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For love not money - figures show the English to be a nation of amateur arts enthusiasts

For love not money - figures show the English to be a nation of amateur arts enthusiasts

DEPARTMENT FOR CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT News Release (066/2008) issued by The Government News Network on 2 July 2008

Treading the boards, crafting a short story or performing a show-stopping tune are just some of the ways that nearly 6 million English people participate in the arts, according to new study published today, according to a new study, published today by Culture Minister Margaret Hodge.

The results from 'Our Creative Talent: the voluntary and amateur arts in England' show music is one of people's biggest passions with more than 11,220 groups across England, followed by theatre with 5,380 groups and dance with 3,040 groups.

The report says:

* there are 49,140 groups across the country - ranging from orchestras and book clubs to lace-making and dance - with a total of 5.9 million members

* an additional 3.5 million people volunteer as extras or helpers - for example raising funds or rigging lighting - bringing the total involvement to 9.4 million people

* voluntary arts generated a total income of £543 million in 2006/07.

Culture Minister Margaret Hodge said:

"For too long there's been a stereotype of amateur arts in England which is clearly long out of date. This research is a landmark - the first of its kind. It shows the sheer size and significance of the voluntary and amateur arts sector. Far from being a poor relation to the professional arts, the sector sustains cultural traditions, encourages innovation, helps develop new audiences, promotes vibrant and inclusive communities and supports the professional sector.

"Voluntary arts groups account for an estimated one fifth of all arts engagement in England. Groups are often deep rooted in the local community and we need to make sure that we recognise and support the enthusiasm and talent that is on our doorsteps."

The study, which questioned more than 2,000 groups across the UK, shows that appreciation of the art form is the main motivation for participation in a group.

At a time when there is huge competition for time and money, voluntary and amateur groups rely heavily upon the expertise, experience and relationships of their members, their friends, families and the local community, highlighting the value placed on voluntary arts activity.

Voluntary and amateur groups provide opportunities for people who would not otherwise participate in the arts to do so within their local community. Arts groups are often associated with other groups and activities (such as learning, religious groups, older people's groups and women's organisations) and are particularly well placed to engage new audiences and participants in the arts.

Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, said:

"The cultural health of the nation is reliant as much on those who do not get paid for their artistic contribution as those that do. The research shows the voluntary and amateur sector is thriving but it also highlights some of the challenges that the sector faces.

"Over the next three years we are committed to driving up levels of attendance and participation in quality arts activities. We will not succeed in this without tapping into the creative talent of the voluntary and amateur sector. The sector is not an appendix or footnote to the arts in England today - voluntary and amateur activity plays a leading role in the core script. I look forward to working closely with the sector to discuss how this can be done best."

Robin Simpson, Chief Executive Voluntary Arts Network said:

"Across the country, tens of thousands of voluntary arts groups stage plays and operas, festivals and concerts, put on exhibitions and run classes and workshops every week. This massive range of artistic activity is treasured by those who take part in it and by their friends, families and the local communities where it happens. Without it the majority of lives in this country would be very much poorer.

"This conference and the research commissioned by DCMS and ACE represents a major symbolic development in the recognition of the scale, value and importance of the voluntary arts sector. Voluntary Arts Network hopes this will be the first step in a developing partnership between Government and the voluntary arts to realise the massive potential to encourage, increase and broaden participation in the arts."

Notes to editors

1. The study was commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Arts Council England (ACE) to improve the knowledge base on the voluntary and amateur arts sector in England. It was carried out by the consultants TBR. You can find the study at

2. The study is the first of its kind on a national scale and represents the first step towards developing a comprehensive understanding of a very complex sector. The study considers two key aspects of the sector - voluntary and amateur arts groups and the importance of the informal adult learning sector to arts participation.

3. The remit of the study did not include 'community arts' where a group is governed or organised by a paid individual (or individuals) or where the activity is organised on behalf of members. Nor did it include people who participate in an artform individually. The definition did not exclude voluntary arts groups that bring or buy in the skills of a professional for 'artistic direction', e.g. a conductor, dancer or sculptor.

4. The study was undertaken over a period of 6 months between November 2007 and April 2008 and consisted of a programme of quantitative and qualitative research that included desk research, consultation with the structure supporting the voluntary and amateur arts, a nationwide online survey amongst voluntary and amateur arts groups completed by approximately 2,200 groups. As well as accessing and analysing a number of secondary data sources including the National Learning Directory the Learning and Skills Council's Individualised Learner Record for Adult Community Learning) and the National Learner Satisfaction Survey.

5. Arts Council England works to get great art to everyone by championing, developing and investing in artistic experiences that enrich people's lives. As the national development agency for the arts, they support a wide range of artistic activities.

6. Between 2008 and 2011, ACE will invest £1.3 billion of public money from government and a further £0.3 billion from the National Lottery to create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

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