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United Kingdom/ 8.2 Cultural consumption and participation  

8.2.2 Policies and programmes

After it came to power in 1997, the previous UK Government provided extra resources to national museums and galleries to enable them to abolish admission charges where they were levied, and ensure free access for all. This resulted in significant increases in attendance. Visits to national museums by children under 16 increased by 80%. In 2008/09 UK national museums received more than 40 millions visitors compared with 24 million in 1997/98. Eight of the UK's top visitor attractions are museums. The British Museum led the way in 2010 with 5.8 million visitors (an increase of 5% on 2009) followed by Tate Modern with 5.1 million visits (an increase of 7% over 2009).

Arts Council England has been involved in a number of audience development programmes, e.g. it initiated, in 2006, the Vibrant Communities programme as part of its agenda for the arts 2006-08. This initiative brought together artists and cultural practitioners with urban planners, local government and communities, to inject a new cultural dimension into regeneration programmes, creating and improving cultural facilities for the people and promoting new audiences for the arts. The programme sought to place the arts as a player in helping to galvanise community engagement and participation in planning, and in creating a sense of identity and pride. The programme linked into the government's Sustainable Communities programme, led by the Department for Communities and Local Government. ACE has also issued publications on audience development and participation, such as A guide to audience development (2000) and Navigating Difference: cultural diversity and audience development (2006), as well as designing a Family Friendly Toolkit (2006) to support arts organisations in developing initiatives for families to take part in the arts.

In 2004, ACE launched a national interest free loan scheme, "Own Art", offering up to GBP 2 000 towards purchasing art in 235 galleries across the country, a response to the Taste Buds report that revealed 4.9 million people in England own art, plus 5.9 million people had aspirations to buy art. Own Art is also present in Scotland with 30 art galleries and outlets, while Wales has a similar initiative called Principality Collectorplan in 70 galleries. For more information, visit:

In 2005, an initiative, the Big Art Project, invited members of the public to nominate public sites for an art installation. From the nominations, seven locations were selected and since then curators and artists have been working together to finalise the public art works.

In November 2006, the Scottish Arts Council with other partners initiated the annual Scottish Audience Development Forum, "Greater than the Sum of its parts", to discuss ways for sustainability through partnerships, participation and the development of new audiences. In February 2008, the Council launched the Inspire Fund, a Lottery funding programme aimed to support innovative projects and promote participation in the arts by the Scottish community, with an investment of GBP 8 million.

Historic Scotland has many programmes and policy initiatives to promote participation in cultural life, supporting initiatives such as the "Doors Open Days" initiative - one of the largest public participative events in Scotland with over 200 000 people visiting 800 buildings and supported by 4 000 volunteers (

The findings of Beyond the Central Belt, a study commissioned in 2006, have contributed to Scotland's plans for a nation-wide arts marketing and audience development infrastructure..

An underlying concept of programmes to stimulate greater arts access and attendance in the UK is the notion of "cultural entitlement". Although not always clearly defined, in essence the concept is not so much a "cultural right", but more an entitlement to benefit from opportunities to engage in / access culture. A series of programmes have been instituted such as "Find Your Talent" (see chapter 8.3) and the two year free theatre ticket scheme "A Night Less Ordinary", launched in 2009, which offered more than 600 000 free tickets to anyone under 26 at over 200 venues in England.

Chapter published: 15-04-2011

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