The Arts Council has recently piloted a new approach to research, evaluation and monitoring of cultural participation. A Social Impact Assessment (SIA) model has been piloted in 2019 and a new Social Impact toolkit is planned for 2020. There has also been a reform of box office data gathering which will improve analysis of quantitative data.
An important recent study aimed at increasing the understanding of arts participation of children and young people in Ireland was conducted by Dr. Emer Smyth in 2016 entitled ‘Arts and Cultural Participation among Children and Young People: Insights from the Growing Up in Ireland Study.’ The study was commissioned by the Arts Council of Ireland/An Chomhairle Ealaíon. The highly gendered participation was striking with girls much more likely to participate than boys from as young an age as three. The study suggested the importance of placing emphasis on quality participation experiences from pre-school age to allow for the nurturing of exposure across all social groups, which in addition could challenge gender stereotyping from an early age. The report also found that children exposed to cultural participation during school were more likely to participate outside of school. The study noted the high level of engagement in libraries by families and young children across the country and suggested the possibility of using these spaces of high engagement to widen the cultural experiences available to families. Barriers to participation include household income levels, with most structured cultural activities outside of school requiring payment. Building on international research the report confirmed a definite link between participation in culture and cognitive development and wellbeing.
Visitor numbers cultural institutions
According to the Department of Culture, Heritage, and Gaeltacht, the number of visitors to national cultural institutions grew from 4 million in 2014 to 4.9 million in 2016. Visiting cultural institutions is free of charge, apart from some special exhibitions that require payment and are subsidised.
The aggregate output level of film and television production sector grew from half a billion euro in 2014 to over one billion in 2016. Cinema attendance figures declined between 2010 and 2014 but have made some recovery back to 2010 levels.
Arts participation survey
In January 2019, a summary of the report Attendance, Participation & Engagement with the Arts in Ireland 2018: Arts Council National Survey conducted by Behaviour and Attitudes and commissioned by the Arts Council was presented to the arts community. The report continues a series of periodic reviews of participation conducted by the Arts Council (1983, 1994, 2006, 2018).
The researchers separated the data into profile groupings according to an established pattern of attendance: ‘Occasionals’ attending 1-2 types of art forms; ‘Regulars’ 3-4 types; ‘Aficionados’ 5+ types; ‘films only’; and ‘none’. The report can be seen to suggest that existing policies were relatively successful at maintaining satisfaction within the category of attendees they unfortunately termed ‘Aficionados’ who normally attend 20+ arts events within the previous 12 months across all art forms. The report also states that all groups were satisfied with their current levels of attendance regardless of whether low or high. This makes the task of persuading people to attend more difficult if they do not feel they are missing out. Entertainment and socialising are key reasons for attending arts events according to the survey.
As stated earlier, this study continues a series of studies of public attitudes to the arts. However, the studies to date have not looked at comparative levels of participation longitudinally across the 10-12 year period between surveys. It would be useful to do this most especially excluding the group defined as ‘aficionados’. If this comparison was carried out it could act as a benchmark of success of existing cultural access policy in reaching people who had not participated. Also more research on the levels of attendance of minority groups is required as well as greater focus on lower and non-attenders. Specific benchmarks are needed relative to increasing levels of participation from the reports defined groups ‘occasionals’ and ‘regulars’. The highest level reasons for non- attendance in the survey were ‘I’m not really interested’ at 35%, ‘It’s difficult to find the time’ at 30% and ‘It costs too much’ at 30%. According to The Arts in Irish Life report, theatre is the Arts Council funded art form that is attended by the highest percentage of the population compared to other art forms.
Table 3. People who participated in or attended a certain cultural activity during the last 12 months in Ireland (in % of the population, over 2 available years)
|Activities heavily subsidised by the state||2018||2019|
|Concerts of classic music||6%||6%|
|Activities without large public subsidies|
|To read books not related to the profession or studies||73%||44%|
|In paper format (Usually use)||43%||N/A|
|In digital format (Usually use)||15%||N/A|
|Directly on the Internet (Usually use)||N/A||N/A|
|To listen to music (Usually listen)||N/A||N/A|
|In a computer or directly on the Internet||58%||77%|
|To read periodic publications (Usually read)||N/A||N/A|
|Directly on the Internet||N/A||N/A|
|To watch movies (Usually watch)||N/A||N/A|
|Directly on the Internet||32%||32%|
|To watch television (Usually watch)||71%||72%|
|Directly on the Internet||36%||37%|
|To listen to the radio (Usually watch)||**82%||N/A|
|Directly on the internet||N/A||N/A|
|To play videogames (Usually play)||N/A||N/A|
|To use computer for entertainment or leisure (Usually use)||N/A||N/A|
|Internet for entertainment or leisure (Usually use)||N/A||***88%|
Arts Council, Attendance, Participation and Engagement with the Arts in Ireland: Arts Council National Survey, 2018 + 2019.
*Department of Rural and Community Development, Our Public Libraries 2022: Inspiring, Connecting and Empowering Communities, 2018. (754,748 library members, 2016 census population figure of 4761865 = 16%)
**JNLR figures 2019
***www.cso.ie, Information Society Statistics – Households 2019
Table 4. People who have carried out artistic activities in Ireland in the last 12 months by type of activity (in % of total population, 2018)
|Painting or drawing||6%|
|Other visual arts||N/A|
|Designing web pages||N/A|
|Dance and ballet||8%|
|Playing a musical instrument||6%|
|Singing in a choir||8%|
Arts Council National Survey 2018 (conducted every 10-12 years)
 Arts Council/Smyth, E. (2016) Arts and Cultural Participation among Children and Young People: Insights from the Growing Up in Ireland Study. Arts Council, Dublin.
 In 2016 the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Department of Communications and the Department of Enterprise commissioned a report to measure the value of the audiovusual sector. SPI/Olsberg won the tender. The report was published in 2018 using 2016 baseline data.
 Arts Council/Behaviour & Attitudes (B&A) (2019) Summary Report: Attendance, Participation & Engagement with the Arts in Ireland 2018.
 Kantar Media (2016) The Arts In Irish Life: Attendance of Arts Events in the Last Year (page 8, table 2.1).