ACW reports highest recorded levels of arts engagement among young people, although participation among adults shows some signs of decline.

Photo of children watching a performance
Likely Story, Night Out

Betina Skovbro

Arts attendance and participation by young people in Wales has shown considerable growth in 2013, with 77% of children and young people in Wales having attended at least one of eight artforms – an increase of 5.8 percentage points on 2012 and the highest level since the Arts Council of Wales started measuring arts engagement in 2007. If carnival and street arts are included, 85% of 7–18 year olds now attend an arts event once a year or more.

These findings, published in ACW’s 2013 Children’s Omnibus Survey, have been generated from a Wales-wide survey among more than 1,000 young people. The report reveals that girls continue to attend the arts more than boys, but a big increase in levels of attendance among boys has narrowed that gap to 4.3 percentage points. The change is particularly marked in relation to attending plays: in 2012 girls were much more likely to do so than boys, but the gap between the two has now narrowed to only 2 percentage points.

The gap between social grades has also narrowed and researchers conclude that this “perhaps is becoming less of a factor than in previous years”. Children from the higher ABC1 social grades are still more likely to attend arts events than their C2DE counterparts; the 6.1 percentage point gap between the two groups increased slightly on 2012’s figure, but this follows a dramatic fall from 2011’s 13.1 percentage point difference. Children from both socio economic groups are more likely to attend the arts compared with adults.

Growth has also been recorded in arts participation among young people, reaching 84% – the highest level of participation since the survey began and a reversal of the slight fall recorded in 2012. Older children (16-18 year olds) were less likely to participate in an artistic activity in 2013 compared to younger children, 60% doing so once a year or more often in comparison to 94% of 7-10 year olds. Girls were slightly more likely than boys to participate in the arts in 2013, but gender has less of an impact on participation than attendance. Creative writing was the most popular participatory arts activity in 2013, closely followed by visual arts and crafts, but all artforms experienced some level of increase from the previous year. Digital arts activities is one of few areas of arts participation where boys are more active than girls.

The findings among young people contrast with those in the Wales Omnibus survey, a similar study among 1,000 Welsh adults. Three-quarters of those surveyed attended at least one arts event last year – a fall of one percentage point on 2012 – although when cinema is excluded from the list of artforms just over two-thirds (68%) attended one of the remaining artforms at least once, which is a marginal increase on 2012. Rather than showing growth, the report concludes that the long-term trend “shows a very consistent picture of arts attendance across the past three years”. Figures for adult participation in the arts, however, show some evidence of decline: 33% of Welsh adults reported participating in artistic activities at least once, 4.5 percentage points lower than last year’s all-time high.

Liz Hill