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Arts: Access

Volume 486: debated on Tuesday 20 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps are being taken to increase the accessibility of high culture to working-class people. (244824)

My Department continues to work closely with sponsored bodies responsible for culture to ensure that funding over the SR08 period is used to support the Government’s objective to increase participation in culture by adults from a lower socio-economic background.

Arts Council England is conducting audience segmentation analysis to gather fresh data about which groups engage with the arts and will use this as the basis for a national campaign to encourage the broadest range of people to do so. English Heritage is also looking at barriers to engagement with the historic environment experienced by people in lower socio-economic groups. Through the Renaissance in the Regions programme the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) is seeking to increase participation and achieve greater diversity amongst the visitors to regional hub museums across England. Entry to DCMS-sponsored national museums and galleries has been free for all since 2001.

In September last year, 10 pathfinder Find Your Talent projects were set up with an investment of £25 million to test various ways to deliver a five-hour cultural offer to ensure that all children and young people aged 0-19 can access a wide range of high-quality artistic and cultural experiences. In November 2008, my Department announced the Free Theatre initiative which offers free tickets to young people up to age 26. Evaluations of the annual ‘Heritage Open Days’ initiative, indicate a significant increase in visitors from the lower socio-economic groups in 2006 and 2007 to those sites where records allow comparison with previous years.

The DCMS ‘Taking Part’ survey is being used to measure participation by adults from the priority groups. The most recent results, published in December 2008, indicate that the proportion of adults from lower socio-economic backgrounds attending a museum or gallery during the previous 12 months was 30.6 per cent., a 2.3 per cent. increase compared to the baseline established in 2005-06. For visits to historic environment sites the comparable figures were 59.4 per cent. attendance, an increase of 2.3 per cent. on the 2005-06 baseline. Attendance at arts events was 18.3 per cent. of this group with no significant statistical change on the baseline.