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Announcement: Arts & Culture in our towns

We are delighted to announce a major new research project with Arts Council England. Many of you in towns have expressed to us the importance of arts and culture to your town’s identity and future prosperity. We agree. Which is why we are committed to providing the very best evidence on the status and strength of arts and culture in our towns.

England’s towns are often missed in debates about cultural opportunity. They can be lost in a discussion that has focused upon issues of north versus south, London versus the rest and urban versus rural. Yet, an increasing body of evidence is demonstrating that there are particular features of cultural life in our towns that impact significantly upon the lives of the people who live there. Now is a good time to undertake a review of the level and distribution of investment in, and engagement with, arts and culture in England’s towns.

The project will carry out a rigorous and thorough analysis of the patterns of spending on arts and culture in our towns in order to identify any gaps in existing investment. This in-depth analysis will also move beyond an analysis focused solely on Arts Council England spending to include investment by local government and other bodies such as Local Enterprise Partnerships. We want to present a detailed picture of the scale and geographical distribution of all arts and culture spending in our towns, not just that provided by the Arts Council.

We will also be investigating levels of engagement in arts and culture in our towns, together with an understanding of the physical infrastructure of arts and cultural institutions in our towns. We want to investigate levels of participation in, and engagement with, arts and culture in our towns. Is there, for example, less engagement with arts and culture in particular towns, and is this related to a lack of investment or a deeper problem? This analysis we will of course need to consider the socio-economic, demographic and governance characteristics of our towns in relation to the types and scale of investment they receive.

We want to explore the relationship between the socio-demographics of place and levels of engagement in arts and culture. This analysis will, amogst other things, seek to incorporate place-based measures of socio-economic decline and demographic change in order to draw out how historic processes impact upon levels of engagement in arts and culture. We will want to understand, for example, if those places with the highest levels of socio-economic decline are also places which struggle to capture funding in arts and culture.

Taken together, this analysis will provide a detailed portrait of the relationship between patterns of cultural engagement and the types of investment provided by Arts Council England, local government and other bodies in towns across England.

We will break our analysis down into the Centre For Towns typologies: ex-industrial towns, commuter towns, coastal towns, market towns, university towns and new towns. The remit of the work will cover all towns in England.

We will of course keep you updated on progress throughout and look forward to engaging with you to disseminate our findings.

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