Visits to museums and galleries soar, while arts engagement remains static across most of England, and charitable donations fall.

Photo of the Arnolfini in Bristol
The Arnolfini arts centre and gallery in Bristol

Nick (CC BY 2.0)

Visits to museums and galleries have risen to new heights, with more than half the population doing so each year, statistics from the latest Taking Part survey have revealed. Participation in the arts and attendance at events is still more popular than gallery and museum visits – 77.5% of those surveyed said they had done so in the last year – but this figure is relatively unchanged since the continuous national survey began in 2005. Meanwhile charitable giving to the arts and cultural sectors were found to be decreasing, despite Government initiatives such as the Catalyst scheme and tax incentives for legacy giving, which promised to boost giving.

Those living in the South West and East of England are most likely to participate in or attend an arts event, where around four in five people report having done so in the past 12 months. However, the only areas where engagement with the arts has increased over the past nine years are the North East and North West. London has the second lowest level of arts engagement, at 74%, but it does have the highest proportion of museum and gallery-goers, with over two thirds of respondents saying they had visited at least one in the last year. Visits were lowest in the West Midlands, at 45%.

Those in lower socio-economic groups and those with a long-standing illness or disability are much less likely to engage with the arts or attend arts events, museums or galleries than other groups. In terms of engaging with the arts, this gap has shrunk significantly since 2005, though a similar trend is not apparent in visits to museums and galleries. Women and people from white backgrounds are significantly more likely to engage with the arts than those with other demographic profiles, but there has been an increase in the number of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds visiting museums and galleries, which is starting to close a historic gap. In terms of age, engagement in the arts and visits to museums and galleries are increasing most significantly amongst those aged 65-74 years old. But arts engagement remains highest amongst 16-25 years olds, and 25-64 year olds are the most likely to visit a museum or gallery. Engagement and attendance is lowest amongst those aged 75 and over.

The number of respondents who gave money to a “DCMS sector” charity is down on last year to a low of 29%. Museums and galleries are the most popular cause: 15% reporting having donated in the last 12 months, but just 5% gave to the arts. Those in the South East give most frequently, with more than a third reporting having donated in the last 12 months; just a quarter did so in London. Those aged 25-44 are only slightly less likely to give than those aged 44 and above, while men are significantly more likely to give than women.

A photo of Frances Richens