8.1 General context
On this page
LAST MODIFIED ON: 07/12/2020 - 18:34
On this page
There is no single source of data on young people's participation in cultural activities. Information from a number of different sources, not all youth-specific, can be drawn together to give an indication of levels and types of activity.
The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) Young Persons Behaviour and Attitudes Survey provides data on the behaviour and attitudes of young people aged between 11 and 16 years. The most recent findings from 2019, related to participation in the arts and library and museum attendance, indicate the following trends:
- Nine in every ten young people (90%) had engaged with the arts in the previous year, this is a decrease in the proportion who had engaged in 2016 (93%).
- Two thirds (66%) of young people had participated in arts activities in the last 12 months. This proportion is the lowest observed over the period from 2007 onwards.
- The proportion of young people who used the public library service (48%) had decreased from 2016 (54%). Visits to museum or science centres (69% in 2019 by young people were similar to those in 2016 (70%).
Museums and Historic Sites
- Young people who are entitled to free school meals have lower engagement rates than those who are not, particularly for those who visited places of historic interest or attended arts events.
- In 2019, almost seven out of every ten young people (69%) had visited any museum or science centre in the last 12 months, similar to the 70% in 2016. However, the 2019 figure is lower than the figure in 2013 (72%), which remains the peak of engagement over the trend period from 2007. Just over half (53%) of young people had visited a National Museum in the last 12 months in 2019, similar to the 52% who visited in 2016 and the comparable figure in 2013.
- In 2019, just over seven in every ten young people (71%) had visited a historic building, garden or monument; or city or town with historic character at least once in the last 12 months, the same proportion as had visited in 2016.
- Young people who are entitled to free school meals were less likely to have visited a historic building, garden or monument in the last 12 months than those who are not entitled to free school meals.
Experience of culture and arts for young people in Northern Ireland in 2019 from the Young Persons’ Behaviour and Attitudes Survey 2019 found:
Overall, almost all young people (95%) had engaged with culture and the arts at least once within the previous year. This proportion has decreased slightly from the 97% who engaged in 2016.
Nine in every ten young people had engaged with the arts in the previous year. Girls were more likely to have engaged with the arts than boys, this has also been the case throughout the entire trend period with a higher proportion of girls engaging with the arts than boys from 2007 onwards.
Just under half (48%) of all young people had used the public library service at least once in the last year, this is lower than the proportion who had used the public library service in 2016 (54%).
Barriers to accessing cultural experiences
The barriers to young people's participation in cultural experiences have been identified in a number of reports and reviews. They are summarised below:
- Arts Council NI Youth Arts Strategy 2019-2024 (draft) accounts for the significant barriers to cultural experiences as a result of COVID-19:
“the world has been impacted severely by the COVID-19 pandemic; consequently we are all revising our daily lives under quarantine and finding different ways to work. The fragile and vital arts sector in Northern Ireland has been severely affected. The Arts Council has engaged on an ongoing basis with the sector to hear directly about the challenges faced”.
- Arts Council NI Youth Arts Strategy 2013-17 cites time, a lack of confidence, financial considerations, accessibility, information about availability and options, and the arts being seen as the 'softer option' in school.
Research to examine the barriers to engaging in arts, sports, libraries and museums for people living in poverty cites a lack of opportunities in some areas, especially once young people leave school.
The draft Strategy for Culture and Arts 2016-26 (which was the subject of consultation during 2015-16 by the former Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, now the new Department for Communities) notes that ‘there is no single definition of arts and culture’, opting instead to list galleries, museums, theatre and opera, playing music, reading, debating, creating, festivals, carnivals, circus and concerts as forming part of a possible definition. The Department for Communities lists the creative industries as including advertising; arts and antiques; crafts; designer fashion; TV and radio; performing arts; software; digital media; architecture; computer games; design; film; music and publishing.
The 2019-2024 Youth Arts Draft Strategy states:
Our vision is to ‘place arts at the heart of our social, economic and creative life’. We work to achieve this by championing the arts, developing an investing in artistic excellence and enabling the creation of experiences that enrich people's lives
The Youth Arts Strategy 2013-2017 outlines some of the benefits of cultural activities as:
at least eight key competencies of cognitive growth are developed through involvement in the arts by children, including perception of relationships, problem solving skills, adaptability and visualisation of goals and outcomes.
Moreover, the power of art and culture to enrich people's lives and improve the health and vitality of communities is noted in Ambitions for the Arts: A Five Year Strategic Plan for the Arts in Northern Ireland 2013-2018.This value is reiterated in the Strategy for Culture and Arts 2016-2026, published by the former Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in 2015:
arts and culture [act] as contributors to the skills, education, confidence, health and well being of all citizens [...] [they create] the future skill sets required for a modern, digital creative economy.