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EACEA National Policies Platform


8. Creativity and Culture

8.1 General context

Last update: 28 November 2023

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  1. Main trends in young people's creativity and cultural participation
  2. Main concepts

Main trends in young people's creativity and cultural participation

Trends in visitor figures for the National Cultural Institutions are available, however, they are not broken down by age.

Growing up in Ireland is a National Longitudinal Study of Children in Ireland, tracking the development of two nationally representative cohorts of children: a Child Cohort (recruited when the children were 9 years old) and an Infant Cohort (recruited when the children were 9 months old). Further details about Growing up in Ireland are in Chapter 1.6 Evidence-based youth policy.

Based on the findings in Growing up in Ireland, Arts and Cultural Participation among Children and Young People: Insights from the Growing Up in Ireland Study and Arts and Cultural Participation Among 17 Year Olds highlighted a number of findings related to youth’s participation in the cultural activities varying depending on their type of school. This research was commissioned by the Arts Council and carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). The research found that children in larger schools had greater opportunities to engage in cultural activities in school. In Ireland, most schools are segregated by gender. Students in girls’ schools were more likely, than students in boys’ schools, to have access to a choir (90%, compared with 50%), to dance (55%, compared with 4%), or to learn an instrument (67%, compared with 57%). DEIS Plan 2017 Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools is the Department of Education and Skills’ main policy initiative aimed at tackling educational disadvantage (discussed further in Chapter 6.3 Preventing early leaving from education and training). DEIS schools were somewhat more likely to provide choir (82%, compared with 76%). Provision of drama is slightly higher in non-disadvantaged schools, but the difference is small. Dance provision varies somewhat by school size but not as markedly as for other activities. In contrast to the other cultural activities, dance is more likely to be provided in DEIS schools (54%, compared with 37%).


Barriers to Participation

Arts and Cultural Participation among Children and Young People: Insights from the Growing Up in Ireland Study identified household income, as a barrier to engagement as most structured cultural activities in Ireland, outside of school, require payment. It also identified language as a barrier for immigrant families with young children. It found low participation levels amongst young people with special educational needs in structured cultural activities.


The National Youth Council of Ireland’s Young People, Creative Action and Social Change: A report on the value of participation in the arts for young people listed the main barriers to participation as:

• Lack of interest

• Lack of time

• Lack of information (about the organisation/project) and opportunity (including financial resources)

• Perceptions about the arts (e.g. that youth arts are not ‘cool’ enough, not mature enough, not being for serious artists, etc.)

• expectations and anxieties about what participation involves

• not knowing other participants before starting.

Other potential barriers discussed were perceptions about where the activity is located and a lack of transport.


Main concepts

The Arts

The arts are as defined in the Arts Act, 2003 as

‘any creative or interpretative expression (whether traditional or contemporary) in whatever form, and includes, in particular, visual arts, theatre, literature, music, dance, opera, film, circus and architecture, and includes any medium when used for those purposes.’



The Heritage Council, a statutory body under the Heritage Act, 1995, defines heritage as being comprised of:

  • the tangible - our historical sites, buildings, monuments, objects in museum artefacts and archives
  • the natural - our waterways, landscapes, woodlands, bogs, uplands, native wildlife, insects, plants, trees, birds and animals
  • the intangible - our customs, sports, music, dance, folklore, crafts, skills, and knowledge.

Natural heritage is defined under the Heritage Act, 1995 as including national heritage, including monuments, archaeological objects, heritage objects, architectural heritage, flora, fauna, wildlife habitats, landscapes, seascapes, wrecks, geology, heritage gardens and parks and inland waterways.


The Gaeltacht

The Gaeltacht are the regions in Ireland where the Irish language is, or was until the recent past, the main spoken language of the majority of the community. The Gaeltacht covers large areas of counties Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Kerry as well as sections of counties Cork, Meath and Waterford. Six of Ireland’s inhabited islands are also in the Gaeltacht.


According to the 2016 Census, of Ireland’s 4,761,865-person population, 96,090 people (2.02%) live in the Gaeltacht. Of the Gaeltacht’s population, 63,664 (66.3%) indicated they could speak Irish. 20,586 (21.4%) of the Gaeltacht’s population who could speak Irish, spoke it daily.

The Gaeltacht regions are recognised in Government orders and successive Governments have acknowledged that particular legislation, structures and funding are required to ensure the viability of the Gaeltacht communities.