Engagement with the arts grew in both England and Scotland during 2011, according to the latest figures released by the DCMS and the Scottish Government.  In England, the latest figures come from the Taking Part survey – the continuous survey dating back to 2005 which provides estimates of adult involvement with sport, libraries, the art, heritage, and museums and galleries. Whereas in the five years from 2005/6 there was no demonstrable growth in arts attendance or participation (see AP235, http://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/magazine/view.cfm?issue=235&id=5588 ), the latest figures show a statistically significant jump. During the previous year 76.2% of adults had engaged with the arts at least once, but that proportion grew to 78.2% in 2011/12. The increase was most notable for lower socio-economic groups, among whom 67.5% engaged with the arts last year, compared with 64.5% the previous year. And those defined as ‘most deprived’ on the UK index of deprivation showed the most significant increase of all – up from 63.3% engaging to a new high of 69%. Geographically, the most significant increases were in the East and North West, and only the West Midlands recorded lower levels of involvement. These figures will be music to the ears of Arts Council England, which lists “more people… engaging in the arts in places where participation is currently low” and “larger and more diverse audiences” among its targets in its 10-year strategy, ‘Achieving Great Art for Everyone’.

The Scottish Government is also celebrating a rise in the percentage of adults participating in cultural activities and attending cultural events. Culture statistics from the Scottish Household Survey 2011 reveal that 73% participated in cultural activities – up 2% on last year – and 76% attended cultural events. Attendance levels have now recovered to the same level they were at in 2007.