Creative Places: Activities

May 2024

Cultural Participation MonitorWave 10 | Spring 2024

This research is from The Audience Agency's nationwide longitudinal (ongoing) panel survey of changing views about participating in creative and cultural activities through the recent and ongoing crises, and beyond, the Cultural Participation Monitor.

Themes

In our latest wave of the Cultural Participation Monitor, we asked about a wider range of cultural activities to get a fuller picture of the sorts of things people do outside our usual arts, cultural and heritage scope.

Typically, when we at The Audience Agency carry out population surveys about cultural engagement, we use a range of more-or-less standard categories, that are more-or-less related to those of the DCMS Participation Survey and/or its precursor the Taking Part survey. There are benefits to being comparable[1].

But we also like to include other categories. We’ve previously included a range of participatory categories, supporting our report in to ‘Everyday Creativity’ (results here; report here). In the latest wave of the Cultural Participation Monitor, we wanted to broaden out the types of activities listed, particularly in relation to heritage, night-time economy and to understanding creative places. What are the other things people do that animate the places they live and visit, beyond a potentially narrow list of arts, cultural and heritage activities? So yes, going to films, plays, dance, museums, historic houses, musicals and live music, but also things like night markets, live sporting events, religious buildings, zoo and aquariums, clubbing, and escape rooms.

We asked "Which of the following have you done in the past 12 months?" for each of the following categories (usual categories are listed in white, new ones in blue[2]).

Activity	Overall	Max	Highest Food and drink activity	88%	94%	Metroculturals Film	51%	65%	Age 16-19 Museum	48%	63%	Full time student Historic house, castle, stately home	37%	51%	Family/ Rural Historic park or garden	36%	51%	Family/ Rural Visited [place] b/c historic character	35%	48%	Metroculturals Library and archive	34%	60%	Full time student Evening/night market visit	31%	53%	Full time student Nature visit	31%	43%	Family/ Rural Watched live sport (not on TV)	30%	42%	Male Other live music performance/gig	27%	38%	Full time student Outdoor events entertainment	25%	51%	Children 6 to 10 Religious building (NOT for worship)	23%	36%	Metroculturals Musical at the theatre...	22%	31%	Metroculturals Zoo or aquarium	22%	43%	Children Up to 5 Exhibition or collection of art	20%	41%	Metroculturals Play at the theatre…	19%	31%	Metroculturals Music festival	18%	39%	Age 16-19 Other visitors attractions	18%	26%	Wales Other outdoor festival etc	17%	28%	Full time student Nightlife	16%	51%	Age 16-19 Children/ family arts	15%	41%	Children Up to 5 Classical music	11%	23%	Metroculturals Other live entertainment	11%	17%	Experience Seekers Archaeological site	10%	16%	Metroculturals Books or writing event	8%	17%	Master's or PhD Dance event	8%	17%	Metroculturals After hours museum visit	7%	22%	Asian/Asian British Escape room	7%	22%	Age 16-19 Craft activity	6%	16%	Black/Black British Other heritage place	4%	9%	Rural village etc Other arts event – In person	2%	6%	North East
Responses to "Which of the following have you done in the past 12 months?"

A few initial reflections:

There are several activities that are widespread parts of people’s cultural engagement that we don’t usually ask about (food and drink activity, night markets, nature visits, sporting events). There might be reasons for that (things that are ‘not our department’ so to speak, or sectors in which we don’t have clients, or which would need more granularity to act on). But it is useful to be reminded of that context: this is what else people are up to. And maybe they’re also areas where we should be doing more (indeed, thanks to our Place team, we now are).

Some other activities we don’t usually ask about have small but still notable proportions of attenders, for example archaeological sites (10%) and after-hours museum visits and escape rooms (both 7%).

Lots of the things we do ask about are popular (even when compared to a wider list of activities). Sometimes the arts and heritage sectors can feel a little defensive or marginalised compared to ‘mainstream’ activities or ‘popular’ culture. But look how many people go to film or museums compared to live sport, or nature trips. And live music isn’t far behind. Musicals and art and plays are still enjoyed by one in five over 16s[3]: that’s a lot of people.

Some types of activity we usually ask about are less widely done than many that we don’t include, e.g. event to do with books or writing and dance event (both 8%) and opera (not asked here, but usually around 4%). This raised challenges both in terms of methodology and theory. For example, in terms of methodology: the margin of error for a 95% confidence level of surveys of this sample size are around +/-2%, a difference which is proportionately more significant at these levels. In terms of theory: it makes more sense to ask about if we are interested in the arts and who does them, rather than if we’re interested in people and what arts they do. But ought that be our (default) starting position?

When we look in more detail at the particular groups within the population that do each activity most (and how they compare to the overall population) some have really wide differences: they’re much more popular for some groups that others. This includes:

  • A lot of things that are mainly done by young people and/or students (nightlife, music festivals, other live music, evening/night market visits, escape rooms, but also visiting libraries and archives);
  • Activities where overall cultural engagement (and cultural ‘capital’) is a key driver, in which case Metroculturals typically predominate, e.g. for classical music, art exhibitions, plays, even musicals, but also visiting religious buildings, archaeological sites and places because of their historic character);
  • Some events obviously appeal most to those with children (children/family arts, outdoor events, zoos and aquariums);
  • Live sports attendance is (still) notably higher among men;
  • Attendance at events linked to books and writing is highest among those with higher degrees;
  • The higher proportion of those with Asian/Asian British (and, indeed, Black/Black British) backgrounds at museum ‘lates’ may also reflect that these ‘supplementary’ museum activities are linked to more diverse programming that is also treated as ‘supplementary’ – i.e. that is attempting to redress the balance of ‘core’ collections and programmes that aren’t inclusive (it may also reflect a greater appeal of museum lates for younger age groups).

Overall, this question gives a clear sense of the range of activities undertaken by different groups, as well as a richer picture of the activities that go into animating places with culture.

Footnotes

  1. For example we can find out if engagement with a particular activity has changed or, more likely, if we’re getting odd results for some reason; we can know we’re asking about categories that someone at a policy level has determined are useful and also benefit from their testing and snagging of questions; we can cross-tabulate other results by activity categories that are included in other research and so have more context for our findings; and so on…
  2. We’d normally ask about festivals, but not have an additional category for music festivals in particular, so what would be included in that category has changed even though the category hasn’t, if you see what I mean.
  3. Realistically, comparing these figures to actual attendance numbers, we can suspect a little over-reporting (people are often thinking something like ‘I’m the kind of person that does this’, or I do this kind of thing ‘these days’ even in they in practice haven’t in the specific last circuit of the sun…). But that’s true of the figures we’re comparing to too.

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