Blog Post

New report shows positive signs of change in areas of low arts engagement


Creative People and Places is reaching people from locations that offer fewer opportunities to engage in the arts and is engaging them in a range of different ways, according to a report published today

Performance of Rush. The Cultural Spring, Sunderland. Photo: Dan Prince

In Building Whilst Flying: Learning from the Creative People and Places programme, researchers Ruth Melville and writer Ben Morgan draw on a mix of recent CPP research and resources to provide a clear overview of the learning so far, as well as exploring emerging challenges and opportunities. Key findings from the report include:

  • Creative People and Places  has reached over 800,000 people who came to at least one of over 1200 activities taking place from October 2013 to July 2015.
  • 75% of participants come from neighbourhoods likely to have medium or low arts attendance
  • 50% of participants come from neighbourhoods with the lowest attendance (compared to only a third of households in England

Alongside the report, we've released a series of films showing the impact Creative People and Places is having on people and their communities.

Initiated and funded by Arts Council England through the National Lottery, Creative People and Places is about more people taking the lead in choosing, creating and taking part in art experiences in the places where they live. There are 21 independent projects, located in areas where people have traditionally had fewer opportunities to get involved with the arts. 

The report gives examples of a range of approaches to engaging people in the arts in the places where they live, including commissioning events in unusual spaces and bringing together networks of community ‘cultural connectors’. Communities are shaping art programmes with people involved in active roles as participants, promoters and commissioners.

Melville and Morgan also demonstrate how a range of partnerships across the private, voluntary and public sectors are helping to reach new communities and build in opportunities to sustain activities over the longer term. 

Action learning is at the heart of the Creative People and Places programme and Building Whilst Flying finds that action learning is working well. Peer networks and peer learning is being valued and projects are recognising the significance of time and space for reflection.

The report examines some of the challenges emerging from the programme including the amount of time needed to set up projects and build effective partnerships, and the difficulties of creating a programme that’s sustainable beyond its initial funding. Readers are signposted to further research so that topics can be explored in greater depth.

Researcher Ruth Melville, says:

"Working on this report, I've been amazed by the wealth of ideas, enthusiasm, experimentation and risk-taking that makes up Creative People and Places. It’s a programme that’s working in areas with real challenges in terms of participation, so changes will inevitably be slow to take effect. However strong sustainable partnerships are already built in most of the 21 places and, along with the way that Creative People and Places has started to shift practice and participation patterns, this lays strong groundwork for long term change.”

Laura Dyer, Executive Director of the North, Midlands and South West for Arts Council England, says:

“It is great to see the exciting results being achieved by the Creative People and Places programme, where lasting change is being built in local communities. The focus on evaluation and data will help to ensure we are learning what is and what isn’t working from the different approaches, so that everyone can experience and create great art and culture where they live.”

Holly Donagh, Partnerships Director at A New Direction and consortium member for Creative Barking & Dagenham, adds:

“Creative People and Places is starting to challenge some of the ingrained notions of where the arts live. It’s showing that all communities are creative but you need time and experimentation to draw this out. It’s still early days in the context of what places are trying to achieve but there are already some powerful results. 

“One of the most interesting aspects of the programme are the ways places are disrupting some of the old hierarchies – amateur/professional, artists/audience.  As the programme continues, this is where we will see really interesting learning that could profoundly change the way the cultural sector works.”

The report was commissioned by the Creative People and Places network as part of the National Evaluation. The National Evaluation is managed by A New Direction