survey Findings report details the key findings from the 2012 General Population Survey, providing reliable estimates of adult engagement with the arts in Northern Ireland.  It presents findings relating to levels of attendance and participation, attitudes towards the arts, obstacles to engagement and the benefits gained from participation.

To download the report, click here