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 and, more recently, the Cultural Education Challenge, which fosters relationships between schools and arts organisations/cultural practitioners (see chapter 5.2). Another important initiative was the creation of Music Education Hubs to ensure that children throughout England had the opportunity to learn to sing and play a musical instrument (see chapter 5.2). ‘Take it away’ is a scheme which aims to make musical instruments more accessible to children and young people by providing interest-free loans of up to GB£ 5,000.
The Welsh programme FUSION: Creating Opportunities through Culture was established in 2015 in response to the 2014 Culture and Poverty Report. The programme aims to reduce poverty and uses culture and heritage to empower vulnerable people and those affected by economic deprivation. Five thousand people were able to benefit from the programme in the first two years and due to its success, the programme was further developed in the following years.
After it came to power in 1997, the Labour 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 in 2001. This resulted in significant increases in attendance. Visits to national museums by children under 16 increased by 80% and visits from adults increased by 70% on average. However, it has been argued that while free admission increases visitor numbers, the demographics of visitors have changed very little, which can be seen as an indication that the factors that constitute barriers to museum visits are not exclusively of a monetary nature.
Over the years, Arts Council England as well as the Arts Council of Wales have been the driving force behind a number of audience development programmes. ACE makes it a requirement for its funded organisations to devise ways to reach those parts of the population least likely to engage in the arts. Support of audience development comes in different forms. There are strategic funds that support audience development measures such as the Creative People and Places Fund.
In addition, there are a range of organisations that champion audience development in the arts. The Arts Marketing Association is a membership organisation that offers training and resources for arts organisations and arts marketers to help them increase and diversify their audiences. The Audience Agency offers a free tool called Audience Finder. Research consultancy Morris Hargraves McIntyre has developed an audience segmentation tool.
A recent initiative that might have a long-term effect on arts participation is Social Prescribing. Launched by the UK’s National Health Service as part of a 5-year plan to improve personalized patient care, social prescribing enables primary care practitioners such as GPs and nurses to refer patients to a range of non-clinical services to improve patients’ health outcomes. These non-clinical services include, but are not limited to, a range of arts activities. While the primary objectives of the Social Prescribing programme are the improvement of patients’ quality of life and a reduction of demand on NHS services, the programme might give arts participation and community arts a boost (see chapter 2.7).
Unsurprisingly, elderly people often find it difficult to attend cultural events or participate in cultural activities, as revealed in a survey by ComRes for Arts Council England (see chapter 2.6). Nevertheless, according to a report from Kings College, programmes that encourage the engagement of older people in creativity are flourishing (see chapter 2.6).